Back to Stories

Watching the Forest Tremble

Posted on May 31, 2016


by Karin Murray-Bergquist

The leaves tell us when it’s time to take cover -- the most sensitive, trembling aspen, leaps at the slightest sign of wind. Watching the forest, the tops of the trees, is an exercise in foresight. Each sign of change in the atmosphere is reflected in that array of greens, moving in an orchestral harmony, at the wind’s direction. Birch leaves turn from green to silver as they twist about on the twig. In a season of unpredictable weather, the view of the treetops is never the same, one morning heralding fair skies, the aspen only fluttering, the next predicting a storm with the agitated motion of the branches, contrasting against the stillness of the sombre spruce.

The weekend before last, a thunderstorm such as only the prairies could produce cleared the skies of their heavy warmth, and refreshed the ground just enough that it could withstand the next day of overwhelming heat. When I returned to work on Tuesday, I could see no real difference in the animals or the plants at FortWhyte, except perhaps looking a little fresher, a little less overheated. But listening to the storm from my room, and watching it through the window, I could imagine the panicky sway of the aspens, so taken by the wind that they would seem to lack roots, to sway as freely as the masts of ships upon a tempestuous sea.

There is an elemental quality to the air before a storm, an electricity that cannot be felt indoors. Powerfully charged clouds rolling across a wide and expressive sky -- was the thunder louder, before the noise of the city tried to drown it out? How far away could a person see the storm coming, across the prairie? I have to wonder, and here in the grounds among the light colours and delicate textures of spring, I can find in my surroundings the sensitivity that buildings and roads have lost, that reaction to the slightest change in air pressure or temperature. The trees know. Watching them, so do I.

As FortWhyte Alive's seasonal interpreter, Karin will share her observations and musings on the trail this summer.