Spirit primarily means wind. ~ Emerson
The wind called to me today.
I have heard its call in an unlikely place, at an unlikely time – driving on a highway at 8:30 in the morning, on a way to a Sunday service. The highway was gloriously empty; my heart was at peace and full of anticipation of a joyful service and a wise sermon. I rolled down the window and let the spring air in – the wind entered the car, I drove faster, turned the radio up. And then I saw that I was about to pass an exit onto highway 66. The exit sign looked innocent enough, it simply said – 66 West.
66 West. In a split second, something steered deep in my soul and I remembered what 66 West meant.
66 West was a road that led to the mountains: mountains ancient, blue and green; mountains where God dwelled according to the Indians who gave these mountains their name. The Indians are now gone, their trails and footsteps erased, but the name remains, like a whisper of the wind. Shenandoah.
And in a split second, the wind of my memories took hold of my heart and of my car and made me take the road that led to the mountains.
Less than an hour later, I was there. I was utterly unprepared of course: no map, no national park entrance pass, no hiking boots, not even a whole lot of gas. But I was there. And it’s all that mattered. And maybe it is just like that with life and with writing – you just show up, don’t worry about the maps and follow the wind.
Shenandoah accepted me into its green embrace. I came to an overlook and looked down at the valley. The valley was my day to day life, and its call and its grasp on me was strong. But it was not as strong as the call of the wind. And the wind told me to drive higher, deeper into the mountains. Finally I came to a stop, shed the snake skin of my car, my valley life, my identity as a city dweller – and I went up and sat at the top of the mountain. The day couldn’t decide whether my intrusion was welcome and kept smiling and taking its smile away. It was cold and I didn’t have warm clothes, and it was so windy that I had to hold onto my possessions, the most prized of which were a little book about Emerson and a notebook.
I struggled to write or even to hang onto my book, but I got to be with the wind. To listen to its music. To see a hawk ride it. I got to read Emerson’s line “When I look at the sweeping sleet amid the pinewoods, my sentences look very contemptible” – and to laugh at it before the wind closed the book, quite forcibly.
Now the wind roars and howls all around me and I am inside the wind. As I write these words, the wind violently shakes the branches of a pine tree next to me and even breaks little branches off. The young dogwood trees bend, the bright May grass flows, dry leaves fly around is if they came back to life as butterflies.
The roar of the wind, the flight of the dry leaves, the occasional ray of sunshine, the piece of a branch I am clasping in my hand – how can I remember this windy universe and how can I take it into the valley with me? How do I learn to trust the wind more?
When I come to the rocky outcropping, a natural edge separating the mountain top and the valley, I feel nervous that the wind might knock me off my feet – but it’s actually trying to lift me up and release into a flight as magnificent as that of a hawk. I am heavy, I come with a weight of questions, ideas, thoughts, the need to analyze and measure everything. My modern life, the life in the valley infused me with the misguided, laughable notion that I control and direct my flight, so I struggle, try to live up to my own misconceptions– while the wind is all around me, simply waiting to lift me up. All I need to do is to let the wind carry me.
The wind wildly leafs through my notebook and I can only hope that one day I will bring it something worthy of reading.