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).
Unknown to me
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.