Category Archives: nature

The Winds of Change: Something’s Coming, Something Good?

When I left Vermont for Massachusetts six years ago, it seemed that I’d relocated to a wicked windy state. The winds would positively howl at night in my Boston-adjacent neighborhood, a kinetic metal sculpture outside gonging like a buoy. 

But when I moved back to Vermont two years ago, I realized the entire northeast had in fact gotten windier. As has much of our country in the last 10 years. New England has something called a “jet streak” nearby, a part of the jet stream where winds are stronger, but the west has been getting clobbered, too. The whole planet has become mysteriously windier.

While of great benefit to wind farms, our newly windy climate has less favorable consequences in our area. In winter, power outages are terribly unfun when trees or limbs fall on power lines. In summer, people are fond of burning stuff outside, often unmonitored. With all of our old wooden structures in Vermont, and a recent trend to long weeks without rain, that’s just not a good idea. 

Then there’s sports. I was planning on working on my tennis serve this summer, but it’s hard to get any consistency going when 1.) your baseball cap is giving you lift like the Flying Nun, and 2.) you have to guess as you toss your ball high into the air for the serve: (a.) Will there be wind? (b.) How strong will it be? (c.) From which direction will it come? That goes for your lobs in tennis and, frankly, any ball of any kind coming at you or leaving you in any sport. The winds are not only gusting, they’re swirling. Is this affecting pitching? Batting? Basketball? It’s got to be affecting golf. Surely volleyball. Fake sports like pickleball and badminton must now be more like gambling than sports. 

Wait what? Did I just denigrate pickle ball? Yes, I did. Badminton never pretended to be a real sport; it knew its place as a charming folly in the wide world of athleticism: a dusty boxed set that lives in the attic for years at a time, trotted out gamely at family reunions, if and when the shuttlecock can be found and its rubber nub hasn’t crackled apart, rendering it useless. 

Really, bully for all who dig pickleball, but I gave it several tries and here’s my assessment: a noisy “sport” named after a dog, invented by restless wealthy people, with inscrutable scoring that takes so long to learn that players mostly announce the score in the interrogative, that feels like a fanciful game your little nephew makes up and keeps changing the rules on so that you can’t beat him. Mainly, it screws up my tennis courts, man, with distracting court tapings and heinous net-lowerings that pickleballers don’t bother to fix when they’re done. Tennis is a sensible and courteous game, for civilized people. Play tennis. Before a swirling windy vortex sucks your pickleball, more whiffle than ball, up into the heavens forever (“Hate mail can be addressed to”).

But I digress. Back to the wind. The “winds of change” is an expression signifying a sense that change is in the air. Has Dear Reader ever gotten this? At times I have felt that the wind did in fact portend change, or I at least interpreted it thusly and used it as a catalyst to make my own change. Some of us take unusual winds as a very real sign. And given current world events – and news channels relentlessly covering not only existing problems, but also imagined terrors that may never even come to pass – we can easily panic about what changes may be headed our way.

I’ve said it before, but it never gets old: catastrophizing about an unknown future and all forms of hand-wringing in general serve only to rattle us.  It does not serve us to fret over things out of our control. It’s up to us to rein in our worrying — including all who live alone and are unfortunately free to ruminate endlessly, sleeplessly, with no one to talk to or offer comfort. It’s up to each of us to do our best to remain grounded, not like a pickleball sailing off to Mars. It’s up to us to think pleasant thoughts for our selves, each other, and the planet. Otherwise, we won’t feel well, or safe, or loved. What good could come from that?

Truly, it’s entirely possible that what is coming is something very good indeed. Some bad things in the mix, no doubt, but maybe something major and lovely is en route. Consider interpreting the winds this way: that people who think or act upon others with harmful intent in this time and place might soon find themselves powerless, blown far, far away like so many cracked and useless shuttlecocks in strong winds. Then those of us who think and act with love will finally understand the power of love – our love, and that of the entire world. 

Okay, I’m not kidding, the wind is howling as we speak. All cosmic musings aside, this should be an interesting summer between tent pitching and anchoring umbrellas at beaches. Beware projectiles. Think positively. Good day.

Ann Aikens has published a darkly comical book of advice, A Young Woman’s Guide to Life: A Cautionary Tale, available in Vermont shops listed at, and on Amazon. She has written her Upper Valley Girl column since 1996.

Taming the March Hare

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a heck of a time concentrating, prioritizing, and just generally getting stuff done this month. It’s not that I’m not doing things, I’m just not getting all of them done.  I can’t wrap my arms around it. 

I’m not blaming it on cabin fever, endless shoveling, Covid fog, menopause, or dementia. I’m blaming it on a world so fraught with troubles that I can’t sleep, which really screws up your mood and cognitive abilities. And blaming it a bit, of course, on the March Hare.

