THE ORIGINS OF WIND
By Larry Janss
The Conejo Ranch ~ 1955
As told to his adult self in 2009
The first time I talked to my Dad about the origins of wind, the day was warm, that soft embracing gentle warmth of late summer. Dad and I were walking down a lane formed by two long three rail fences, painted white, that defined the paddocks of the Conejo Ranch where I spent my boyhood. The paddocks were abundant with summer grasses; the foals and their mothers lazed under the oaks, contentedly munching away, paying us no whatever. We passed the old well house, a favorite play place of mine – a ramshackle shed that sheltered an open cistern filled with cold, inky black water and frogs. The water was used for irrigation, to water the fields of the paddocks so the grasses would grow and the horses would have something to eat. The water was carried to the fields through pipes that I sometimes helped move around the paddocks. Actually, I mostly watched as Old Jim, the great Clydesdale workhorse, as he pulled the wagon with all the pipes on it. Sometimes I got to ride on top of Old Jim when he pulled the pipes. Raymond, the Ranch’s Handy Man, would have to lean a ladder up against Old Jim for us kids to climb up on him. Sitting on Old Jim was like sitting on top of a big warm, furry mountaintop – my little legs would just splay out completely sidewise and not even come close to reaching over the curve of the giant horse’s flanks. I’d hold on to the harness and ride the lumbering earthquake all afternoon as Raymond led Old Jim from field to field where the other Hands would load and unload pipes. Old Raymond would let me do all sorts of cool things, but he’d never let me never hurt living things. I learned compassion and love from Old Raymond, especially for lizards.
My face felt the buss of a gentle breeze wash over my face that day, all downy and caressing, warming me in and out. It was a perfect day with Dad – just me and Dad. As we walked I stared up at the long, very tall hedgerow of eucalyptus trees that bordered one side of the paddock, messy, redolent with their turpentine bouquet and covering the dirt path with a riot of colorful leaves and berries. The trees were joyous that day and I remarked to my dad about their happiness.
“The trees are happy?” asked Dad.
“Yeah” I looked up at him wondering how he didn’t know. I was just making a passing comment, like “it’s a warm day”, something so obvious as to be unnecessary to say other than in passing, simply punctuating the silence.
“How do you know they’re happy?” he asked with that confusing skepticism adults display while revealing their general cluelessness about the workings of the world. They don’t even know how to fly, for Pete’s sake. I suppose I should cut them a little slack on that subject though; after all, I’d already almost forgotten how to fly myself. Even now, only in my 5th year, I could fly only by first grabbing chunks of the sky and pulling myself up, climbing up about 15 feet or so before being lifted away by the wind. But I digress; that’s another subject for another essay.
So….how do I know the trees are happy?, my Dad wanted to know.
“Because, Daddy, they’re all waving at us in a friendly way and they’re dancing”.
He stopped walking and looked at me. And then he looked up at the trees and then back at me.
“What do you mean?”
My father was not only clueless; he was opaque. I didn’t know what opaque meant back then but I knew he was it. Only much later did I come to know that it meant “material through which light cannot pass.” That was my Dad,. …Sometimes.
“Daddy, just SEE them”
“No Daddy, SEE them – look how their waving their arms back and forth, and how the whole body of the tree is shifting back and forth. And how their pushing the warm air around, but gently, into our faces?”
“Do you mean the wind?”
“Yeeeaaaahh Daddy, the wind – the trees are pushing the wind into our faces. But it’s a nice warm wind ‘cause the trees are happy. They should be. It’s a beautiful day today. It’s not all dark and mean and rainy like when the trees are angry and shake their branches. Those days they make the wind strong and scary and cold ‘cause they’re mad at the bad weather.”
“Is that where you think wind comes from?” My Dad asked, sounding a little incredulous.
Now THAT question was so stupid that I just looked at him, quirking my head a little sidewise like my puppy does when he doesn’t know what I said when I speak to him in English rather than in Dog. I mean…. Jeeez.
So I just took his hand and said “Come on.” I wasn’t going to let my Dad’s opacity about the working of the world get in the way of a fine walk on a beautiful day on the Ranch.