In one of the early chapters of Leaning into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather, author Susan Allen Toth remarks:
"I have been shaped by a loud, brash, show-offy climate, a Midwest that echoes with thunderclaps, howls with windstorms, piles up its snowdrifts with abandon, and noisily drenches its field with floods. That is part of who I am,..."
As a native Midwesterner, I could have used those same words to describe myself, and that is part of the reason I identify with many aspects of this book. Leaning into the Wind, however, differs greatly from most of the weather books I have reviewed over the past years. At first, I had a hard time putting a marker on the difference, but while reading a book on drawing, the answer came. Most of the weather books I have reviewed deal with headline-grabbing storms and their impacts. Under my recent revelation, these books could be characterized as yang books, to use the tai chi dichotomy. They deal with the fierce, external forces that shape human nature, and nature in general. Leaning into the Wind is to me a yin book, looking at the more inward expression of natural forces.
In the pages of Leaning into the Wind, Toth looks at how the brash climate and weather of the Midwest have affected her, and often that impact has been in her core emotional being as much as on her physical being. The strength of Leaning into the Wind is Toth's ability to internalize the weather raging around her as a reflection on her personal life. Storms are not only the metaphors for turbulence in her life, but in cases are the triggers for significant change. But by no means is the book an extended metaphor; it is also the joyful expression of an observer who sees beyond the walls with a poet's eye. "Something is out there, breathing heavily, a warm moist blast that whispers, ‘Grow! Grow!'"
Little in the book's dozen chapters could be described as scientific explanation so this is not a book for the solely science minded. In fact, the best comparison I could make with Toth's work is to associate it with Diane Ackerman's many books (another born Midwesterner) minus the scientific insights and explanations.
Leaning into the Wind will not be a book that will find its way to every weather enthusiast's library shelf, but will be an interesting read to those who see the science and the poetry of weather and climate. Even if you are not a Midwesterner, you will enjoy the author's insights because they will lead you to similar ones about your place, wherever that may be.
Leaning into the Wind is a book I recommend for those who want to see weather from a different perspective. It will find a prominent place on my bookshelves.
Weather Doctor's Book Review: Leaning into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather ©2003, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. All Rights Reserved.
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