I Have Seen The Wind

I’m sitting on a horse, Sugar Britches is her name, she’s hock deep in a snowdrift where I’ve asked her to stand while I peer into the branches of a poplar tree where a perfect little nest is suspended between three crooked twigs.  The wind is rough-handed and flowing down from the North.  I wiggle my toes in my boots and sniff a little before squeezing Sugar Britches with my legs and urging her down the sand road that runs parallel with the quarter section of natural prairie my dad keeps his horses on.  It takes hours for the sun to set in Saskatchewan. It has started its sinking and a handful of brilliant colors begin their careful display — gold, then orange, pink, red, violet and the twilighting richness of indigo spread out against an infinite horizon with nothing to stop the wash of glowing chroma but the bony crowns of poplars where they stand in their established groves.  The coyotes are flinging their voices to the sky, calling the stars into place.  I rein Sugar through a gate, pressing the lead shank I have clipped to her halter against the thick of her neck, and we cut through a field.  She grabs mouthfuls of clover as we amble, I don’t stop her, I reckon if I was carrying me on my back, I’d want a snack too.  I slide my left hand under the crest of her mane to warm my fingers.  I’m riding bareback and I can feel Sugar’s animal warmth rising up into my bones and I feel connected to her.  A coyote yips, especially close, she raises her head, suddenly alert, and I can feel the coils of muscle that run parallel with her spine leap taut beneath my seat.  I’m at home on a horse.  Oh, what is a home?

If a home is belongingness, I’m at home in Saskatchewan.  I have the greatest sense of belongingness when I am here.  This is where I am from.  But more aptly put, I am a prairie thing.  I am of this dirt, this sky, this wind, this sleeping crocus, furry and blind beneath drifting snow.  I am wolf willow and Saskatoon berry, shifting sand bar and flax field.  I am antler and red tailed hawk, sun bleached bone and river riffle.  I am all of these things and they are me.  In a week, I’ll return to Idaho where I live, I’ll feel displaced, inward, lonesome for the land that grew me and the laughter of my sisters.  I know this to be true so I allow myself to be found and swallowed up whole by the wind that pulls and pushes at Sugar’s mane and tail.  I match the sway of my hips to the four count of  her hooves on snow.  I close my eyes, drop the reins, raise my arms wide and let the breeze wend round my bones and fill my soul.

The day greys, its light withdrawing from the winter sky till just the prairie’s edge is luminous.  At one side of the night a farm dog barks; another answers him.  A coyote lifts his howl, his throat line long to the dog nose pointing out the moon.  A train whoops to the night, the sound dissolving slowly.

High above the prairie, platter flat, the wind wings on, bereft and wild its lonely song.  It ridges drifts and licks their ripples off; it smoothens crest, piles snow against the fences.  The tinting green of Northern Lights slowly shades and fades against the prairie nights, dying here, imperceptibly reborn over there.  Light glows each evening where the town lies; a hiving sound is there with now and then some sound distinct and separate in the night, a shout, a woman’s laugh.  Clear — truant sound.

As clouds’ slow shadows melt across the prairie’s face more nights slip darkness over.  Light, then dark, then light again.  Day, then night , then day again.  A meadow lark sings and it is spring.  And summer comes.

A year is done.

Another comes and it is done.

Where spindling poplars lift their dusty leaves and wild sunflowers stare, the gravestones stand among the prairie grasses.  Over them a rapt and endless silence lies.  This soil is rich.

[W.O. Mitchell ::: Who Has Seen the Wind]