Air is only visible to us through its interactions with the world. We all know the sound of the wind in the trees and the gentle swaying of branches. We see ripples on ponds and watch autumn leaves swirling on blustery days.
But even when the air is still, we can find physical evidence of it all around us.
As water evaporates after a summer rain, it leaves fugitive, mottled patterns on streets. Or on a winter’s day, we may notice the pronounced depth of a snowdrift on the leeward side of a building.
Of particular interest to me, though, is the way in which plants, overhanging concrete walls, scribe arcs upon them through repeated movements brought on by the wind.
Though this sort of thing must occur everywhere in the world, I first noticed it in Japan. You see it on the walls containing highways and train tracks, and on retaining walls in residential areas. Even in automotive tunnels, where plants have somehow successfully grown in drainage holes, only to be whipped about by the gusts caused by passing cars.
They remain after the plants have gone, too. After every effort by maintenance teams to clean up rogue vegetation, arcs and circles remain traced on the walls, time shadows of plants that are no longer there.
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