08 August, 2014

Friday Ramble - Zephyr

Ask who keeps the wind
Ask what is sacred
Margaret Atwood, the Circe Poems
For a moment or three, I considered posting a recent photo of laundry blowing to and fro on a neighbor's clothesline, then decided that wind horses (lungta) should be here this morning instead.  The title for the series in my portfolio is "tattered prayers", and that is how I think of these flags - as prayers blowing in the wind. For a few years, they danced between two old ash trees near a log cabin in the Lanark highlands, but the little Tibetan Buddhist  community who owned the property no longer live in the area.  Birds still nest in the cabin's rafters every spring, but the tattered flags are waving in a dry August wind somewhere else. 
The word zephyr comes to us through the Middle English zephirus, the Latin zephyrus and the ancient Greek zephuros, all originating in the Greek zophos meaning west. The god Zephyros personified the usually favorable west wind, and for many centuries, zephyr meant simply "west wind".  At some time in the 1600s, we started using the word to describe a light refreshing wind or a pleasant breeze, but there is fair bit of latitude in modern parlance, and these days we use zephyr to describe everything from a light puff of air to a veritable typhoon. 

A quote from Toni Morrison's strange and beautiful Book of Solomon comes to mind. This week's word does not appear anywhere in the novel as far as I know, but a brief windy sentence lingers in memory:  "If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it."  Morrison's novel is a gorgeous work of magical realism - fathers take flight in clouds of rose petals, matriarchs cast spells, and subtle enchantments await around every corner. Lyrical, earthy and deliciously poetic, BoS is a fine companion on a velvety summer night, and I am reading it (again) now.

Late summer is a good time for revisiting the ancestral and mythic, and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad is next on my list.  Ancient Greeks, fine poets and writers of mythic fiction understand and remember what this muddleheaded female being is always forgetting and needs to be reminded of: that what is wild and luminous and sacred is right here in the myriad small and common happenings of everyday life.

2 comments:

Debbie said...

Love this one, Cate!

Especially resonating with the idea of 'tattered prayers' for sometimes we do say, whisper, sing, and shout our prayers until they (and we!) are tattered. Is that a sign of our loyalty to whatever is on our hearts or the door to surrender? I think, sometimes, it might just be both.

Sending love and warm smiles your way this day!

Val said...

Thank you for reminding me too what THIS muddleheaded woman needs to remember too!

Wind horses are joyful, and my first daughter was called Zephyr in the womb! My husband said it was probably just wind, not pregnancy. I replied that a baby could not be called wind. So Zephyr or Zeffie she was, for nine months.