An invisible friend

Two and a half is as good an age as any to begin finding out about the wind. She's been conscious of it before of course, but the triumphant words. "I'm touching the wind. I'm eating the wind" are alight with discovery. I wonder where this will lead as the tone of her voice blows through the present and, gusting as the wind itself, draws me back.

I see those other children, hair fleeting, arms outstretched, coats flapping, battling, leaping with the wind. "Of course, they'll be noisy and boisterous today -- quite impossible. Once children and horses get the wind under their toes . . ." Every windy day the same wry, goodhumoured observation from our headmistress. Once I escaped the boisterous noise of children and took a dog down through the woods. As the branches click- clacked against a blustering sky these lines were beaten out: Castanetting branches clacking in a wild wind weave out their gusting dances heralding a startled spring that sweeps the earth in quickening glances impelling tree-top thrush to fling his song aloud.

Not bad, I decided, and hoped it would work into something. It didn't, but has reappeared to clothe the memory of those school-teaching days.

Everyone must have his own particular preferences. Sea-sailing winds that seize the canvas and whip boats over the water. Hot desert winds, or some tropical heavy- scented breeze. These I know nothing about, nor have I witnessed the devastation of a hurricane -- I doubt I could write these lines if I had. No, my experience is more subdued; my appreciation geared to what can be coped with, what can be felt intensely but without fear.

I love the damp winds of Autumn that pull off leaves and whip them through the air in mad little whirlpools. Children and adults twirl around trying to catch these scattering prizes as the wind whisks and mixes us together in a running, turning, eddying, floating jumble. When it is calm again and all that remains is a hint of breeze through the branches and round one's cheeks, the damp earthy smell of fallen leaves greets each footfall.

As I write, looking out into the dark garden, I can hear the wind sounding through trees and foliage. I peer out and watch the branches of the quince tree weave and fling in the blackness. The twisting shapes are so uncharacteristic of our normally safe, secluded little garden. I feel I'm looking out into an old wood engraving illustrating one of those slightly macabre German fairy stories set in impenetrable forests -- alive with gnomes, goblins, and dark grotesque trees. It is on nights like this I'm glad to be inside and gather round the comfort of our home. I listen, just as I listened, sometimes with slight shivers and a prickling down the spine, in the old farmhouse in the Pennines, wishing I had not read all those folk and fairy tales. Every part of the building rattled and heaved as I raced along the dark passage to my bedrom and leapt into bed. The huge copper beech outside the window roared like a storm at sea.

Tamara has delighted in the billowing curtains of her bedroom, the windmill on her pram and jigging mobiles. Sheltering behind an adult, she has complained of the wind's vigor but now she has touched it. This winter we shall have another link of awareness to share together as we feel, listen and buffet our way across the fields.

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