Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Unfamiliar Howl

It's always there, behind the walls, behind the windows, behind your eyes. All my childhood life it had been the soundtrack, but only in revisiting do I hear it.

The wind...

animated gif constant in the middle of Illinois where my parents live, where I grew up.

"It's really windy today," I say, looking out the window on the first day of my visit.

"This is normal," my mom says.

I'm writing this from my home in Georgia, where I've gotten used to the still air, the slight breezes—a blessing in winter, bane in summer. When it's windy, we know a big storm is coming, or it's already upon us.

In my hometown it's as if the land has been scoured flat and mostly treeless by the wind, a constant force like running water, a constant sound like the whirring of a great fan. Or is it the other way around? Is it the topography that allows the wind to ride roughshod?

What is too familiar becomes unnoticed, forgotten:
Howl becomes the sound of silence
love becomes coexistence
faith becomes duty
feelings become facts
prejudice becomes certainty
sacrifice becomes expected

Now I notice the stillness outside my window as much as I noticed the wind. I think this is what being constantly present must be like. Presta atenciĆ³n, lend attention, look and see, listen and hear. Know by experience rather than by assumption. Act by intention rather than habit. Go against your own grain sometimes.

And may you never get used to the howl of the wind.


  1. I think this is so true and lovely. A few years ago, I traveled back to Indiana, where I grew up, and noticed how my perception of the hills had changed. When we moved to Mahomet around 2002, I couldn't get used to how open it is here. I hated how the sky goes on and on forever; there are no secrets here because everything is so flat and open. As soon as you get to the Indiana border, there are suddenly hills. My parent's house, in Lafayette, is nestled on a hill, surrounded by trees; and I could hide everywhere. You couldn't see our secrets from the road. About six or seven years later, I began to enjoy the open sky of Illinois because my spirit had changed with it. And going anywhere in Indiana is hard for me now because I can't see the storms coming when I'm between the hills.
    Anyway, I can relate to what you are saying here, although I know it's still different. Thanks for sharing this piece!

    1. Thank *you* for sharing your story, Dani! I went to college in Indiana and definitely felt the difference of hills and trees. It's all perspective, though. My husband from Pittsburgh went to the same college and didn't really *see* the hills at all.

      And sometimes I wonder whether the place we live in (as in topography, landscape) has an effect on us, spiritually. Not necessarily for good or bad, just an effect. Because it definitely feels different when we go back after a long absence.

  2. To me, there is something romantic and beautiful about the wind. it interrupts the stillness and brings with it an air of refreshment in more ways than one. Beautiful post Sarah.

    1. Thank you, Keith. You're right. Writers, thinkers, and philosophers have in many ways likened the wind to inspiration, spirit, life, creativity.

  3. When we lived in Michigan we often drove "home" for the holidays. I always had a sense of returning, of being once again complete as we headed south on I-55 passing Pontiac, and saw the panorama view of the horizon thirty miles away. I live in northern Indiana now, but still get that feeling upon driving through Illinois. I think it has to do with our remembered experiences, relationships and spiritual being, remembered best in the familiar surroundings of earlier formative times. I was just reading a commentary on the Prodigal Son and was carried back to memories of "returning home," of course to Illinois in my mind. All of our best memories, relationships and feelings are tied to a physical place in our mind.