Strong Winds

Strong Winds

Nov 18, 2019

With a promise of winter a stiff and chilly wind blew in from the east this morning, doing its best to wrest the last leaves off the trees and drying the ground from last night’s rain. I stood for a time at an upstairs window looking out over our back yard. My eyes were level with the tops of the trees. The evergreens and the giant willow at the edge of our yard bent and flowed with the gusts, an elegant and ancient dance.

There was something majestic about it all. The wind itself has a certain power – physically, yes, but also over the imagination. That sense of shifting, of being lost in the midst of great movement, the ebb and flow of it, the whooshing as the air and the remaining leaves enact their annual fall battle. Sometimes it seems as if the trees are passing the wind from one to the next, down the street, from bare branches to red and gold leaves and back again, as one tree top after another will begin to sway. A great and intricate pattern, known only to nature.

The animals sense it too. Winter is coming! The squirrels have been furiously busy, canvassing the yards for undiscovered acorns and then stashing them away in some secret place. The deer have been nervously pacing the neighborhood, wondering where their winter food will come from, especially now that the woods has been virtually taken away by the new housing development. And in the late afternoon, as the sun began to sink and the cold intensified, a great hawk sat for a time on a low branch. Surveying the ground stoically, the wind ruffled its feathers. Suddenly it took to the air, cruising low over the ground, and then disappearing from view in a copse of trees.

You may remember the song Four Strong Winds. Written in 1961 by Ian Tyson, the best known version of the song is on Neil Young’s classic 1978 record Comes A Time. With haunting harmonies sung by Nicolette Larson, it is a song about loss and longing, about moving on when the chill of winter begins to creep in. And also about how hope endures in the human heart, even in darkness. From the song’s chorus:

Four strong winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high. All those things that don’t change, come what may…

Here is a link to Neil Young's version of Four Strong Winds.

This article originally appeared on Rabbi Schwartz's blog, The Human Side of the Coin, on November 13th, 2019.