The Winds of November



The leaves are brisk in October; they rattle when loud air passes through the twigs and branches. The heat of September has dried the bodies of trees so much the trunks give out hollow sound. I feel that emptiness because it is of the matter and not of the soul. Nothing metaphysical.


But in November – this month – when I look out of the window, I see the cluster of leaves bending with the tree. From left to right and back, they sway. That wind, I tell myself, is strong. I can feel the wind. I can see the wind.


What do they say? What do they augur? When Nature allows an unseen element to be felt and seen, it must have been ordained to deliver a notice. This cannot be just the notion of a wind arriving at a particular month; this must be the month and the wind and the space comingling to speak to us.


The wind I sense among the trees in November is the same wind that is all over us in this month and the month ahead


Wind is a noun. It can be defined as when we say, there blows the “ill wind,” a kind of event that could bring misfortune to another person. Wind can move objects; thus, when we intone, “to take the wind out of someone’s sails,” we are talking of a gesture that can stop a person from feeling grand about himself. But we can also “go with the wind,” which should make us fast, effective and persistent.


In some other people’s writings, I breathe in the phrase “straw in the wind.” This expression points to an event or an act that indicates an occurrence in the future.


In our old home, many years ago, there was a “grass” in the wind that came during the latter part of October and well into the entire month of November. I saw this grass again in the faded photo of my grandparents – Elpidio and Emilia. They, in the picture, were seemingly on the solid ground but we knew the facts of that memento: the beloved grandparents were on the wide, barely sloping roof of our old house.


On ordinary nights, my father would take us to that roof and from there, he pointed to the stars and began identifying constellations. There were times when we could easily mark the formation of the lights but there were also times when we pretended to discern the celestial arrangements just so my father would not be disappointed. Whether he noticed our bluff, he never showed it. With the lessons on astronomy came the endless stories my father could spin out of the mythologies behind the stars. The storytelling would be so inspired that, before long, he was not narrating anymore about Cassiopeia’s Chair or Orion’s Belt, but about the “Aswang” and other creatures of the night. Exposed and vulnerable to the dark clouds that seemed to hover closer to us, we would comprehend that as the signal for us to leave the roof (in haste) and be in the safe confines of our living room and bedrooms.


We do not have many photos of that old home but our most tender of memories have helped us remember the images and all that the senses could seize around that place – the neighborhood, the typhoons that hit the city, the floods and rains, the comet appearing on the morning sky, the deaths around us, also the lives. And so when I chanced upon that photo on the roof, I asked a friend to do something about it. With today’s technology, old photographs can be colorized, blurred aspects of the figures on it can be reconstructed, the dulled outlines sharpened, and even the vanished can be recuperated.


The photo came back, sent online. The handsome features of Lolo Pidio were clarified; Lola Miling’s fine nose and other lovely features swam up from the fog imposed by years upon the surface of the retrato.


True and real were all the things remembered by my mind. And I thought the heart cheats us of unwarranted sadness and wisely replaces the “gone” with surpluses of consciousness, mindfulness and invention. There behind Lolo and Lola were the prominent façade of the old school. Flying high beyond its white Cross were dots of pale clouds against the blue and gray sky. My grandparents were both squinting their eyes but the sun could not be that strong or else they would not be patient enough to stay up there and pose. My grandfather was wearing shoes! Then there was the wide swath of cogon grasses, tipped by silvery-white blooms. Those cogon flowers, they called the wind, my Lola Miling would announce with authority. When the cogon began sprouting those soft feathery buds, the wind would come to blow them. For those flowers contain mature seeds to be spread to other places, in late October up to November, and, like the spotted snail of Alejo Carpentier, reveal to us what the wind and the grass have always been – a poem.