Wind, March, Minnesota

Great horned owl in our back yard.
photo by kcmickelson 2021

originally appeared on One Minnesota Writer, March 3, 2021

I’ve been watching today’s strong winds cause every tree in our backyard to break into wild dances, rhythmless and perfect, as spring’s forceful breath blows away winter’s dregs. It’s Tuesday afternoon as I write this, clouds scuttling in from the west, the sun swaddled in cloudy gauze. It was so warm today that my partner Mick said this felt all wrong as we walked outside before lunch. He’s right; early March in Minnesota should be far rawer than this 62-degree air. Cold should still be cracking our hands and cheeks, snow should still be piled up on our deck. But the deck is bare and looks dry right now. We could sit out there if the wind would calm down.

Yesterday at around 7:30 a.m., I came into our backyard via the door from our garage. I startled a great horned owl from his perch in the spruce at the edge of our neighbor’s yard. The owl swooped low in front of me, then sailed away on huge silent wings. That’s the closest I’ve been to this owl who has been hanging around for at least a month, often appearing on the power lines in the back of our house right around dusk. Mick, who was bringing our Christmas tree from the front yard where we had stuck it into a now-melted snowbank back in January, missed the whole spectacle. He loves owls, even has a tattoo of one on his forearm. He tossed the tree into our compost box, where it’ll wait until we can dismember it for garden mulch, and looked off in the direction where the owl had flown. Today, we’ve neither seen nor heard our owl. But it’s warm enough that I could crack a window, have a listen for its alto hoots.

Even though these unusually warm days do indeed feel wrong, getting outside for longer periods of time has felt like the tonic that cures every bad thing. Only a few weeks ago, it was seriously below zero for days on end. These rapid and large swings in temperature are something I love about living in Minnesota. It happens in spring and fall, and peppers everyone’s conversations. My friend Luann called me today and wondered whether this was the end of our snow or if Mother Nature was going to turn around and blast us one more time. I think there’ll be another snow blast. So does Mick.

Our moods have clearly been altered no matter if there’s another arctic blast or not. As those trees shake their limbs, I find myself feeling lighter, happier even in the face of everything this past year has tossed at us. I feel like I’m gathering strength again, building up to something new and powerful. As cold weather loosens its grasp, we are all waking up just in time to reach out to each other again. We can see things in the stronger light of spring and then summer, which really isn’t so far away from this early March afternoon. And we have an owl who comes around just often enough to remind us we are not the only ones living here, that we, too, can spread our wings.