Years ago, I was standing in front of the old deserted cotton gin at Dockery plantation in the Mississippi Delta, taking it all in while my friend Art Meripol photographed it. And I remember the wind in the trees—how that sound made me feel like something was going on beneath the surface at this place.
I felt the same way the first time I ever went to Key West, walking through an old island neighborhood and listening to the ocean breeze rustle the palms. Every spring, I look for banana plants and palms to try and replicate that sound in our garden, but it’s not quite the same. I think we need an ocean to make it work.
In the corner of our front yard, there’s a towering oak (at least I think it’s an oak:) that divides into three trunks. The wind is stirring its leaves this morning, making such a peaceful sound. Listening to it reminded me of one of the strangest sights I’ve ever seen: April 2011, when a tornado came through our neighborhood—or at least over it—in the wee hours of the morning. We were in bed but wide awake, watching the weather channel when the TV went out. And then we heard “the train sound” and leaves hitting our house, and I looked out our bedroom window to see that oak blowing, not side to side, but in a circular motion, its three trunks splayed out so that it looked like a ride at the fair swirling one way and then another. It was over in a matter of seconds. We went back to sleep, relieved that the storm had missed us, or so we thought. Daylight showed us what the wind had done. We hadn’t heard a single tree fall, but they were uprooted everywhere, covering our neighborhood, puncturing the roofs of neighbors’ houses.
When I was a child, wind was one of the few things my skittish little self wasn’t afraid of it. I loved storms and would stay outside as long as Mama would let me (which wasn’t very long). Now, of course, I have a healthy respect for them. Nobody has to tell me when it’s time to come inside and await James Spann’s instructions. But there is something about a “rushing might wind” that feels like a direct connection with the Almighty to me—wordless communication in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with words that don’t mean anything.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come,
they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven,
as of a rushing mighty wind,
and it filled the whole house
where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them
divided tongues, as of fire,
and one sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak with other tongues,
as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem
Jews, devout men,
from every nation under heaven.
And when this sound occurred,
the multitude came together,
and were confused, because everyone
heard them speak in his own language.
Then they were all amazed and marveled,
saying to one another,
“Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?
And how is it that we hear,
each in our own language
in which we were born?
Parthians and Medes and Elamites,
those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of
Libya adjoining Cyrene,
visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking
in our own tongues
the wonderful works of God."
Acts 2: 1-11