Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays!  By the middle of the workweek, I know that I'm ready for a pick-me-up, for some inspiration -- and for that reason I decided to post a nature photo or quote each Wednesday.  Perusing works of nature writing and photography helps me reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature, which is something we all can benefit from in the middle of a busy, stressful work week!

This week's Nature Nerd Wednesday is an ode to stormy weather.  Last week, due to the depressing rainy weather outside my window and the nonstop news coverage of the polar vortex, I temporarily set aside my mantra to enjoy each season as it comes and instead chose to focus on what we have to look forward to come springtime.  Today though, let's return to the present and celebrate the raw beauty and breathtaking power of the Pacific Northwest's notoriously stormy January weather.

Stormy skies over my beloved Snoqualmie Valley. Lainey Piland photo
Last weekend, those of us in Western Washington experienced a typical January windstorm: warm, wet weather accompanied by blasts of wind strong enough to down trees and power lines, and to wake you gasping out of a dead sleep as your house is left groaning and creaking ominously in the wake of particularly strong gusts.

Growing up, I was terrified of windstorms; but somewhere in my early adulthood that terror turned into fascination and even a sense of comfort in the sound of wind roaring through the trees that surrounded my home.  While outdoors, I would hear each successive gust of wind gather in the distance, gradually drawing closer and building in volume until it broke over the clearing with the breathtaking force of a wave crashing onto shore.  The hemlocks and doug firs were tossed about in this invisible current, pitching violently back and forth, occasionally with limbs giving way and snapping off, being carried dozens of yards in the gale before dropping to the ground. Pine needles rained down, "helicopter" seeds from the maple trees would be sent spinning into the air, and there I would stand in the midst of it, deafened by the roar and feeling the wind tangle my hair and buffet my face, bringing with it the fresh, oxygen-rich air pulled from the depths of the forest. And then all of a sudden, the gust of wind would continue on its way, the trees would fall still, and the brief eerie silence would reveal the distant sound of the next wave of wind gathering in the distance.

Recalling these memories reminded me of some beautiful photos I came across on the Washington State Parks' Adventure Awaits blog.  Photographer Meg McDonald of Wild Northwest Beauty Photography captured stunning images of storm waves at Cape Disappointment State Park.  Check them out on the photographer's website, or on the Adventure Awaits blog.

I can't directly share the photos here... but here's a little preview to entice you to click over to the Adventure Awaits blog.  Be sure to take a look at all of the photos... they are amazing!
I love these photos because I think they so beautifully display the synchronicity of the wind above and water below.  Waves and sea, wind and sky... the crashing waves visually reflect the invisible turmoil of the raging wind in the skies above.

Are storms an odd thing to find comfort and enjoyment in? Perhaps. But then again, I do think most nature nerds have a little bit of John Muir in us... he who describes his experience of riding out a windstorm in the treetops in the poignant 1878 essay "A Wind-Storm in the Forest":
"But when the storm began to sound, I lost no time in pushing out into the woods to enjoy it.  For on such occasions, Nature has always something rare to show us, and the danger to life and limb is hardly greater than one would experience crouching deprecatingly beneath a roof..."
There is so much to love about Muir's sentiment, both in relation to nature and --on a larger scale-- to the storms of life itself. Instead of hiding from the storm, get out there and find that "something rare" in nature, or in yourself... let it tangle your hair, fill your lungs with fresh air, enthrall you with its power... you may have to dodge a few tree limbs, but the experience will be worth it.

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