As the autumn progresses, the weather gods have apparently decided that they’ve been nice enough to us, pampering us with warmer-than-normal delights (the temperature rose into the mid-60s here on Thanksgiving Day), and now it’s time to get back to normal business. Winter will start officially in 26 days and, though no snow is predicted in the immediate future, it’s gray, chilly, and overcast. To complete the bleak November picture, the wind has picked up over the past couple of days and is blustering around as I write this, snatching the last of the leaves from their tenuous holds on their branches.
I’ve been reflecting on other windy conditions that I’ve experienced—and especially on areas of the world that I’ve visited where there are serious prevailing winds—and my reflections were snapped into sudden focus when a message appeared in my InBox this morning, informing me of a new post by a photographer in England (FATman) whose work I follow, in which he presented a monochrome shot (click here) of a wind-bent tree that he’d photographed in Somerset several years ago. This brought to mind a truly magical spot that I discovered while exploring the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island between Dunedin and Invercargill. It’s on Slope Point, and a side road (I love side roads!) leads past a paddock that contains a grove of some of the most densely-packed and intertwined trees that I’ve ever seen. The trees are members of one of my favorite species in that country: Cupressus macrocarpa, which is also endemic to central California and is commonly known as the Monterey Cyprus.
But back to Slope Point. The wind frequently roars in off the Foveaux Strait, and the trees are bent into fantastic shapes from decades of this irresistible force, the branches mingling with each other like a nest of snakes in an apparent attempt to hang on a little better, and the smaller branches have been forced to grow sideways, parallel to the ground. There was a fence I had to climb over to get close enough to see them really well, and no “Keep Out” signs, but I was confident that—should someone appear to challenge me—I could explain my trespass with a few compliments on this natural wonder and a friendly smile. (I’ve been able to return to the spot twice since my first visit, but I’ve never encountered another person, only a few sheep.) The grove looks rather desolate from a distance, but up close there is an unexpected warmth that seems to come from its thickest parts, and there is a real aura of enchantment, hard to explain but strangely welcoming. I really hope I may have the chance to return again someday. (Thanks for the memory jog, FATman!)