My mother used to say she hated wind. I’ve found myself saying it too, whether from internal iterations of her or from genuine dislike, I’m not sure.
But today there’s a soft pink wind, a wind that films around my body just as sweat balances at the pores on a humid August morning before the sun has heaved itself high in the sky and melted the clouds. The wind is soft cotton, coral pink, soundless.
I learned two days ago that my daughter is five weeks pregnant. Two cells, locked together in an embrace more intimate and enduring than any conscious one, adrift inside her, somewhere, gently moving like this pink wind. I can’t see either. Both remind me of life continuing with or without me.
I’m watching sassafras leaves jiggle and spears of salvia waver as bumblebees weave among them stopping here and there for fuel. The upper limbs of oaks shift indecisively. They don’t reveal if the wind comes from the north, south, east, or west. They don’t conform in any way. They signal a presence only, a slight push of molecules of air.
We wouldn’t know if spirits moved among us, or God massaged the petals of a peony. We wouldn’t recognize the divine, how could we? I can’t see the wind or the beating of my heart or the making of a heart in my child’s uterus.
I wonder about the dependency of embryo to uterus to mother, of wind to sun and the earth’s rotation, of the divine to our conception.
If the earth didn’t rotate, the wind would blow north and south from the poles. If the sun didn’t heat the air, there would be no pressure differentials, and cool air would sit static and languid as an overweight grandfather. If we hadn’t poured carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, breezes could play on the streets of New York, and I wouldn’t hear warnings to keep your child inside, don’t run. Air quality hazardous, clogged as the Uber-clogged streets.
If my daughter had not so passionately wanted a child, this embryo would not be. My husband worries that if she runs on concrete it will fall out. I disabuse him of this but wonder about other reasons it could.
At midday the wind blows a bit brighter, almost green. I don’t know where it came from or how far it flew. All I can count is time, time till I know the pregnancy is not ectopic, time to find shade, time to watch the clematis that outgrew its frame so that now two feet of vine bearing shiny leaves and white flowers veers off at a horizontal angle in search of support, the thin tip dipping despondently. Where to go from here?
I go to the hardware store and buy bamboo stakes and green twists, and concoct a makeshift extension to the frame on which the plant is growing. I don’t know if the plant is any happier, reaching vertically to the sky, but it doesn’t look so vulnerable and unsure.
Today the wind is translucent blue, open and undirected as a newborn’s eyes, my daughter’s eyes, before they turned dark as walnuts. Hot air over driveways and back decks has lifted leaving a gateway for cooler air from Peconic Bay to glide in, poised and unannounced, amorphous yet steady, steady as the flap and shush of small waves on pebbles and empty clams. I don’t know if any language has words that precisely mimic this sound.
In the city my daughter is gazing into a screen, looking for her child for the first time. A pomegranate seed, a lentil, an eraser tip. Did it travel to the uterus as charted or get stranded in the channel en route, abruptly becalmed, snagged on a scar? Does she see dark shadows where its eyes will grow, the spot where a heart is beating in quick silent iambs twice as fast as hers or mine—to live, to live, to live?
Once I dreamt that I floated somewhere outside the earth and looked back at an azure globe, inner lit, luminous, loosely swaddled in clouds. More than anything I remember color (have I ever again dreamt in color?) stately blue like the wind today. Blue that gives nothing away, reveals nothing, is not uncalm. Little embryo. Who was I to glimpse it? And had I had words, they would have vanished the instant they formed, swallowed by space where such things have no life.
I used to curse the wind when it spun off the Hudson and knifed between high rises as I trudged west to my apartment after work. It would be early evening though already dark for three hours as I wrapped a scarf around my head and across my face, tightened my fists in my pockets, and leaned against the massive, muscular hand raised against me. The wind felt like the sound of my boot heels scraping and crunching on salt. It curried all that energy on so many nights whose days under electric lights I don’t remember. It blows like that still though I’m not there to record it. It blows though I don’t bother to find out why.
My Ithacas have shifted. The steady west wind (that had pummeled me) brought Odysseus so close he could see cooking fires on his island, so close he shut his eyes and breathed the yellow wind and drifted dreaming of his son and wife while his men opened the precious bag that Aeolus had given them. Treasure! they imagined, dipping in their hands and feeling not the cool touch of gold and jewels, but air, dark violet fistfuls of air, furious squalls that blew them helter-skelter like so many fallen leaves in November when the wind swirls them into a column rising, splintering, peeling outward like the outer wheel of a cyclone. So we wander, inadvertently. So we find other Ithacas. We’ve long forgotten the first, that slow vital landing on the uterine wall.
I don’t know why my mother hated wind and now she has died and I can’t ask her. Maybe it messed up her hair, which she had set every week by the same hairdresser in the same style. Maybe she found it invasive, deaf to her wishes.
Erratic winds this summer are feeding wildfires in Mendocino that leap across creeks, roads and fire lines, rage three hundred feet in the air, refuse to settle at night, and voraciously gobble tens of thousands of acres a day of dry timber and brittle grass and homes. Winds reach 140 miles per hour fueling fire whirls, which suck air at the base and rocket into vertical columns that strip bark off trees, pluck them out of the ground, toss firetrucks like toys. Winds pick up embers and spit them miles ahead of the fire. Experts say the fires will burn all summer, and ash-laden wind is coating the state with carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, chemicals, and soot. Shots from space show fulminating gray clouds chaotically growing and enclosing the earth below, an earth already charred dark chocolate and missing visible evidence of life.
Here on the other coast an untelling sky and monochromatic cloud cover obscure the horizon. Faint rain hisses in the leaves. The static morning offers no information about the rapid formation of liver, lungs, feet, or the rapacious destruction of sun-hot leaves, no hint of process which is life force, life force which is process. Silver wind. Cool and indifferent. Wait, it says, wait.
My daughter’s body is not subject to her will (or mine) to safeguard the fetus, to not feel acid skinning her stomach, to not bleed, to determine gender, to carry the baby high or low, to deliver swiftly, safely. The body is its own engine now, and the fetus both dependent and terrifyingly not.
There is never that silence of the womb we imagine when subways screech to a halt and off we go to another day. There never was. A fetus of just over four months hears mass transit in action: blood pumping through its life line, a huge heart beating, stomach gurgling and twisting as enzymes go to work. My daughter’s baby will hear air soughing in and out of her lungs as she sleeps, waterfalls of air as she races to catch a train, green zephyrs, orange gusts. Molecules of that air will travel to the baby through a single vein.
Tonight thunder explodes directly overhead, knocks out the power, sounds like a bomb. The dog breaks through the screen door and barks inanely at the night. I’m touched that he thinks he can protect us. I dash from window to window with towels as rain puddles on floorboards and bleeds across rugs. In the morning I learn that two inches came down, but pine needles hang listless, slimy petals strew the deck, air refuses to move—everything is in conspiracy to conceal the violence of the night—while high in the atmosphere mother-of-pearl clouds glide against a steel backdrop of clouds whose depth I can’t measure. They lighten the sky here and there but leave no wake in the darker gray that stays. Their movement is scarcely perceptible, the only perceivable sign of wind. It is not the silence of life beginning, though I’d like to think so, but the gracious silence of inevitability as they scud one place to another.