The feel of a breeze and the sound of a raging wind evoke two strong memories. I’m a participant in the first. While it was possible to swim at our own place on the St Clair River, my mother, father, and I, often accompanied by my aunt and uncle, would boat across the river to a small, uninhabited island on the Canadian side of the river, Doe Island. We’d hang our towels on the “No Trespassing” sign, and swim and picnic away the day. The best part of the memory is of the trip home. I’d wrap myself up in dry towels, and lie on the back seat of the boat. Spent by the day, the combination of warmth, gentle rocking, and light breezes was idyllic.
I’m an observer in the second memory. My grandmother, barely five feet tall, was afraid of most everything. She was, though, exhilarated by brewing storms. As the thunder clouds and rain advanced, she’d stand at the end of our dock, arms outstretched, as in homage to the drama of the storm.
I wasn’t allowed to stand with her, and don’t know if I would have been brave enough had I been given permission. But I watched closely from the safety of the front porch, and somehow the connection to wild wind was born in me, too.
I relive those memories whenever I can. Every fine afternoon, I walk a short loop around Zuanich Park. I’ve always been a walker, and now, according to my cardiologists, walking is more important than ever. My real motivation, however, is the hour I spend, sitting on my favorite bench, writing pad and current book in hand. The joy comes when I close my eyes and tilt back my head to catch the breezes off Bellingham Bay.
Over a half-century after my grandmother faced the storms, I stood at the same river with my wife, introducing her to her first Midwest thunderstorm. Linda was enthralled by the maelstrom’s approach.
Linda is amused as I repeatedly tell her how I love the warm-weather breezes that blow through our home, how deeply I soak up the air by the water, and how exhilarated I am as trees shake and bow. I know I’ve told her before—my quirks aren’t new news. I repeat myself for I am freshly delighted each time.
I don’t make a hero of all wind. The devastation delivered by Hurricane Ida is horrible. Winds fanning forest fires are a tragedy. I am also not holding up the winds of war, the storms of hatred, the blustering of politicians, or the gusty rants of TV’s talking heads.
But, “my breezes and gusts of wind” have come to hold holy meaning for me. Somewhere, at some time, I realized that the love of wind I inherited had become a powerful image for me.
I don’t need, don’t even want, a knowable God. I need God to be greater than, more than, anything I could imagine. If I were able to understand all of God, that God would be too small.
I also don’t need or want Jesus as a personal friend. A guide, a mentor and teacher, yes. One to study, to emulate, of course. But he needn’t walk and talk with me.
God, for me, is best experienced through the Spirit. Dangerously simplifying the Trinity, God sent Jesus at a particular time in history as a living illustration of God’s self. And, Jesus, knowing he was to die, promised that God would send a new Advocate to be with us forever. (John 14:16-17) That Advocate, that Spirit, had been present at Creation (Genesis 1:1-2) and the Spirit continues to hover over a dark and chaotic world, slowly healing and working toward the time when all will be new.
The Holy Spirit, the Rauch, the breath, the invisible presence of God. That’s a symbol I can claim.
All of this is complex, too much for me to be able to understand, let alone capture in words. I do know that I live my life in certainty that God is surrounding us all. I know—for I am reminded of God’s power when winds roar, and I am assured of God’s caring as I feel the breeze on my face. That’s enough for me.
As I walk the road before me, I do believe God walks the road with me, with us.
Dear Reader, thank you for reading this personal testimony. May you find signs of hope and companionship that whisper to you.
It seems recurring that God connects with who we have always been. Even though God is unknowable, could it be that we have always known, at least in part, the Holy Spirit? Your writing reminds me of John 3:8 when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the wind relating to the Spirit.
Indeed, the mystery of God surrounds us. In addition to enjoying a breeze or gust, I appreciate that we are able to connect with the Spirit as we connect with one another. Thanks for sharing your writing!
John, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting. Yes, of course, the Spirit connects us person-to-person. That’s what I was exploring in another piece I just finished writing.
This piece touched me in a profound way. I could see myself peering at the dock, not sure whether I wanted to stay protected, or push forward t join her. The way you described the relationships with our higher powers, was so relatable, I found myself nodding while I was reading it. During a recent health emergency, I had a GOD moment, where in spite of fear, I felt warm and safe and protected. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. There are angels, I am now convinced. The fact that it took me 67 years to experience their impact, is surprising, but valued. Thank you for sharing your gift.
So glad my words touched your experiences. Thank you for sharing, Toni!!
So much here, Amory. “The Holy Spirit, the Rauch, the breath,” and how we might feel it in the wind. Today before i read your essay, in returning from the women’s abortion justice rally, I opened my car window all the way and delighted in the muscular breeze. I felt touched and connected even though I was alone.
I loved reading about your grandmother’s response to gathering storms.
Thanks for the comments, Jean. “I felt touched and connected … ” Yes, that’s certainly part of it for me.
You had me with lying in the backseat of the boat wrapped in towels after an exhausting, beautiful summer day’s swimming. I wish I could say the same about loving the wind … a breeze, okay. But the gales in the Pacific Northwest remind of riding my bike to school in California, headwinds both ways!
Happily, you brought me back to an unknowable God and a present Holy Spirit, and whatever the clouds throw at me. Thank you!
“Whatever the clouds throw” … love that phrase. May all the winds be of the exhilerating sort for you. Thanks for reading and for commenting, friend.
Reading this most recent post made my heart ache. I grew up surrounded by the corn and bean fields of Illinois. I remember those warm breezes brushing over my cheek as I rested on the porch one early summer day. I was 15 and it seemed to me that it was truly the brush of angel’s wings or God’s kiss. As a tiny girl, I too was exhilarated by the approaching thunderstorms. Only my reaction was to gather my dolls and teddy bear and snuggle them safely in a cradle my father had made. I doubt my mother would have permitted a 4 year to go outside and embrace the coming storm. Later on, I would help with the corn harvest and be invigorated by the stiff winds blowing from the northwest–hinting that winter was coming and coming soon. Like you, my relationship with breezes, gusts, storms and howling winds have helped to shape my theology. Thank you, my articulate friend, for this lovely gift.
Cheryl, what a wonderful response. It’s a joy to know my words brought forth all those glorious memories.That’s what writing should do.
Thank you for reading, for remembering.
Just returned from my brother’s house on a canal just inside Lake St Clair. He just got the news he will be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.
Meanwhile what is happening at the Bellingham UMC? Building for sale? Please tell me what’s up!