The Winds of March

 

Catherine II of Russia

Catherine II of Russia

I know two things about the Russian empress, Catherine the Great: She displays impeccable posture in her royal portraits, and she said, “A great wind is blowing, and that gives one either imagination or a headache.”

I’m quite sure Catherine never visited our region during the month of March, but her comment makes me think she could have.

From December through February, I expect harsh snow-burdened gales to turn our roads into obstacle courses, pursue livestock across drifted fields, and snatch branches from whip-lashed trees.

But fierce winds in March unsettle me. Just when the world begins to stir with the promise of daily walks through a gentle spring—sun warming my face and fresh air dancing—the promising month falls prey to unpredictable winds.

A balmy breeze, which invites sauntering in the morning, freshens and becomes bothersome in the afternoon, causing me to tuck my chin and scurry. By the next day it’s surly and vindictive, slapping at my reddened face no matter which direction I turn.

Several calm days with stilled leaves and quiet follow, and I begin to believe spring is more than a myth I cling to in order to preserve my sanity. Then the next morning, I walk into a one-direction gale, its insistent, monotonous bluster unbroken by the ebb and flow of gusts.

It’s enough to make a walker paranoid.

child with kite

I became a student of March winds as a child. I had no choice: my elementary school abounded with displays of lions, lambs, and puffy-cheeked faces blowing playful breezes in which kites frolicked.

In sixth grade, Mr. Wadsen, who played the zither and had black eyebrows that grew together in a commanding line, taught us how to make kites from newspaper and weightless pieces of wood he supplied. We carefully tore strips from an old sheet to create tails for stability, attached kite string, and went outside to fly our creations.

Within minutes, a rambunctious wind grabbed our kites and either bounced them across the playground in swirls of dust or tossed them high into trees to be impaled by bare branches.

We had a glorious time.

In fourth grade, our class presented the program for the March PTA meeting. Mrs. Thomas selected a poem about the wind by Christina Rossetti and coached us in a choral reading of its lovely lines: “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I, but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”

She assigned Blake and Lamont to produce pleasant wind sounds—whooshes and soft sighs—as a background to our words.

Rehearsals went well, but the night of the performance, in front of parents, teachers, and school board members, Blake and Lamont succumbed to their weakness for erratic behavior and increased the volume of the wind.

By the time we finished the second verse, they’d whipped up a nor’easter.

Encouraged by chuckles from the audience, other reprobates soon added their banshee howls to the hurricane, while those of us with more decorum laughed uncontrollably at their antics.

We didn’t get recess for a week.

 

 

 

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44 thoughts on “The Winds of March

  1. Wonderful. I built a barn a few years ago. I had to shut down every afternoon when the wind picked up. I read somewhere that pioneer women were driven insane by the blowing wind here in the west. I can believe that.

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  2. I enjoyed ur article…
    March in my country is different..
    There is no wind…
    Summer begins to come…
    It is hot and sunny…
    Thanks..

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  3. A hilarious read! If only I would live in a country without that wind…. The Netherlands with its wind from the North Sea has a bone-chilling wind 10 months long (that is if summer is good and lasts more than a single weekend…)
    I will probably have a laugh next time I am blown over by March wind remembering your post!

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    • I’m glad my post made you laugh, and, in turn, I chuckled at your hope that summer lasts more than a single weekend in the Netherlands. Here in Northwest Colorado, we hope for a solid month of summer, though we have had snow during each month of the summer at least once since I moved here.

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      • ok, that teaches me! At least there is no snow in summer here… 🙂
        This year we actually hardly had any snow or ice in winter. Just the moist wind coming from the sea and chilling you to the bone – and the rain, of course, that often accompanies it like an old drinking mate that does not know when it is time to let go and go home…
        But hey – at least no snow in summer!!!

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      • There is something about moist cold; I always feel it is cutting clear through my bones when I visit humid places that have cold winters. Our cold is a dry cold and doesn’t seem so bitter to me. I laughed at your comparison of the rain to an old drinking mate, a very apt metaphor.

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  4. Ah, the wind, we on the Island here get some pretty good storms, people pay money to come watch the waves. March plays silly buggers, when we had horses one very warm week I curried mines very shaggy, itchy coat and next day it snowed..we used to go walking in the north, it was turning back homeward into the wind that frost-bit, I loved the hot, dry winds in Australia, wind is also good for wafting smells, and welcome deep hot baths post braving it. When were you in Egypt Janet? I was Nov\Dec of 1986, All the blowing sand, Katabatic Wind I believe they call them. Super Post, thanks.

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    • I’m so glad you mentioned the poem, Barbara. I love it too. In fact, despite the class behavior during the performance, the poem has remained with me, one of those I still know by heart and enjoy remembering every time I think of it.

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  5. When I was in college in the panhandle of Texas, we would have huge sand storms. These storms would make mid-day look like night. As I walked across campus to my next class, my face would get sand blasted. It was quite painful. At home, during one of these storms, there would be a layer of sand on window sills and under doors. That is how hard the wind was blowing.

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    • I sometimes think March is the cruelest time of year, though the last three days in Craig have felt like spring is making a push for dominance. But, just like where you live, we’re trying not to count our chickens before they hatch.

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  6. I laughed at your delightful school memory, Janet. How I wish I had been an audience member that night. Trying to garden with the wind blowing my hood over my head or hair in my face causes me as much irritation as a cat feels being rubbed backwards.

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  7. Lotta love going on for this one Janet- well deserved- Yes, the Sinai was wonderful, but 2 months on my own in Egypt was enough, never longed to return. Hope you are feeling better.

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    • I am well, Sheila,but having trouble keeping up with various obligations. I’ll send an email so I can whine in private. I was only in Egypt a week, so we had vastly different experiences, I’m sure.

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  8. I’ll bet Mrs. Thomas learned her lesson and never assigned the “producing wind sounds” task to boys again!
    But, about those spring winds, I feel your pain Janet. Before I moved to the west I had heard of the notorious Wyoming winds, but I had no idea that the gales would blow for months in Price, Utah as well.
    I was just saying to Tim the other day that if we move when he retires I’d like to go someplace where the wind doesn’t blow!
    (Okay, maybe the gentle island breezes of Hawaii, but no more of this “can’t stand up straight” stuff.)

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    • I didn’t know the wind was a constant in Price either, but I certainly know about the winds in Wyoming. My brother lives in Laramie and once commented that in Laramie you don’t comment on the presence of wind, but on the absence of wind. Then he shook his head sadly.

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  9. Oh, how absolutely funny! That was a great story. Of course, I thought about the Kansas winds either viciously hot or frozen.

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  10. I want to try making my own kite one of these days. I think it would be a fun project for me and Philip.
    No recess – I’m thinking the teacher might have punished herself just as much. Seems to me that the students get even crazier when they don’t get outside to blow off steam. So to speak.

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