I have a fascination for seeing how fluid flows. An obvious example of this is the vortex created when you pull the plug out in a sink full of water; as a child I couldn’t see why a vortex was created and found it rather magical. Even when I understood these vortices are created as a result of the planet spinning, it was still weird to see the water spin the other way when I visited Australia over twenty years ago (perhaps I should go and check to see if this still holds?). Streams and rivers are rather hypnotic for me as well and one of the joys of living in Tayside is that there is a good number of white water stretches to be enjoyed though, unfortunately I never got the hang of kayaking so cannot play in these wild stretches of eddies and whirlpools like some of my friends do.
One thing I did learn though was to sail so I am familiar with waves and tides; the later caused by the moon’s interaction with the earth, and former caused by the wind. There is a saying comparing somebody to a “fish out of water”, meaning that the person is uncomfortable in the environment they are currently in (though I’ve never seen anybody gasping, gulping and flapping around thankfully – I have a horribly image of mustard gas attacks during The Great War now). Like a fish though we do live in a fluid, it is just that we cannot see it generally, it is the air we breathe.
On a local level it is hard to see the air moving en-masse but we do feel the wind. As a child I would often sit in the rear seat of the car with my parents up front, wind the window down and stick my arm out into the moving air and play with the wind on my hand. I would open and close my fingers feeling the cold on one side and the caress of the eddies on the other. I would flatten my hand and blade it in the airstream allowing the air to move my arm back and forward like a sail on a boat. I would hold my flat hand palm forward and feel the resistance pushing my hand back, then twist it 180 degrees and feel the air push my hand closed. I tend to be the driver most of the time now, but occasionally as a passenger I still get to play with the wind.
I should also give a safety warning here. One day whilst the window was down, I felt something on my cheek and absentmindedly touch my face. It turned out to be a bumble bee, and because I rather clumsily touch it, it stung me and killed itself. I cried over the pain, and later mourned the bee. I wonder if a full beard provides any protection from such interactions with nature?
I used to love strong winds too particularly as an invincible teenager. In those days I had lots of hair covering the top of my head, long, silky soft, brown, and wavy hair. I used to run my fingers through my hair when thinking (never thought of trying to earn some money being in a shampoo commercial though) and I particularly loved the wind blowing my hair back. The memory I have is of closing my eyes and tilting my head up to the sun, the wind tussling my hair about, and the ends of my hair caressing my bare shoulders; perhaps I was standing on the edge of beach with my feet getting wet (though Southsea’s pebble beach makes that hard to believe). Hmm, I don’t think I would have been down on the beach if there had been a strong wind either; perhaps a firm summer sea breeze then.
Nowadays, the hair on the top of my head has moved to being around my mouth and chin. It is no longer silky and soft but does contain some brown (to my delight) and is quite long; I still run my fingers through it though. I do not however get the same sensations when my beard interacts with the wind. This rather wiry, bushy growth refuses to be moved by such piffling forces which is a shame. As I get older, I mostly experience the wind as apparent wind when I am out cycling. Since I live on a hill, pretty much any ride starts with a downhill acceleration; the wind streaming through my helmet’s ventilation channels, and blasting my arms and legs. This isn’t particularly pleasant on a cool day before my body has warmed up and being in Scotland, really hot days when this effect would be nice, are not particularly plentiful. In fact as a cyclist, I can be quite grumpy about the wind, but occasionally I will enjoy a downhill zoom with the wind cooling my sweaty body and caressing my admittedly rather hairy arms and legs.
I was going to write about standing in front of the mast of a sailing boat tacking into the wind but to be honest it is usually bloody cold and wet and whilst sometimes this is ok (particular when confined in a small space for a week with a bunch of friends) it isn’t quite the brochure image of swimsuit clad models that we are led to believe it is. That does however lead me back to the interactions between wind and waves. I wanted to write about observing the wind but I’ve side tracked and talked about the feel of the wind; looks like there is going to be a part two.