Family Lines

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Tag: wind

First snow

Snow-covered tree.

A snow-covered tree branch sticks out over downtown Calgary, November 2013.

When the snow starts flying in fall, it’s the most beautiful. The light outside turns silver. Not that thin autumn sunshine or grey-tinged gloominess. The air surrounding Calgary turns moist for a few hours and chases the dryness away.

Everything becomes quiet. People scurry inside to get away from the snowflakes falling from the sky. Pets aren’t walked. Vehicles are parked and left until the next day.

Street signs and grassy bits collect the snow at the beginning. Then the roads and sidewalks get a coating of the plush frozen carpet. In Calgary not much accumulates with the first dump but in the Maritimes – the beginning of snowfall means a heavy one and is as normal as the sun rising. I remember those storms of my childhood.

A Maritime snowstorm also has snow and wind. Terrible wind. Gusting here and there and everywhere. Leaving the snow in high impassable drifts in the middle of roads and causing white-outs so bad you’d think you were stuck in a cloud.

When inside the haven of home, comfy and cozy by a wood stove, you can hear the wind blasting at the door. Trying to get in. It strikes at the windows too and wants to push them open. And then take its cold hands and grab you by the throat so you can’t breathe.

The snow and wind sometimes fight each other. Which is stronger? The snow, with its hardened, chill-to-the-bone ice flakes, keeps coming steadily. Hoping to outlast the wind. Hoping to exhaust the wind. But the wind, the wind keeps at the snow. Pushing it around. Toying with it. Sending it here and there and everywhere. Hoping to force it to a standstill. Hoping to batter it into submission.

Falling snow.

Snow falls swiftly and heavily in Nova Scotia and it’s (almost) always accompanied by a wind.

The wind and snow don’t realize they’re a force of nature if they work together. Thick tree branches break and fall to earth. Because of the wind? Because of the snow piled on them? Because of their combined strength. Instead of acknowledging this, they continue to wage war against each other.

Eventually, one or the other (or both) decides that’s that. That’s enough. They’re not putting any more energy into the battle. The snow slows. Then stops. The wind lessens its grip on the earth. Then floats away. Who won? In the end, I don’t know.


Sounds stir up memories

Road to my home as well as the owl and spring peepers.

Road to my home as well as the owl and spring peepers.

Sounds bring back memories for me and most likely, for a lot of others too. Noise, or lack of noise, connects us to a myriad of flashbacks from happy to sad to scared to whatever you heard and felt at a particular moment. While I was home in Nova Scotia last week the outdoors resonated in my brain and trigged reflections.

Research on linking sounds and memories is being done by the National Institute of Neuroscience in Turin, Italy. Scientists discovered a particular sound, attached to emotional information, ends up being grouped together in the brain as a bundle. The sound paired with the feeling gives it emotional meaning. (This happens with smells too.)

I don’t give this much thought when I’m listening to the wind blow through the trees at home. The window in my bedroom is left open a crack even in the chilly April night so I can listen to the air moving in and out of the woods. The breeze whispers at first and then gusts into a roar that lasts a moment or two on this particular night. It’s a strong sound, one that resembles a vast rushing river. A river in the sky.

When I was younger the wind might last for hours, lashing the house. Pelting snow and ice at us in winter or rain and lightning bolts in the summer. But I was safe. Cozy and warm at home while the tempest took out its anger on the earth.

Another sound that sparks memories is the hoot of an owl. Looking for prey maybe? The bird wakes me out of a deep slumber to say goodnight. Not the same owl as many years ago but the same call to sleep.

Since its spring, the peepers are out. The tree frogs sing for their mates and the cacophony ends up creating a symphony. The sound has marked years of winter’s ends for me. I’ve not only heard the peepers in Nova Scotia but the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alberta too. Each place has its own set of memories but they all started as a bundle from home.

You cab hear the spring peepers by clicking here.

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