Being a Bit Windblown

Call it a brief reprieve from the locomotive-like, gush of winds, for a soft breeze rustled the nearby prairie grasses as the “blood” moon rose into the darkened sky. Not far away our local “pack” of coyotes broke into their nightly prairie songs. I couldn’t help but smile. Having a gentle breeze in the relative warmth of the evening, along with the yips and howls of the coyotes, felt immensely meditative.

It's too bad you can hear the prairie songs, and that I didn't have a  tripod or cooperation from the clouds overhead for the recent "blood" moon.

It’s too bad you can hear the prairie songs, and that I didn’t have a tripod or cooperation from the clouds overhead for the recent “blood” moon.

Oddly, my enjoyment of the prairie songs and the symphony of the wind isn’t shared by many. Yes, people speak of a deep hatred of the wind, and certainly the many letters of the settlers give historical credence to such feelings. Even madness, as it was called back then. As for the coyotes, I often hear such comments as “blood curdling” and “frightening” when we bring up our enjoyment of the coyote songs. “Perhaps you haven’t lost anything to them. No chickens or cats,” someone said the other night. It’s true. We haven’t.

Yet, we are wondering if the mashed grasses along the chicken fence along the orchard was matted down by coyotes. Rebecca believes it is certainly some predator seeking entry into the chicken pen. She discovered the trodden grasses the other afternoon when three of her hens and a rooster were squawking madly while parading along the orchard fence. When she walked around the shed into the orchard to investigate, one by one the chickens turned to sprint with their feathery butts aloft, defying soft down, straight through the two fenced pens and into the coop instead of under their normally protective brier bushes. There was no hesitation.

“Everything loves chicken,” is how she explains the situation.

With our heavily insulated walls and new windows, and with our minds solidly geared toward the recent Meander, much of what happened outside in the prairie, coop and garden, along with the seemingly constant gush of the winds, have gone mostly unheeded.

Gull gliding in the morning sun.

Gull gliding in the morning sun.

Ah, the Meander. Our first day back was filled with exhaustion, although by mid-afternoon there was just enough healing to begin putting our house back into a livable order. The next day the two of us carried our large display panels from the house to the shed because of the strong crosswinds. Since, though a sense of normal has since settled in.

While my lunch warmed in the oven on Tuesday, I spent several wind-blown moments in an Adirondack chair on the deck soaking in a bit of sunshine and wind. This was when my neglect of the feathered friends was noticed. No suet. No nuts. No thistle seed for the finches. No sunflower seeds. No colorful flashes of birds flying in for a meal. All the little feeders were swinging like pendulums in the staunch wind.

Windblown grasses.

Windblown grasses in a nearby prairie.

Over the rise, though, ducks and geese have not been daunted, and those squawks of the geese are as normal here as the sounds of the winds. Likewise with the hundreds of gulls gliding over. One afternoon, when winds whipped the treetops and created incredible yet invisible currents high above, dozens upon dozens of gulls glided past, and honestly, you can’t help but believe they were enjoying the ride. Frankly, it was more glide than ride. You could see a bit of wing adjustment up by the wetland, then whoosh, they’d glide by with considerable ease with nary a move.

Beyond the gulls and geese, on Wednesday Rebecca discovered yet another sign of autumn bird life. Seems she was in the chicken pen when a sudden alert was sounded by one of the roosters, immediately inspiring the layers to sprint for cover under those brier bushes. At first Rebecca didn’t know what to make of it, then noticed the shadow easing across the grass. Above her and her chickens, the tell tail white of an eagle showed as it slowly soared, somehow evading the forces of the strong, afternoon wind.

Gulls gliding in the wind.

Gulls gliding in the wind.

For prairie lovers, this is a blessed time of year. Murmurations of blackbirds, and the flights of the birds are part of it. So is finding yourself in a stand of “dancing” big bluestem. No, it doesn’t have to be the “turkey track” grasses, for most of the prairie grasses are splendid this time of year. Brown, spindly stalks and wispy blades of the grasses are whipped by winds in ways the soaring birds cannot since they’re anchored deeply by their underground forest of roots. Most of the forbs have gone to dry seed heads, and many stand rigid against the same winds that cause neighboring grasses to shimmer and shine. The wind helps spread the seeds that replenish the prairie, all part of the life cycle of the prairie.

Turkey-track bluestem encountering a prairie wind.

Turkey-track bluestem encountering a prairie wind.

Yes, we’ve had our share of wind of late. Big Stone Lake is riled into huge white caps more days than not. When we placed the signs out on the roads early last Friday morning before the Meander, both of us had to hold the signs in place until she was secured them to the rebar. The balloons we hanged lasted less than a minute before being destroyed.

Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed that moment of reprieve, along with the yips and howls of prairie lyrics sang by the coyotes. It is all part of prairie life, and you learn to enjoy all of it. Night and day the big winds have continued, roaring with vengeance. Wind is the thread of prairie fabrics, in the field and sky, and as so, you learn to adjust and accept. You must. As a powerful force of nature, it serves us a bit of evil among the goodness.

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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