Sunday, April 25, 2010

Murdoch and the wind

The day after the wind storm it is extra quiet. Clear blue skies look down on still forests, as though the raucous tantrum of the day before had never been. I look for evidence of the storm as Murdoch and I pick our way along the walking trail, gazing into the woods on either side trying to remember which trees had always been leaning at steep angles against other, bigger, trees and which ones lie newly on the ground.

When the real wind finally arrived mid-morning the previous day, it roared over the mountains then tore through fields and forests, powerful gusts that swept one way before turning and swirling abruptly to push off in another direction.

What came before was tame and friendly and cleansing.

The wind started out playful, swirling around trees causing them to sway gently in ever increasing arcs. Currents meandered through bare, skeletal branches and the pointed tops of pine trees, choosing individual crowns or wooden creaky arms, like large grey elephant trunks, to shake and bend.

But as the wind grew, becoming more reckless and calamitous, it set entire stands of trees rocking wildly from side to side. Looking out our second story windows into the heart of the forest, enlivened with wind, it felt like our house was at sea, rolling with the towering swells.

Waves of wind crashed through the trees and buffeted the side of our house. Inside it sounded like the ocean had tumbled violently to our door. The very air was alive and as darkness fell, the battering wind kept us connected to the world, making the invisible tangible, not at all like the silence of other nights when the darkness is so complete there may as well be nothing past the edge of light that pools outside the window from within.

I love the wind. When it comes, gentle breeze or great squall, everything it touches is made more real somehow, life itself becomes thrilling as though anything is possible. It is the very breath of the Earth and when it washes over you it connects you to everything in that moment.

A large tree lies across the path in front of us. Small branches are scattered around it as though they are made of fine glass and have shattered into a thousand shards. The trunk looks old and dry, it could have been there a long time, except I know it hasn’t. I pick up a larger branch that had snapped from the tree on impact and toss it for Murdoch, it flies over the fallen tree and lands somewhere amidst the brush several feet away.

Murdoch instantly leaps into action, already at top speed before the stick has left my fingers. He reaches the tree and his long skinny legs act like springs, propelling him straight up into the air, without any discernable effort and much higher than seems possible. He gathers his feet beneath him and soars for a moment, then hangs there above the tree. It’s as though he actually slows down time as he reaches the apex of his jump, feet tucked up tight to his body like that of a jumping horse, his neck stretched as far as it will go so he can have a casual look around from this new vantage point before unfurling his legs for the landing when time speeds up again and he continues his fluid flight across the ground.

I am instantly jealous of him. I wish I could move like that dog. He is completely at one with the space around him. His boxy, blocky head becomes streamlined when he runs, his ears flapping back from his face, the wind running its fingers through his hair from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail.

He is transformed from a gawky buffoon into a graceful creature, sleek and beautiful. I throw the stick again and again, Murdoch’s eyes are focused, the rest of the world has disappeared for him, his body trembles in anticipation. I wind up to throw it and he is already off and running. The stick leaves my hand and arcs over his head. He sees it, twists his body in mid air and snatches the stick from its flight, then turns triumphantly and rushes back to where I stand. He moves like a river flowing over and around everything in its path, shaping the landscape as it goes.

I think I can see a smile on his face as he runs towards me, joy sparkles in his eyes. I can imagine him leaping into the air then and never touching down, just zooming higher and higher, weaving himself through the puzzle of branches entwined in the forest canopy, and I want to go with him.

1 comment:

  1. Heather, you have the perception of a photographer and the prose of a poet. Bringing the wind storm into more than mere view, you see the world, you feel the world, you make it visible, bigger, and yet your "self" disappears, slips into the wild rage around you - classical Buddhism. You are connected to everything and, paradoxically, at the same time are freed from everything. The essence of your joy is in the erasing of self. This article speaks rather vividly to that end. For me, it can be referenced in skiing - descending a mountain in a snowstorm. No Ian, just whirling and silent snow, blinding whiteness, the pulsing rhythm of the body, continually falling ground, weightless flight. The world is gone and yet it never seemed more tangible, more real. In the chaos of this storm and in the easy flight of smiling Murdoch, you are transformed, enlarged and you bring it to the reader in such targeted lines as the "very breath of the earth . . . washes over you it connects you to everything in that moment." Your final wish to fly, like that soaring and magical and joyful Murdoch,is also an aspect of that same experience. I like the thematic unity between the storm and Murdoch - both bringing you out of yourself.
    Your "prose" elicits all these reflections, testifying to its power. The poetry is solid, recreating the experience for us: similes, metaphors, concrete nouns, personification, etc. The introductory "playful" wind bends the trees' "creaky arms, like grey elephant trunks." I like the sustained metaphor of your house, in this wind storm,as a wildly bouncing ship "rolling with the towering swells" with "waves of wind tumbling at your door", noisily "battering" at the dark silence usually blanketing your house. Nice juxtaposition of images. Logically now, you shift from these natural images and their metaphysical resonances to Murdoch and his essential Zen link to the natural world, a world we can glimpse only momentarily [a jumping horse with neck stretched, feet tucked into body, eyes alert and scanning]. You use one of the fallen branches as the literary device to get the reader to Murdoch and his own unbounded joy to nature and his own physical movement. You want to "go with him" and so do we all.

    I guess you can tell I really liked this entry. More than just description! Thanks! Congrats - today you are flying.