Storms don’t exactly sneak up on you in the Midwest. Unless you’re sleeping.
They hem and haw. Fronts drift in. Stagnate. Advance. Stall. Pick up again. Sort of unfold in slow-mo.
Certainly not like the Thunder Boomers out West.
Although we do get that occasional freight train. Those tornadic, counter-clockwise winds that sweep in so fast no one can prepare. In fact, if you witness them, it is sort of hypnotizing. Like a snake hypnotizes its prey.
For the average storm here, the wind picks up, the temperature drops, and sometimes, you can see that clearly demarcated line of clouds advancing. That gray-blue, dark-clouded front-line meeting clear, blue sky, perhaps with its wisps of white cirrus clouds. But it’s when the temperature drops that you really know it’s about to hit.
Along with that unmistakable fragrance that suddenly permeates the atmosphere.
It envelopes you with intoxicating enchantment. Petrichor – that earthy scent that rises just before the rain falls on the soil. From the Greek “petra” or “stone”, and “īchōr” – the “fluid” in the veins of the Greek Gods.
Literally, the blood of the stone.
It’s a heady fragrance. Sort of magical. It comes from an oil released from the Earth just before those rain drops fall. As though the Earth were summoning the water. Giving off an irresistible pheromone.
Seductively alluring it for a lover’s embrace.
Being able to detect that scent is said to be one of those mystic evolutionary traits we humans developed to aid our survival. Encoded somewhere on our genes. Embedded in the neural pathways of our brains.
But with those clouds in the distance, and the perfume of the Earth still bottled, I had plenty of time to work in a hike.
No instinct was telling me to take cover.
While Spring is still about three weeks away, according to the Solar calendar, it seems to have come early on Leap Day this year because the peepers are out. Yes, those tiny frogs singing their songs of awakening have emerged from their hibernation. Their inward quest in dream sleep replaced by the early dawn.
As I head out on the trail, I notice many beings are taking in the day. Some have never departed or slept through winter, but others are returning. On migratory routes.
Etched in the electromagnetism of this spinning orb.
A large flock of Snow Geese circles for a landing by a shallow lake. A place to rest and feed before continuing their journey. Retracing ancient flight paths. Following them home to spawn a new generation.
The Robins and Woodpeckers never left this year. Apparently enough warmth and food to sustain them. But some of the other winter residents from the Northlands have now departed. Their temporary lodging expired. The Juncos and Chickadees, all gone.
The trees still stand in their charcoal poses. Soon that electric green will be restored to their branches.
I’m always amazed when the Earth goes quiet in its Winter slumbers. But just as astonished when it re-awakens.
A Blue Jay perches itself in the low-lying branches of a thicket of shrubs. It sings out a completely different song than the shriek it normally emits. I didn’t recognize it all and didn’t realize it had this range of vocality. It stops me dead in my tracks as my ears take it all in. As though it was singing in jubilation to the lifting of Winter’s cloak.
Its song reminds me of once hearing a beautiful melody above my head, and discovering high in a tree top a Grackle singing. I didn’t even know they could sing a melody; anything beyond the crackling ebullition it blares out in defiance. Absolutely exultant. Creating a frission through the body.
Back on the trail, my friend, the Red-Shouldered Hawk pays me a visit. He sends me five hoarse screeches – chwirk, chwirk, chwirk, chwirk, chwirk. The number five symbolizing change and activity. He has brought me messages many times over the past few years. Endlessly circling his territory.
But there are more than just birds about today.
Squirrels swarm, digging up their hidden treasures. Fish hit the surface of the lake, consuming the bugs who had just emerged from their earthen beds.
A doe and two fawns emerge from the tree line. Pausing for a moment and then darting across a field.
But one of Nature’s creatures is still fast asleep. The groundhogs remain in their dens. Not ready to resume their active duties. They know all too well that another frost resides in the near future, with a change in the seasonal winds.
I’m now anxious for the temperatures to reach that critical degree. When the wildflowers will bloom. That day will be here soon, and will bring much joy to my heart.
I hope this brief walk along the trail has brought the spirit of reawakening to you today.
Photos: I took these pics some 46 years ago. I had made slides, and those slides have faded drastically. I scanned them into the computer and while not all that clear, they do convey the image of the storm front moving in. Over those brown fields and silhouettes of trees. I was walking ahead of this front the day I snapped these.