Ode to the wind

It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

Those words have been lurking, brooding, around the perimeter of my mind this long, strange, separated spring.

Even on the brightest days, the wind remains a peculiar Presence in my otherwise quiet corner of the world. This is not normal behavior. I cannot decide if its constant moaning represents mourning for the dead and those yet to die of COVID-19, grief for the state of the world at large, or if it’s a harbinger of bleak times ahead for human existence. The earth lives on, arrayed in spring splendor, while the life and livelihood of people has frozen. Time stands still. For how long, we don’t really know: what time frame is there for outlasting a deadly microorganism? Seems the wind knows … on and on it blows, perhaps not ill in itself, but certainly as a soundscape to a ravaging illness. Somewhere in the sound is a sense of statues, cracking, crumbling, turning to dust, being swept clean away.

So it seems to me, anyway. Sometimes.

Haunting, daunting, taunting, flaunting … I cannot decide which. Perhaps all.

Then, the trees.

Last week, while composing my “I Am From” poem, I decided to choose a representative tree. I meant to write of bald cypress, for I love them, I identify with them, they are a symbol of my southern heritage. I even love the sound of the name. Cypress. But almost instantaneously a vision crowded out any other tree: the little pine sapling that grew to a towering height in the backyard of my childhood home. When I left at twenty, it was a majestic presence, a sole monarch holding dominion over the ditch-adjoined, chain-link backyards of the neighborhood. Hardly an enchanted kingdom, but don’t try to convince my pine of that. It would be my representative tree. Reaching ever-skyward, grown wide with long, heavy, green-needled boughs undulating like ocean waves. Whispering, whispering, always whispering …

Today I read this tweet by Robert Macfarlane:

Word of the day: “susurrate”—to whisper, murmur, esp. of noise produced by numerous individual sources of sound (bees humming, leaves rustling, etc.) Compare to “psithurism,” its similarly sibilant sense-sibling, meaning the whispering of wind in trees (from Ancient Greek).

—That’s how the universe works. Messages of perception. Then sometimes supplying the exact right word (the universe is a writer).

Pining
Sighing
Inner crying
Truths revealing
Hidden healing
Unknown to me
Regal tree
I listen listen to your whisper whisper
Susurrus secrets, ceaseless, swirling
Mystery messages written by the wind

There’s something being said, for sure. If only I spoke pine. Or wind.

Pines, by the way, represent survival, longevity, protection (think “shelter”). Sometimes the pine is called the tree of life. Perhaps there’s a promise in this psithurism.

But you, Wind, remember—you’re ill if you don’t bring something good.

The whispering pines in my backyard now.

23 thoughts on “Ode to the wind

  1. Your prose reminds me of a situation I often experience as an educator with a raptor organization here in north Alabama. It’s not uncommon for people to come up to me while I’m standing with our owl or hawk and they’ll tell me that I’m holding their spirit animal. I mean no disrespect, but I often ponder the fact that no one’s ever told me that their spirit animal is a pigeon or a sparrow. I, too, love bald cypress trees, but your pine tree(s)–then and now–are majestic in their own right. Thank you for both your prose and your poem. I love, “I listen listen to your whisper whisper” and will carry that with me for some time to come.

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    • What a fascinating experience, working with raptors! Last spring after a medical procedure, when my husband was driving me home, we saw a bald eagle sitting by the side of the road. It took a few seconds to even register – “that is an EAGLE!” We tried to turn around and get a picture but it took flight … speaking of majesty. Naturally I would like to claim it as my signature bird (it is my school’s mascot) but I think it more likely that my bird is a house finch. Or a cardinal. How your words here spark many stories … and I thank you for them. “Listen listen to your whisper whisper” … so glad to know you found that appealing. The acrostic seemed to call for an emulation of the susurrus. Or psithurism … and as for the pine, I can’t help thinking of Harry Potter. The wand choosing the wizard, only in this case, the tree choosing the writer. Or something like that. Never expected to write of that tree and only now do I realize how large it looms in my life. Thank you again, Tim, for your words.

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      • I absolutely love working with the birds, and also thrill to see them as I drive through the countryside. Trees, I’ve found, can easily occupy a place in our mind that they never quite leave. I can still picture the shape of the maple in the front yard of my childhood home. It doesn’t surprise me (given that I know the story) you found yourself writing of a tree from your past. Also: The tree chooses the writer–I like that!

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  2. I grew up among pine trees. We have them here, too, but we don’t like them much because of their vulnerability in a hurricane. The cypress is much more resilient to strong winds. In the book lost words, I discovered the word susurration. I wrote a definito poem. I thought about posting it here, but decided I could write a post tomorrow that communicates with yours. Ok?

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  3. So many things seem foreboding now that we remain rooted in place. Here the winter damp and cold persist though they were hardly present in their assigned months. I long for the warmth of sun and the blue of sky, ever hopeful.

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    • I believe it is all a test of endurance, Susan, truly. Perhaps we are perceiving things more intently now that we are “still” … but somehow nature really seems to be responding to the times. Here’s to warmer, brighter, less haunting days, indeed.

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    • I really think we are more in tune to everything at present – like we suddenly have all these extra stimulus receptors or something. But the wailing wind here would almost make me Wuthering Heights-crazy if I wasn’t so captivated by it, wondering why…

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  4. Fran, I came over from Margaret’s blog and I’m glad I did. Your prose and poem are great and meaningful to me! Ever since I was a child I’ve felt at home among trees or in a forest. It’s always seemed like they speak to me. I understand them; they understand and comfort me. Thank you for the word psithurism. Blue spruce trees are my favorite coniferous tree and I think birch trees are my favorite deciduous trees. They both grew in my yard, also. You have inspired me to write a poem about my feelings for trees. Thank you.

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  5. I feel as if mother nature has sent us all to our rooms for an extended time out, so she can take a breather. She has imposed a reflection time, if we care to use it. Because you are a practiced reflector Fran, your thoughts and ideas are precise and pertinent in these Covid times. I love your reference to Robert McFarlane. I have several of his books, including the wonderful ‘Lost Words.’ He breathes new life into ancient words. Like Robert you raise the level of the acrostic form with your beautiful use of alliteration to capture the sound of the wind. So glad I dropped by…

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  6. Oh Fran, what poetic prose, thought-provoking, longing for words you wrote today. The image of your pine tree among the chain link fenced yards by the ditch of your childhood. “Lone monarch…Reaching ever-skyward” so amazing. I feel like that is a perfect representative tree. Wow, just wow.

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  7. Fran, your prose flowed with such a lyrical quality and then you added a beautiful poem. Would you like to offer your poem with the photo of the tree for #NatureNurtures Gallery? I think it fits right in. Let me know. In the meantime, a poem has been waiting for me to write so I wrote a golden shovel poem for you based on your quote, “The universe is a writer.” I tried to create a video poem but there is something wrong with the download. If you can access it at https://lumen5.com/app/?id=3385087#story, let me know. I am adding it as a blog post.

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  8. It’s funny you should mention the stark comparison to our own personal turmoil with the earth springing back into life and abundance. I think the same is often true for any time we grieve. How dare the sun shine? How dare the world be so beautiful? And yes, I think this is a time when many of us are in a state of mourning – if not for other people we love, then parts of our life and world we see ourselves cut away from.

    And trees.

    They are an endless source of metaphor, aren’t they? So much wisdom, so much poetry. I love that you have a representative tree. I think we all need one.

    Sussurate. An onomatopoeia of both sound and idea. It makes me want to go outside, sit under my favorite tree, and listen.

    Thank you.

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