My sister and I should have known the wind was a significant force in our lives on that March day when we got on the bus after school. We were in the second grade.
A mischievous neighbor boy said to us after we took our seats, “The wind blew your hair so much that y’all look like little tigers.”
We began to think that if the wind could make us look like tigers, it might be able to do other wondrous things.
We found out just what the wind could do the next October when Hurricane Hazel blew in and wreaked havoc on the town and countryside. As the result of Hazel’s force, we were left with fear of the wind’s power, yet we knew the wind was not all bad.
We realized that the wind creates those amber waves of grain that we sing about and that it soothes us when we go fishing and see ripples on the pond and are cooled by the breeze as we sit, poles in hand, under the trees.
Clothes dry nicely on the line when there is a decent wind, and we rely on more than a slight breeze when we fly kites.
When we got old enough to work on the farm, the wind became a fast friend that refreshed us under the tobacco shelter and in the garden. Curtains fluttering in the windows at home meant a wind blessing on hot days and nights.
We observed that the wind has power to induce laughter in children and adults as we watched men chase blown-away hats on the street and in the field, girls struggle to keep their skirts from flying up and fine ladies try to preserve their coiffure on a windy day.
We grew older and began to study in science class about the wind’s role in pollinating trees and other plants and in making ocean waves. We took note of which trees snapped under a strong wind and which ones bent and then stood straight up again.
We learned that the wind could literally blow up a storm and also make clouds dissolve before our very eyes.
We discovered that some people gave the wind names like Maria (pronounced Moriah) from a famous play and Zephyrus from some old, old stories. The nor’easter was mentioned in weather forecasts, while the harmattan cropped up in stories about Africa.
We could imagine neither tumbleweed tumbling nor whirligigs whirling without a brisk wind, nor could we imagine autumn without the image of blowing leaves.
We wondered how Old Glory could fly proudly and fill our patriotic hearts without a good, strong breeze.
We learned about “The Wind in the Willows,” “Gone with the Wind” and “Who Has Seen the Wind?” just as we heard in a song that the answers to many questions are “blowing in the wind,” my friend.
In high school we read one of the finest of all the wind poems: Percy Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.” Shelley used the words “Destroyer” and “Preserver” and “Uncontrollable” to characterize the wind and taught that without the wind, there could be no life.
Shelley wished that he were a wave, a cloud or a leaf so that he could be tossed around by the wind. He also wished the wind could blow his poetry, his ideas, around the world and make it alive and aflutter with marvelous thoughts.
These days we hear more and more about wind power and windmills as we continue to harness the wind and try to heal our beloved, ailing Earth.
And we have never seen the wind, nor have we learned to control it.
I can say that while I fear the wind for its destructive power, I love it for the beauty it creates and the life it gives.
And when I am outside, the wind still makes me think of Percy Shelley, and it still blows my hair so much that I look like a tiger.
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her award-winning weekly column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.