Nature Notes - February 2020
- Story by James Inabinet
“Something in the wild depths of the human soul finds its fulfillment in the experience of nature’s violent moments.” (Thomas Berry)
Decades ago, I arrived at the beach of Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore under a clear sky occluded by a scattering of cumulus clouds. The rhythmic crashing of waves obliterated the calls of blackbirds as they flitted about on marsh grass and rattlebox. A light breeze smelled of the sea, not in the pungent manner of harbors, but in a pleasant way suggesting proximity instead of proclaiming it.
I closed my eyes to listen to the voice of the breeze, feeling it too, a gentle persuasion passing over bare arms, legs, and face. I opened my eyes and faced the breeze, seeking its place of origin out over the waves.
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On the beach, I faced the wind. It seemed to search for me. Leaning into it, I let it find me, feeling its power on my chest. I fancied that the wind desired that I bend to its will, more seduction than force. I fancied that it was luring me, leading me to believe that I was safe even as it sought weakness.
Moving behind a waving rattlebox to partially get out of the wind, I again sought its origin above the frothing waves. The wind embraced me, leaving no part untouched. I listened as the waves tore at my ears. I felt the spray of surf and light rain tingling on bare skin.
I turned away from the wind to watch the torment of the marsh grasses. Toyed by the wind, they surrendered fully, swaying rhythmically in waves of power like a field of wheat. I noted the wind’s wave nature as round upon round of pulsing wind raked across the grasses, now gently, now violently. I became mesmerized by the dance of the grass.
Awakening as if from a dream, I found myself sitting obliviously in the face of power and beauty in its most elemental form. I remembered having read that it is the predilection of all beings to surrender to power and beauty, to lose themselves in it.
I stood to re-gather my wits. I moved around a bit and sat back down. Later, awakening again, I found myself swaying, rocked backed and forth by the wind, not unlike the marsh grass.
I moved further back and lay down near an adjacent hammock of trees to watch, listen to, and feel the storm while sheltered a bit from the raw wind. I watched the wind move through the pine tops, its roar of a different quality than on the beach. Unlike grasses, it is not the predilection of trees to surrender completely to the wind. They may move with it, but remain upright. Watching the wind move through the trees I could see it, like fingers searching all possible paths and taking them all. I could see gusts tearing at tree tops as needles and tufts fell all around.
I returned to the beach with difficulty. A gale drove a steady, light rain. The waves of wind declared its unique voice, one unlike any other. This is its medicine, its gift, one that can only be known through experience at the height of its power when it cannot be ignored. I witnessed the voice of this wind. With closed eyes, I began to shiver; the raindrops stung. Now I felt the wind waves. Its voice of passion had became corporeal.
Even a small breeze exudes an unnoticed passion. Ever around us, the breeze, the wind, is always caressing us, probing us, embracing us. The wind’s passion is the sun’s passion, a product of heat and moving air, a heat that destroys even as it creates. All passion destroys and creates at the same time.
The sun’s passion is in the wind, a voice that speaks this passion. The wind probes, the invisible made visible by what it does, not what it is. The wind is a terrible power or a benign influence. As a terrible power, passion drives dictators, violent husbands, and schoolyard bullies. Like the Greek god of death, Thanatos, it can become a source of un-doing.
But passion is also a benign influence, an Eros that drives creation, a fire that burns in the heart of artist and innovator, pushing them to create. Like the wind, it pursues them, forcing them out into the world to create. It wells-up; they cannot hide. No innovation or great art has come into being without passion’s drive behind it. There is no rest. Artists who cannot cope are destroyed.
Like the wind, a “seeker” uses passion to search for her path, searching everywhere. Upon finally finding it, she walks that path to the end, fully experiencing its brunt, because those are paths that lead to meaning, that lead to a life that is as much a work of art as any painting. A path that requires passion, these are paths that have heart.
In the human body the heart is the seat of this passion. Carl Jung declared that such a path must be taken if one wants to live at all:
All passion is a challenge to fate ... it is incalculable, immeasurable, full of unknown dangers. The perpetual hesitation ... to launch out into life is readily explained by [a] desire to stand aside so as not to get involved in the dangerous struggle for existence. But anyone who refuses to experience life must stifle his desire to live.