An angry sky and strengthening autumn winds indicate that rough weather is approaching. Time to batten down the hatches. Yet gales can bring unexpected benefits.
We watch the clouds scud across the autumnal sky. The knowledgeable tap the barometer to see which way the pressure is moving. Time for smaller vessels to make for the harbour. Late birds fly past seeking a sheltered roost to try to hunker down and sit out the storm. Some gulls frolic joyfully in the rising wind as the last leaves blow from the trees. The weather vanes, after turning in all directions, settle once the prevailing wind has established itself.
In the streets passers-by gather their coats around them, muffled to keep out the cold. Conversations are brief, hair blows into untidy wisps and wind-chill penetrates. Squally down-draughts catch walkers unexpectedly as they walk past buildings. There’s a sense of irritation as things get out of control, doors slam shut, empty dustbins start rolling around and litter dances through the streets.
“Mutters the wind at eve; th’ horizon round
With angry aspect scowls: down rush the showers,
And float the deluged paths, and miry fields.”
From a poem by Gilbert White.
In the gusts tree branches sway gracefully as if performing a ballet, accompanied by the wind singing through them in a ‘minor key’. It’s time to pull the curtains and settle down ourselves in cosy comfort, with the sound of the wind moaning through the rafters and vibrating in the chimney. But we spare a thought for the fishermen and sailors out at sea, and for friends in America who have faced hurricane winds, floods and forest fires recently. For us here it will be only a minor inconvenience.
“O Wild West wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being…
Be through my lips to an unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy ! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?”
From ‘To the West Wind’ – by Shelley
After the storm
Tomorrow all will be calm and the weather vanes still. Hopefully, we will have suffered no serious damage and all the trees will still be standing, all the stronger for having endured the gale. Beach-combers on the deserted shore will find a lot of sea weed – for the garden perhaps- and driftwood for the artists to make into living sculptures. From the deeps the storm will have brought up shells and egg cases of various sea creatures. There may also be some interesting flotsam, delivered courtesy of the storm perhaps from some far- off exotic places. Yes, it’s an ill wind that does no one any good. Sadly it will inevitably have brought in a lot of plastic and other waste with which our oceans are now filled.
Storms have sometimes had a significant influence in British history. They dispersed the Spanish Armada in 1588 and on D-Day storms caught the German defences unprepared for the invasion.
The Storms of Life
George Herbert speaks of the beneficial influence of the storms of life:
“Poets have wronged poore storms:
such days are best;
They purge the aire without,
(and) within the breast.”
Storms make us feel our human frailty and vulnerability reminding us that we humans are not in control. Forces greater than ourselves are at work. The unexpectedness of a fierce gust catches us unawares just when we think the wind is ceasing. We try to harness the wind but find sometimes the turbines on wind farms have to be closed down in a gale.
J.C. Ryle telling of Jesus stilling the storm on Lake Galilee comments:
“If the storms of life lead us to Christ they serve us well “. Later he adds: “With Christ in our vessel we can smile at the storm”. Christ is Lord over storms of all sorts, not just the weather. In his presence, all is well. We may be in the storms but the storms need never be in us. Instead he promised his followers peace within. Perhaps some of the most relevant words of his for today’s disturbed world are – “Quiet! Be still!”. The response was immediate – “Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark’s Gospel chapter 4)
Thank you for joining me. Best wishes to friends in America celebrating Thanksgiving Day.