“You embrace me and I forget you
because we are one
and will go on facing
the wind together…”
from ‘Ode to the Clothes’
What appears invisible is often taken for granted, like the air we breathe, or the wind.
A couple of years ago, my son M and I were scootering in the Penghu Islands off the west coast of Taiwan. (In truth, I was a freeloader, sitting behind him, holding on for dear life while M masterfully kept us from crashing.) Near Zhongtun Village, we came upon a flock of wind turbines set among hundreds of Norfolk pines. The blades were whirring wildly, slicing the air over and over again. The pines actually seemed to enjoy the intensity of the wind, bending and shimmering, flapping their boughs, whoosh, whoosh, whooshing like a chorus of backup singers. My son, a musician, felt calmed by these rhythms and lay down directly underneath one turbine to receive the full effect. I, on the other hand, was terrified of being under those massive blades, afraid they might, in their frenzy, tear away from the rotor and behead us in the process.
That evening, we strolled through Makung, the only city in Penghu. A wicked wind lashed out at us as we ate our stir-fried potato leaves and rice. Suddenly, a tart and bitter smell permeated the air. It was then I realized that wind is not actually invisible, but a shape-shifting entity who reveals herself through whatever senses are needed to express her current passion. Wind is an extroverted and omnipresent attention seeker and a playful trickster blowing her stinky tofu breath across a Taiwanese night market.
Driving in the mountains near Gaucín recently, R and I spotted almost the exact same wind turbines, only this time, maybe because they looked like giant windmills, and because I’d read Don Quixote and was on the lookout for connections to that magical tome, I felt more relaxed. These “windmills” were beautiful, spinning their white wings round and round with the blue sky and a tiny Andalusian village spread out behind them. I felt the warm wind on my face and laughed watching R’s curly hair frolic around his head like the dry grasses waving at the base of each turbine.
For the duration of our drive to Gaucín, we watched for evidence of wind and were not disappointed. We took turns generating a list of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Wind,“ which rapidly expanded to over thirty, but here are the first few:
- A slammed door means an angry wind.
- Avoid the winter wind on a ferry crossing Cook Strait, NZ.
- Note how rapidly wind moves clouds in Bellingham, WA.
- Listen to palm fronds clattering during a hurricane in Bucerías.
- Wear a red silk scarf, hold very still and wait for the wind to tickle you.
- Try to sail a boat to Isla Mujeres. If you can, the wind is working hard. If you can’t, wind is sleeping on the job.
- Run uphill against the wind and downhill with it. Repeat.
- Bounce off a 6’ mogel at Squaw Valley. Feel the wind biting your face.
- Click onto the Weather Channel.
- Stare at whitecaps on the Mediterranean Sea.
- Visit Vancouver, B.C. where wind blows the rain sideways.
- Enjoy the absence of mosquitoes and other wind-hating biters in a Costa Rican trade wind.
- Climb to the top of the great pyramid at Ek’Balam and try not to listen as the wind whispers, “Go on, you can fly. Jump!”
Pop Question for you, dear reader: What is your favorite way of looking at the wind?
Here’s mine: Watching laundry wave in the wind like prayer flags. Oh, don’t get me wrong; prayer flags are my second favorite (flying carp are third and wind chimes are fourth), but if you hang out your own freshly washed dish towels and t-shirts, or if you’ve ever had the good fortune of meandering through Naples or Suzhou or Lisbon, you know what I’m talking about. Laundry dances in even the gentlest of breezes. It’s full of personality. And when the wind picks up in the afternoon, laundry twists, flaps, flips over the clothesline and sometimes even escapes onto the lawn, the street below or your neighbor’s back yard. Wind loves playing with laundry like Picasso loved playing with paint. And personally, there’s nothing like a row of fluttering undies to give me hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Finally, to mess with Christina Rossetti, an expert on wind:
Who has watched the wind?
Clearly, I and you:
And when the carp start swimming,
The wind is passing through.
Who has heard the wind?
Surely, you and I:
And when the chimes ring out their songs,
The wind is passing by.