Swaying to a Fitful Wind

maplewings

All at once I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair. Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents hauling round the world’s rondure where they must, but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit which bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down. O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers.

And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish as of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain. Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath. That breath never ceases to kindle, exuberant, abandoned; frayed splinters spatter in every direction and burgeon into flame. And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I see a photograph of earth from space, the planet so startlingly painterly and hung, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes I will think, two maple keys. If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I think a lot about wings — particularly when I’m sitting belted in a seat looking out at them bouncing in turbulence, marveling at how they keep hundreds of people and an entire aircraft miles above ground.  Wings, no matter what they belong to,  are marvelous structures that combine strength and lift and lightness and expanse and mobility, with the ability to rise up and ease back to earth.

And so ideally I am blown rather than flung along my fitful windy days, rising and falling as those thin veined wings guide me, twirling, swirling as I fall, oh so slowly.

whole-earth-lrg.en

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5 thoughts on “Swaying to a Fitful Wind

  1. I can’t help thinking, once again, of Elinor Frost’s epitaph “Wing to Wing and Oar to Oar” taken from her husband’s poem. “The Master Speed.” What better illustration than two maple seeds (or, as we once called them, “helicopters”) joined for flight, and propagation. They fly best when so-joined, equal in size and wingspread. And this makes me wonder if we don’t celebrate the poet too much and his mate too little. From what I know, Frost was not an easy man to live with (“He had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”) and their union was beset by hardship and tragedy. Someone had to hold things together so Frost might live and write his fine poetry. And that someone had to be Elinor. We surely owe her much more than we realize.

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