To refresh, as some of you know I’ve written about this leporid before: the expression “mad as a March hare” – “mad” as in British for loony – comes from the bizarre boxing matches, leaps, and chases during the hare’s mating season in March. Other hare facts: they live mostly in the west, cannot interbreed with rabbits with their different number of chromosomes, and are mostly nocturnal – except for in March. 

Hares have never actually been domesticated, so the title of this column refers, in part, to doing the impossible. The impossible, in my case, means trying to keep on top of everything, at work and at home, in March. Sometimes it feels for a brief moment as if things are going smoothly, doesn’t it? I call this “the illusion of control” and it is very satisfying indeed when it occurs. “Is everything under control?” I ask people. “For now!” some answer. Take it and run (or box, or leap) with it while it lasts.

This column’s title also refers to navigating the madness — March itself is crazy. Many months can be, but March is reliably so. In like a lion? And sometimes out like one. Perilous mud hazards that freeze overnight into death grooves? Definitely. Feeling serene, as if all is right with the world? Definitely not. Occasional warm-ish days, the school kids in shorts in strong winds? Yepper. The flip-flopping weather makes us nutty. I’m naming this Transitional Confusion. We’re boggled. Well, the first move in taming a problematic situation is just acknowledging that there is one. Then knowing how to let what’s entirely out of your control run free (or box or leap). 

March is also the peak of skunk mating season, which is not an astonishing visual event like the hare’s, but an olfactory one. Little fellers are OUT. The woodpeckers are at it, too. That’s a real auditory nuisance when they choose standing seam as their instrument of choice. 

Sick of winter, with its brutal holiday winds, soggy muck, and epic snowstorms? I said to my Vermont-born neighbor, “It’s snowing again Tuesday! A heavy, wet snow!” as the plow leaves a wall of cement-grade sludge at the end of our driveway with each pass. My neighbor’s laconic, Vermonty response: “We’ll get there.” 

True. That’s calming. But first: mud season! It’s like mourning. There’s no way around it; you just have to go through it. Major seasonal transitions, these, from snow to mud to gorgeous SPRING. Expect confusion.

How to Manage Transitional Confusion and Generalized Weirdness

•If you don’t feel like doing something that badly needs doing, just do something else that also needs doing, but maybe a hare less. Then you’ll feel like a winner, not a loser, even if not the right kind of winner.

•I asked my dentist why my dental floss smelled so bad (no idea why I huffed it…chalk it up to March). She said, “Because you’re scraping off plaque that is fermenting.” It ferments from bacteria. And if that doesn’t get you to floss, I don’t know what will. Cram flossing into your to-do list?

•Go to the movies. So sane-making. The smell of the popcorn, the trailers promising future fun, the snickering with your seatmate, the movie itself on a big screen in a dark theater. Best of all, perhaps, the Shared Experience in a roomful of strangers—some of whom laugh at things you didn’t catch as funny, some eating noisily, some openly bawling at the ending (guilty as charged … of all three). As we isolate in our homes, streaming and watching TV, the Shared Experience with strangers is lost entirely. But when you leave the theater, you feel refreshed somehow by this magical communal outing.  For Dear Reader that probably means Randolph, which boasts the oldest cinema in Vermont, or maybe Montpelier, Waitsfield, Barre, or Hanover. Rutland’s remains closed, alas. Grab a friend and go! You won’t regret it. 

•Make or see art? Get materials and tools from Brainstorm Art Supplies in Randolph and make something, or just soak up the cool vibe in there. Listen to music. Visit galleries. Cook, before it gets too hot to.

•Go outside, close your eyes, and just listen. You’ll hear crows, jays, geese, insects, weird trillings and whirrings, gruntings, and soon: peepers! Savor the freshness of the chill air.

•Retire sooner at night and read a book – or a feature story in this paper. So you can awaken earlier in top form, fit to endure morning skunk bouquets and Woody Woodpecker’s relentless rattlings.

The word “hare” cries out for a listing of punny salon names, but luckily for Dear Reader I’m out of space. Feel free to submit your favs.

We’ll get there. Good day, and good transition.

Sometimes You Just Have to Try

In the middle of this…

I came across this:

Eentsy Teensy Spider.
Had he crawled up through the snow?
Fallen off someone’s pant leg?
He was barely moving in his peri-cryogenic state.

I didn’t know what to do, but it seemed a lonely way to die, freezing to death far from anything you know, on snow like a raw oyster on a platter. So I put him in a tissue and brought him a place where 3 wintry terrains met: snow, water, and MUD.

Of course, I may have merely presented him to a bird as a an unexpected snack, replete with napkin. But sometime you just have to try.

Hope you made it, Spidey!

Or at least felt loved on your way out.


Ann Aikens

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