“Fresh Breeze: 19–24 mph. Small trees in leaf begin to sway; crested wavelets form on inland waters.”—Beaufort Sea Scale

My wind chimes have been calling me. “Come out onto the porch,” they say, “and see what’s going on.”

They hang from the eave of our front porch, on the east side of the house, sheltered from the prevailing winds. There they don’t chatter on about every little breeze that blows. I prefer them silent unless they tell me something I need to know — the wind has shifted, there’s a change in the air.

The sky is coming.

Out on the porch, while our chimes ting and jingle, I look around. I sniff for rain and I listen to the wind through the pines. Are there clouds? How fast are they moving? From what direction do they come? I look at the thermometer. When I go inside, I’ll look at the barometer on the wall by the door.

If the chimes call me out in the evening, I look first for the moon. I trace with my fuzzy vision the geometry of the constellations I recognize, and squint at the planets. The ecliptic is a belt this time of year, with three rhinestones. Is that Uranus? Is that Mars? Venus? My almanac is on my desk. I’ll confirm later what I see now.

When a storm blows into town like a busload of semi-pro women’s softball players after six days on the road, every chime in the neighborhood is telling us about it, like a dozen witnesses to the same double play. The sky is coming.

What is it about wind chimes that charm us so? Perhaps it is the connection they provide with the invisible forces of the world. For those who have sailed the pelagic seas, wind and water and sky are all there is — and the boat, of course. The wind gives texture to the water and meaning to the sky. The wind freshens and the sails snap. Our attention is drawn to the immediate needs of our circumstances.

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Inland, so far from the scent of salt water we smell only its absence, we are bereft of the need for sailcloth. There is no rigging to tend, no tack to make. No fix to be made at noon. Without a sextant, without a chart, we navigate as best we can what lies uncharted ahead.

On calm days, when the air is as still as a glass apple, chimes hang silent. There is no way to know their pitch and timbre. Whenever I visit someone’s home and discover chimes within reach, I cannot help myself. I imitate a gentle wind and tap them into motion. Some cluck and rattle like the sounds of tipsy Cloggers dancing on a gymnasium floor. Others, long and thick as pipes from an organ, ring with a long somnambulant “O-O-O . . .,” telling us again what we already know.

The sky is coming.

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