Rarely do animals move around when the wind blows hard, and the reasons for this are legion. It’s warmer if an animal is still in the wind, if that animal can get out of the wind, and stay low. Trees and limbs fall in the wind, and one place of comfort may also be safer than moving around in the woods waiting for something to drop or fall. Scent is carried away in the wind. Most animals are scent based creatures and the strong wind is like blackness or a light too strong. Hearing is muted for what sound is there but the wind and the falling of limbs? No, it is best to stay put. Most do. There is a truce in the wind for it gives a disadvantage to all. Nothing on wing can fly anyway. The skies are left to the clouds and the wind, the wind, and the wind.
I shouldn’t be out in the wind and I know this. I saw a rattlesnake at Elbow’s place earlier in the day. A strong three foot section of a dangerous animal when provoked, this one glided into the woods where there was bad light and vines and fallen trees. I had to reload batteries into the camera and when I tracked it into the thick it rattled at me. It’s an unmistakable buzzing sound that strikes real fear into the hearts of most humans. The tail of the rattlesnake is a marvel in engineering. The buzz is a noise that scatters and falls upon the ground, ricocheting off everything on the ground, and the tail flails the sound everywhere at once. The sound comes from all directions, no direction, even as I know almost where the snake has to be, I must reasonably assume she is not alone, and perhaps there might be another nearby. The sound is a warning, camouflage, a smoke screen, and a psychological attack. In this perfect thick of vines and low light and fallen logs and rattlesnake sound I dare not advance. I scan the area with my modern and digitally advanced zoom lens but the snake has chosen perfectly a place to hide. The diamond shaped pattern mimics shadow and the snake though making noise is invisible. I retreat but the encounter stays with me. At three in the morning I get out of bed and in the wind, I walk the woods.
There is no moon, no stars, and nothing that would lend itself to sight. There is only the wind and the sound she makes through the trees, not unlike the song of the snake. I move slowly, far too slowly for comfort, but this is the woods, and mistakes are paid for in blood. The dogs stay close, and Lucas leads with his innocent brawn. There is enough light from above for me to see the crowns of the trees, and where there is space there is a path underneath, mostly, but this is an experiment with knowing rather than feeling. It has turned much cooler. There will be no buzz of the rattlesnake and if there was, I am certain Sam will kill her. Most humans tend to think of an encounter between a rattlesnake and a dog as one sided and it most definitely is, but in favor or the dog in most cases. Dogs are faster, they are more mobile, and they have more energy and lasting power. Snakes rely on their sense of smell and their infrared targeting. A dog darting back and forth creates a cloud of information much like the wind creates for those who rely on their hearing. Sam is deadly to small prey and snakes are small animals, even when they are armed. I have a seasoned veteran at my side and the bold youngster holding point. Only the wind may harm me.
To human speech and to many other forms of human sound, I am growing steadily more deaf. I have learned to watch the lips of human beings to discern their language but my hearing fails me as I grow older. Yet here in the dark, in the woods, there is a sound of song I have heard all my life, but few others have shared with me. The wind sings through the limbs and boughs, coaxing the older and weaker limbs to tempt flight, yet the Siren’s call leads them but down, to crash on the detritus of a thousand generation of trees on the forest floor. The tiny leaves share the same fate as the mightiest Oak, who will one day, despite the wisdom of age, heed that cry, and fall. In the woods I can hear that song, and as I move slowly through the trees and the darkness, the song changes, as if I was moving from seat to seat in a concert hall for a symphony. Here near the giant Oak the wind is less, broken by the mass of the titan, yet the leaves rustle like the applause of some crowd enjoying the conflict. To the South it is more open, fewer large trees grow here, and I can feel the wind pushing me forward, and I can feel small leaves showering me like confetti. To the east there is the pond, and the wind rushes into it as if to fill it with the sky instead of a liquid, and I can hear the pond grasses song. They are not as strong as the trees, not nearly used to such music, but they too must cry aloud when stirred by the wind. The frogs are muted, the voice of the owl silence this night, so all must make their own voice, to make up for the loss.
Back in the house the two dogs make their comfort on the bed as I stare out into the might. They are glad the walk is over, and already their breath grows deeper. An hour, maybe more, this journey lasted when in haste it could have taken less than a quarter than long. Yet there was music to be heard, voices in the dark I needed to listen to this night. Let the day begin without me for I have walked with the night and I have the memory of the song to sail today.