Feynman explains it best in this classic video, but here are some of the essentials.
Magnets attract and repel at a distance, and there is really no way of rephrasing that fact which will explain this force in terms of "winds of force" or any similar construct and which will not incur inaccuracies and inconsistencies that will render it completely useless.
You may have heard that physicists understand the world in terms of four fundamental forces, which are gravity, electromagnetism, and two nuclear forces. We mean it when we say they are fundamental: they cannot be reduced to any other explanation.
Your other question,
why is this effect only produced by magnetic fields at a close proximity?
sounds reasonable, but in fact the question is why magnets attract and repel each other at such large distances. As it turns out, the atoms in all matter interact both electrically and magnetically. However, these interactions tend to cancel out. If you want to learn more about this, look up the terms ferromagnetism, paramagnetism, and diamagnetism.