Intimate Conversation 1
Ramón Sender Barayón
The secret to holding a conversation with anyone, be they human,
animal, vegetable or mineral, is to approach them as an equal. The equation
'equal equals equal' (= = =) overcomes all interpersonal and intra-species
obstacles. If I avoid a down-the-nose, more-evolved-than-thou attitude
as well as its opposite, a fawning fear of the Nameless, everything from
the Deity on down to forget-me-nots will talk to me. The wind is a good
example, although only recently have I been able to understand what it
One breezy day last spring, a local troupe of buzzards was practicing a particularly intricate aerial ballet over the canyon of redwoods behind my coastal cabin. As good a time as any to put my theory into practice, I decided.
"Hello, wind!" I shouted. "Hi wind! Hi!"
"Swooosh!" the wind replied, using a convenient pine in lieu of vocal cords. For emphasis it bounced a bluejay off its perch.
I laughed, always appreciative of a good joke. "How are you?" I yelled.
"M-wahhh," the wind replied, noncommital, and waved the laundry on the line. "Howww ahhh yooooo Û plahp!?" One towel flapped an exclamation point.
"Oh, you know me," I said. "I get - well, it just happens. My ears plug up, I stop listening and stomp around like everyone else and then... suddenly I... I hear you, wind, and I can talk to you, and I'm back in nature's magical dimension."
"Hahhh yahna hahhh," the wind said, obviously an ancient proverb in our local Miwok Indian tongue. Unless it was classical Sanskrit. I made a note to check it out. Meanwhile, a strong flurry rattled the page under my pencil.
"Hi, wind! I love you!" I shouted. Doubtless the neighbors were watching through binoculars or dialing the local mental health hot line, but I could care less. This was important!'
"Eee-hoh," the wind said. That means 'son' in Spanish, my native tongue.
That really impressed me! How many languages did it know? A gust grabbed me in a breathy hug and tousled my hair like a favorite uncle.
"Amigo," I replied.
"Ah-mee-goh," it echoed, using a combination of a redwood and an oak to form the word.
"Fraynnnnnnnd!" squawked the bounced bluejay from a fencepost, butting in with a translation.
So passionate, this wind! It mentioned something and then insisted, yearning for understanding. Woof! That puff blew everything - page, shirt, collar. Anything flappable was flapped, a nudge from a friendly air serpent. And the clouds! They approached me in two rows, their veils churning slowly. Just the right amount of clouds today. Gobs of whipped cream, spun-sugar tips of a swirl on an eddy of a current from the north, tag ends of a rainstorm.
"All," the wind sang.
It had been singing all along, but I had concentrated on the words rather than the melody. The tune? Perhaps the middle of the first movement of a Tchaikowky symphony - filched by the composer, no doubt. Can't trust those Russians.
Off it went to rummage in the bottom of the canyon. Whoosh! Back again, roaring from the treetops, building in a crescendo before laughing away to nothing.
"Haw haw," a raven interpolated. Again - "haaw haw," the inflection on the first syllable this time. Was he being sarcastic?
A vulture scooted over me waggling his red head back and forth, slaloming through the grove. A duet for robin and wind began on the other side of the garden.
"Hayyy, hehhh, hahhh, ow aw - dit-dit - ahhh, cheep! Ahhh, cheep! Hahhh - cheep! --- hahhh!"
I applauded wildly when they finished, and the wind fished for an encore with a tug at my pants leg.
"Shh aw wahhh!"
My mind wandered to how a college freshman English professor had drilled into my head an inordinate fear of falling into the gruesome error of Pathetic Fallacy, the imparting of human characteristics to 'lower' species or inanimate objects. Only dancehall poets and future opium addicts indulged in such cheap thrills, he explained. It had taken me years to overcome his indoctrination, but I was helped along by the ancient teaching, 'as above, so below.' If we were a mini-model of the universe and we talked, so then did everything else!
I missed the wind's next word, busy with these ruminations. But I waited patiently while it squawked the chickens in the neighbors' back yard.
Suddenly it said 'we're' very distinctly before whipping down the hillside. Or was it 'weird?' More than likely. Annoyed at my woefully short attention span, no doubt. A breath of a breeze began, the beginning of an inhale three times as long as my own, another big build-up - but not over the top.
"Hey, wind-wind!" I called. "Come back! I'll pay attention!"
Could it have become that peeved over one missed word? Must have been important. Distant branches stirred in a sudden overflight, but it was interested in something else, leapfrogging Douglas firs on the next ridge. Fickle creature, I thought. Independent. Friendly though, passionate and soothing in turn. Understanding too. A perfect companion for an afternoon.
"Awww," it said in the canyon. Must have mind-read the compliments!
All at once it came booming back, pulling at everything. I listened carefully, holding down the paper with one hand, pencil at the ready.
"Sure...." it said from its favorite redwood.
"Wishhh..." from the wild lilac bush.
"Youuu..." it hooted through the chicken wire of the garden fence.
"Were..." whirred a hummingbird, balancing on a sunbeam.
"Heyyy hehhh hahhh..."