We walk on the lee of a hill. Wind whips overhead, rushes through the trees nearby and sails off the crest of the hill before swirling down to where we walk, the bite of it tempered by obstacles and changes in direction and velocity. Still, I make sure the scarf is pulled up over my nose; hold my hood taut at the side of my face as a windbreak.
In the open, as the dogs and I move away from one section of forest, leaving the trees and the voices of birds behind us, and follow the curving trail down the hill to its base, the wind sweeps up handfuls of snow, dispersing it out over the marsh grasses, clumps of gold rustling away to the distant mountain, sculpting the landscape.
I am struck by the cold wind and the warm sun mingling here in this open space, imagine how much more bitter it would be if the sun were obscured by cloud and the sky a flat gray and the landscape not lit by its golden light. I might have not come to this spot today, I think, if the sun wasn’t shining.
The wind began early, with the lightening of the sky before the sun sent the first of its yellow rays down through our woods. It did not buffet the house or roar through the trees, but there was movement outside the windows, the woods swaying as a dark mass against the deep indigo sky.
I became more aware of it because of Chestnut’s absence. He had appeared in his usual indelicate way to rouse me from bed and I followed him downstairs in the half-light of predawn seeping in at the windows, turning my head to catch a glimpse of him at the edges of my vision and listening for his movements ahead of me so as not to step on him and send us both tumbling down the stairs.
After everyone was fed and I sat finishing my own breakfast I became aware that Chestnut was not circling the room, pacing out a route with the not so subtle pad-pad of his feet, nor was he sitting at the table, eyes peering over the flat surface at me with a look of almost-panic, as if I might not give him the bowl with remnants of oatmeal and yoghurt to clean like I do every day.
I looked for him, waited, called his name, and then I thought of the wind. I had heard it of course when I put the dogs out, when I opened the door and listened to it wash through the forest, but it had seemed fairly tame, not as remarkable as those days when it crashes against the house, making it creak and groan with the trees.
So when we walk the lee of the hill later that day and the wind roars overhead, I think of Chestnut, a lump in the middle of the bed huddled beneath the covers. He would hate this. The sun warms my face on one side while the wind slices at me on the other and I think of Aesop’s fable about the sun and wind and their dispute about which one is stronger.
We head into a stand of trees and the wind grows louder but we are sheltered down amongst the trunks. We walk a loop, ducking under low branches and scrambling over downed trees and then we return to the open field to retrace our steps. But our trail is gone, covered up the by wind and snow as though it had never been. And there is a part of me that thinks, as I stand at the edge of things and look at the smooth, seemingly untouched snow ahead before striking out again for home, that this is exactly as it should be.