In Wind, Jan DeBlieu brings a poet's voice and a scientist's eye to this remarkable natural force, showing how the bumping of a few molecules can lead to the creation of religions, the discovery of continents, the destruction of empires. DeBlieu visits the weather observatory at the summit of Mount Washington, where some of the highest wind speeds in the world have been recorded. She talks to survivors of a deadly tornado in Iowa, tries hang gliding over North Carolina's Outer Banks, climbs sand dunes in Oregon ...
In Wind, Jan DeBlieu brings a poet's voice and a scientist's eye to this remarkable natural force, showing how the bumping of a few molecules can lead to the creation of religions, the discovery of continents, the destruction of empires. DeBlieu visits the weather observatory at the summit of Mount Washington, where some of the highest wind speeds in the world have been recorded. She talks to survivors of a deadly tornado in Iowa, tries hang gliding over North Carolina's Outer Banks, climbs sand dunes in Oregon and slickrock formations in Utah - everywhere exploring the effects, subtle and brutal, comforting and terrifying, of the wind.
We live surrounded by an ever-changing ocean of air, its currents both capricious and predictable, its swirls and swells shaping the surface of our planet and the evolution of all that lives on it. To DeBlieu (Meant to Be Wild, 1991), who lives amid the shifting dunes of North Carolina's Outer Banks, the wind is the breath of divinity. It defines her spirit and her being, just as it has defined the shape of the land and the evolution of the creatures that live on it. It's the protagonist of a story that continues to unfold, and humanity is the antagonist. As DeBlieu makes clear, we have blessed the wind, cursed the wind and struggled to learn its ways. We taunt the wind, mistaking scientific understanding for mastery. As if in vengeance, the wind spreads our poisonous pollution and shifts its global patterns, producing climate changes yet to be revealed. This book's strength is also its weakness. Its story is told not in a focused narrative, but in scattered bits of science, history, personal experience, myth, mysticism and religion. The joy--and frustration--in reading such a book is trying to assemble the pieces in our mind before the next gust disperses them. Its evocative prose deserves praise, but the absence of concrete images diminishes its value to scientifically inclined readers. They will crave diagrams of wind and weather patterns, historical drawings and maps and photographs of people, birds, aircraft and research balloons. But they will find none. (July)
- Nola Theiss
DeBlieu lives on Cape Hattaras and knows the wind firsthand. She is also a scientist, a historian, a poet and a lover of the wind. In her book, she teaches us to see the invisible world of the air and the wind, two fluids that encircle and surround us. Each chapter captures an element of the wind, from its ferociousness to its mythological and religious interpretations, to how it has affected history, to the way it carries birds and insects and creates unique habitats. She writes about how the wind carries seeds from exotic species and changes the landscape and how it shapes the sand and moves the oceans. She is practical, scientific and poetic in her approach. In the chapter "The Encircling Sea," she says, "Wind is both the sculptor of waves and the engine of currents. It is the spoon that stirs layers and helps create the flows that carry oxygen to the bottom and nutrients to the surface." In her study of the wind, she has met fascinating people, like Karen Havholm who studies the movement of sand; and she tells us of older wind experts, like Perry Glick who discovered in the 1920s how insects use the wind, calculating that there were over 14 million insects in one square mile of air above Louisiana, some as high as 5,000 feet above the ground. Other chapters discuss the effect of wind on our physical and mental health, how we use the wind to fly and for power and, lastly, how we seem to taunt the wind by living in places we know are periodically dramatically altered by it. As someone who has experienced hurricanes in the last two years, I already have a healthy respect for wind. This book gave me a much better understanding of it.
According to legend, the gentle flapping of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can trigger a cyclone in Asia. This image suggests how intricately balanced are the global winds and how they have the power to nurture or destroy life. DeBlieu's graceful writing animates this unseen force of nature.
DeBlieu.has a poetic touch that adds a special grace to her prose when she turns to a subject in nature.the authors provide a clear-eyed review of a large part of modern biology.
Sun heats, Earth spins; there will always be wind somewhere. It has both a song and a story to tell, and natural-history writer DeBlieu (Meant to be Wild, 1991, etc.) has beautifully translated them for us. Wind is predictable (kind of) yet moody; itþs a trickster and a gangster and a life giver. Battles have been lost, civilizations vanquished, the great exploratory routes determined, all turning on the wind. As DeBlieu delightfully shows, the impact of the presence of wind on the human imagination goes back to the earliest recorded materials, to the creation myths of the Maori, the Navajo, and the people of northern Borneo, for starters, to the 12th-century wind wizardry of Lapland and the most primitive observation of animal behavior before a big blow. Fluid as her subject, DeBlieu covers much aeolian terrain: global wind systems in the troposphere, source of the world's weather; the origins of sailing craft; the fluctuations in the westerlies that send sand marauding across the Hebrides while Antarctica gets a balmy springtime; spiders trailing gossamer, making inter-island oceanic voyages; tree leaves going tubular to reduce their surface area exposed to gales. And then there are the wicked winds: the gnawing inescapable steady winds, the death-dealing oddities known as tornadoes. And there are the winds that leave medical climatologists with dry mouths: the simoom, the melteme of the Aegean, the yamo of Ugandaþthey tear away at our insulation, mess with our thermoregulationþwith many a hurricane in between, for DeBlieu's own windy patch is the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But this book is much more than a greatest hits of bad winds: it is asubtle and elegant delineation of wind per se, where a breeze has as much dignity, authority, and fascination as a tempest. The wind will never be the same for readers after finishing this book, its presence now heightened and explicated. DeBlieu has achieved the Big Two: enlightenment and high entertainment.
Jan DeBlieu is the author of Hatteras Journal (1987) and Meant to Be Wild (1991), which was a Nature Book Club main selection and was chosen by the Library Journal as one of the three best natural history books of the year. She has also written for the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, Audobon, and Orion, and her essay on the wind, "Onto the Dragon's Mouth," was featured in the inaugural volumn of American Nature Writing. She currently resides in Manteo, North California.