After zipping up my coat we headed out for my guide dog Randy's first morning relieving. Not a bird did I hear singing from tree or shrub, but that didn't mean the world was silent. There was a roar, almost like a freight train as the wind howled through the trees and around buildings.
Stepping off our porch I felt Randy hesitate, cluing me to the fact the rug we wipe our feet on was most likely rolled up. There was also a deep layer of dried leaves covering most of the patio; these I'd have to remove later.
Straightening the rug we turned towards the dog pad and I felt the wind slam into me. Randy hesitated but this hesitation was short as he hurried me onto his pad.
While I waited for him I heard what sounded like small animals moving about. But after listening closer I found this was just the dry leaves falling to land on other dry leaves still fluttering on the ground. What I felt falling, or should I say blowing on me, was not rain
or snow but leaves letting go their hold of the trees. These leaves were blown across the landscape to join many others in draws or any less windy place like our deck or patio.
Have you ever listened to the sound of dried tree leaves falling? It may surprise you to find these leaves really make quite a bit of noise as they tumble down or blow across the ground. If you have any nut trees or maybe an old apple tree with still some fruit on it you also may hear a ping or plop as the fruit hits the ground.
The nearby stream bed was silent; no frogs croaked their morning greetings and not one mallard sang out a morning call.
Back inside the house I debated whether to take our morning walk; surely a little wind shouldn't stop us. Thus reasoning I put Randy's harness on him and we headed out for our usual morning walk.
As I opened the gate leading into our driveway, Randy stopped. Reaching out I found a large clump of tumble weed which had blown in from our neighbor's place to become tangled in our gate. A bushel of dried leaves also waited their turn to whisk onto our back patio.
Giving Randy the "Stay" command I gathered up the brush and shoved it into the garbage can, feeling the now freed leaves blow past. Finding this tumbleweed is a common occurrence for us during the windy winter months.
Heading down our road I felt the wind on my back pushing me, actually making the walk easy. But I knew it would not be the same on our walk home for I'd have to lean into the wind.
We turned left at the first crossroad and almost immediately Randy pulled me onto the shoulder of the road. I felt the gravel of the road's edge under my feet just as a car passed us. I had not heard the car because the howling wind had muffled its engine, but Randy had seen it coming.
I decided to return home; I wouldn't walk when I couldn't hear the approaching traffic. Walking on the edge of the road, when there are no sidewalks, I need to be able to hear any approaching traffic.
While in guide dog training school we were instructed to keep 50 percent of our mind on our walk, thus making sure our guide keeps us safe. Walking where there are no sidewalks I find I must stay alert as I listen for approaching traffic, whether facing us or coming from behind us.
Back in our driveway we again paused as I strained to hear any sound other than wind. The trees were devoid of birds; even the squirrels were silent, and no magpie uttered a sound.
Then from low overhead a lone Canada goose honked as she returned to search out another nearby pond. Was she, too, seeking a resting place from this storm?
We missed walking several days in November when strong winds roared though the Walla Walla Valley. But we would walk another day to take in the many sounds and silences of nature.
Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.