The great sea has set me in motion,Uvavnuk
set me adrift,
moving me like a weed in a river.
The sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy.
Wind everywhere. Smoke rode the invisible currents across the land to the east. Gales spiraled across the waters to the south, making their way toward landfall and then to the north and east. Across the airwaves, voices rose with blame.
Within hospitals around the world, ventilators sustained the wind of life and loved ones prayed for revival. On the streets, this wind was, and continues to be, extinguished in humans with black bodies, sending rippling reminders of the heaps of humans and other species extinguished for the triumph of progress. Where wind was lost, it gave birth to a surge of its expression in a storm of appeal for change.
Ever-present, wind touches all of life. We know it mostly by the manifestations of its presence. As a child, I would notice it in the movement of our windmill’s blades. Or, on the days when it would cause my short hair to stand straight out from the sides of my head. Having grown up on the flat expanse of the Great Plains, I still hear stories about the wind, such as the time my brother had run out of gas and opened both doors of his pick-up for the gusts of winds to push him along on the road home.
Throughout the world, wind is found in the gracefully swaying of reeds or leaves, a sweet fragrance wafting through an open window, and the dispersing of pollen or seeds for new growth. It carries away bad odors, and luckily for those of us near the recent fires in California, it clears away smoky air. Our breath is considered a wind, resonating in musical instruments, song, poetry, and all our day-to-day vocalizations.
The wind communicates in a larger-than-life language, yet its tenderness is visible in dragonflies and butterflies gliding across the sky. In indigenous traditions, the wind is the soul of the divine spirit sweeping through all of nature. Invisible, the wind is a constant messenger to attend to all life with reverence and respect, until at last we come to know the truth of the wind. As I read the poem of the Netsilik Inuit woman Uvavnuk, I am inspired to listen more closely to the messages of the wind. I hope you will join me.
This short practice invites appreciation of voice.
- Find a comfortable seated position.
- If you are seating on a chair or bench, place the soles of your feet on the floor.
- Open your mouth wide as possible, not worrying about scrunching up your face. Relax your facial muscles. Repeat again if you wish.
- Smile, even if it feels fake. Then, pout with your lower lip extended. Smile again.
- Take a few easy breaths. On your exhalations, gently sigh.
- Still seated, take a deep inhalation. Exhale completely, and with your breath out, try saying the sound “aaah.”
- Note: if you completely exhaled, no sound will come out. We need a residual of air in the lungs to make audible sounds.
- Breathe in again.
- At the end of your inhalation, open your mouth and sing the sound of “aaah.” Imagine as though this sound is rising up from your lower belly, i.e., not just from your throat. Sustain the “aaah” sound as long as comfortable without straining.
- At the end of your inhalation, open your mouth and sing the sound of “eeeee.” Allow your mouth to form the shape of a smile as you make this sound, again letting it arise from the torso and not just the throat. Sustain the “eeeee” sound as long as comfortable without straining.
- Repeat two more times, alternating between the “aaah” and “eeeee” sounds.
- Read Uvavnuk’s poem quietly aloud, inviting a pause as though listening for the wind at the end of each line. Imagine as though you are caressing her words with your voice.
- Note: if you have a favorite verse, you may choose to read that instead.
- Pause. Notice the space around you and inside of you. Say “thank you.”
Transition back into your day –
- With your eyes in a quiet gaze or closed, sit quietly, simply observing the passing thoughts being carried by the winds of the mind. Then, notice the wind of the breath, and allow your awareness to be bathed in the flow of the breath.
- Stay as long as you are comfortable.
- When you are ready, return to your day.
This poem is translated by Stephen Mitchell and appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Scared Poems, page 70, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. The photo is by Jamie Street. H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2020.