When the wind screams from the sea, it flings the gulls like rag toys and makes the windows sticky with salt. The brave trees stoop and turn away, branches teased to spiked quiffs. The winter wind sings a bitter song, a harsh song, abrasive and demanding.
This is home now. The hebes and sturdy evergreens I planted in the early days grow strong and confident. Defiant against the song of the wind. Hardy fuchsias finger at the shelter of thick stone walls and the sleepy horses nod at the fence for peppermints and apples.
Spring-time winds soothe, but gust unexpectedly; they are the high and low notes of a whole symphony. The summer breezes have a liquid melody and in autumn, the wind tugs and bumps along with a strong bass note.
This is home. My home until the wind sings a very different song.
Mrs Griffiths straightens, pulls at her corsetry and steps back to admire our seasonal arrangement. An unlikely couple, we have become the mainstay of the church flower rota. She doesn’t care for my choice of hair-dyes; she wears her distaste as openly as her plain jumpers and sensible shoes. But I pose no threat; my diligence and reliability suit her and she has become a staunch ally.
Later, I plan to take more home-made pickles to be sold in the corner shop. Dewi Jones will brew a welcome pot of tea and twinkle over his half-moon glasses. He has reinvented and diversified – as we all must – with an eye on the tourist trade and a steely determination that is open to modern ridicule.
I find it inspiring.
“Never give up.” Dewi clings to his business with the tenacity of lichen on the windy cliff-faces. The fixed belief that I have had since first I came here…
Now, a crisp-cold December evening skitters tiny frost-sparks into the shop as I shoulder open the door and heave my produce onto the counter. Another cheerful jangling of the bell when I push the dark-cold back into the street. Dewi is already reaching for the kettle.
“It’ll be a sharp one tonight,” he beams and peers into the box. “The wind has dropped – there’s maybe snow on the way.”
He smiles approvingly at the red bows and holly sprigs I added to the jars, happily arranges them on a display with local wintry-greeting cards.
“The roads will be impassable!” His is a cheerful pessimism. “The gritters won’t get this far – we’ll be cut off…”
This has been my home for some years. Yet I have only just arrived. Being accepted takes time; it brings trust, but it is always tinged with reluctance.
I have trust, too. But mine is tainted with something else. The friendship I want and offer always carries a deeper truth, like a betrayal.
“There now, you’ll have one of Maia’s mince-pies?”
Tea and mince-pies and gossip are what I have earned over the years. Youthful willingness traded for cosy familiarity. I have come a long way to be here. The achievement is to be celebrated. But it comes at a cost. I carry it close – smile and say very little.
“Mind how you go.” His words and the jangly bell carry me back out into the winter streets, where the wind holds its breath. Waiting. We are all waiting.
The huddled cottages are warm with window lights and sparkling trees; the night sky arcs and turns and the steel-white star-eyes are piercing, – searching out the darkest secrets.
My boots beat a muffled rhythm along the empty road to sagging gate and
holly-wreathed front door.
This is my home now. Scent of cinnamon, glowing log-fire and a small tree ready to shed its needles. My old dog thumps his tail on the floor.
I heat some soup and take a tray to the fireside. So much warmth is soothing, but the agitation is never far away. Restless, I move around the room, touching things, wishing for the wind to sing again, to bring what it will.
Two travellers on the road tonight, looking for a place to stay, looking for a land-line when their mobile signal has failed. The knocking at the door startles me, brings back the old fears that I would have buried all that time ago on another night as clear and dark as this.
At the sound of strange voices, the old dog stirs from his grumbling sleep and frets at their feet. But these are not my persecutors. They will come, one day, for their justice. Perhaps I might lack the will to let them in.
But tonight, I open to a city couple, road-weary and lost. He is unshaven and in a long thin coat that flaps at his heels. The girl is diet- frail and vulnerable in clothes the elements mock and seer right through. And tonight, my compassion brings them in to a cheerful fire, to a welcome hot drink and to a phone call to the local hotel.
This is my compassion. But it is a short-lived, easy thing. It is given and they are gone – back on their wind-quiet winter journey.
Tonight, my compassion is simple; it has no struggle with things that are hard and final. I let myself be swallowed into the depths of the fire-side chair and the dog settles at my feet with a simple, unconditional love. Would that it was always so.
One day the wind will take all the compassion and love I have and fling it back in my face. And the song will reach a just and triumphant crescendo.
I allow myself to be lost in thought…dare to reach into memories… How he walked into my life when the winter wind moaned long and low. He brought me calm and understanding and a little green pot plant with a red ribbon bow. In a short time, I let him in and let myself think he could give me love, where there had been no love before.
He came with so little, wanted little, thought to take nothing. He was gone when the late winter winds blew themselves to a haunting memory. Thought to leave so very little of himself for me. Not thinking, nor backward-looking, he never knew how much he truly left… A sweet, new song, stirring within.
My tiny stranger; a sense of shame, of foolishness, of trust too freely given. Of love that rose and fell on the wind.
No need to tell. Nobody to hear. – The new song, stirring, taking shape.
Stirring, humming softly, but not strong enough to hold its own life-beat.
I lost my child when the late summer breezes came to whisper at the smallness and the hugeness of it all. Nobody knew. Nobody heard. Nobody came.
I worked in a corner of the garden and at night, while the quiet stars watched and only the wind-song mourned, I wrapped her in a white sheet and carried her easily to where the apple tree branches creaked and pointed. I covered her with earth and a bag full of spring bulbs. It was only then that her song ended.
I stayed with her at the house until two seasons of bulbs had grown and bloomed and faded away. But then when the late spring winds had flattened the withered brown flowers, I sold to a young family who could unknowingly share their easy happiness near her.
And then I followed the wind here, where it can roam and sing freely.
Here is home. Here is where I shall stay. For now…
This night, I lie awake and think of Christmas and the kind invitations that mean I can choose not to be alone.
I lie awake and think of the city-wise travellers, in a hotel that will be no more than a basic comfort on their journey.
I lie awake and think of Spring and new life – and all the old worries come rushing and crowding in…
Will it be this Spring that the wind turns? When they finally dig the furthest corner of the old garden? And make their find? And think they have uncovered a truth?
Tonight, there is no wind, but I hear the horror, the gasps, the words of their disbelief.
And where will acceptance be then? Compassion? Who will understand my special song?
Tonight, I lie awake on my own journey. I have arrived and am at home – but I will not stay. I cannot stay.
And tonight, there is no wind-song to whine or scream. Tonight, my own breathing moves the cold air with a haunting song of fear.
I lie here and wait for the wind.
It will be a wind that gnaws and worries and will not rest until the whole song is over.