Although as of this writing, there were thousands of households that remained without electricity days after the latest powerful storm, there is something to be said about those powers greater than our own that ultimately decide our fate from time to time.

I love the wind, but, like most things, in moderation. I love hearing it sighing in the trees and blowing fallen leaves into tiny cyclones in the fall. But living near so many tall trees as I do, stronger winds make me nervous. Add to that the relentless driving rain that we experienced recently, and it’s yet another instance of nature rearranging the furniture, so to speak.

High winds have the potential to knock entire trees down, snapping them in half at a weak point or completely uprooting them. That is rarely a good thing, and certainly not when they fall on something—or someone. Short of that type of severity, lower wind speeds can prune dead growth from trees, trimming branches that were getting ready to fall off anyway, thus speeding up the process.

A few days ago, I noticed all the dry brown cones that were still left hanging on the very tops of two tall pines growing nearby. Most of those cones are now on the ground, either directly below the trees or wherever the wind decided to deposit them during that powerful storm.

Wind also plays a significant role in wave action along the coastline or on a static body of water such as a lake or pond. When my son was attending Saco Middle School back in the early 90’s, he had to create a science project. After putting our heads together, we came up with the effect that wind has on how water moves, from fresh water in a pond to the ocean’s salty brine. He wrote his paper and then he set about creating a small “sea” to illustrate his point, using a rectangular baking pan filled about halfway with water.

At first glance, it seemed like a ridiculously simple concept not requiring a great deal of thought. But sometimes, the simplest truths can be the most profound and far-reaching, as was the case in this instance. Later that week, my son happily demonstrated to fair goers just how waves are created by blowing across the surface of the water in the pan. There are, of course, other factors that contribute to oceanic wave movement, the moon’s pull and gravity being two of them. But anyone who has gone to the beach during a powerful storm can attest to the fact that the wind is indeed capable of pulling the spray from the tops of the tallest waves and pushing them rapidly toward the shore.


During the past year or so, I’ve been watching debris accumulating on the fish ladder in Saco. Located just off Water Street below the first dam, the ladder facilitates the upstream journey of the salmon as they travel toward their breeding grounds further north. At one point, there appeared to be an entire dead tree trapped by the large boulders that make up the ladder, and it wasn’t going anywhere. Day after day, there it was, its lifeless dry branches sticking up into the air with no hope of being dislodged any time soon. I kept wondering if the folks who manage these things would somehow manage to free that tree and the other debris, but it didn’t seem to be happening.

And then, along came the high winds and the heavy rain that melted snow in the mountains and sent it seaward, swelling the rivers and streams that, in some spots further north, produced serious flooding and major road washouts. A day or so after the water level here in Saco began to drop, I drove by the fish ladder and saw that the debris, including the dead tree, were all gone. Unless I’m mistaken and someone did remove them, the only other possibility is that the enormous energy of the rapidly moving river water lifted the debris high enough to send it downstream.

Such is the power that exists in nature and in the processes that keep life as we know it moving forward. Most days, these processes go on unnoticed, and we move right along with them, taking them for granted. Until, that is, the clouds suddenly decide to gather and release their massive stores of moisture, while the wind joins them to create even more havoc. The lights go out and we have no choice but to shift gears to what I’ve always called “my camping mode.”

No matter what we’re doing or what our priorities are, there will always be those times when nature grabs our attention in such a way that we can’t help but notice, and keeps our attention for a while, sometimes for a very long while.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: