It was inevitable that she would have some type of emotional reaction to the movement of the air on this starkly beautiful Cycladic isle. It was inevitable because the wind here is an omnipresent character of the island. Its voice and touch are inescapable the moment you step outside, and they make themselves known with resounding booms and eddying curtains even in the refuge of our villa. It was inevitable also because Princess Imagination encounters each day as an opportunity for observation and interpretation of the world around her. She studies objects and forces that the rest of us take for granted, and she ascribes to them explanations, emotions, and sometimes even analytical reasoning.
And so, she encountered the powerful breath of the island of Tinos and she fell in love. I know this because, being myself a paramour of the wind, I can recognize the symptoms: stopping short, with eyes closed, to let the caress of the air explore her hair, her face, her form; breathing in deep gulps of its invigorating oxygen; wanting its voice to echo in her mind to blow away all transient thoughts and cares. On our second day here she extended to me a precious invitation: “Mommy, come and listen to the wind with me.” It was a golden moment out of time. We sat on the porch, a little apart at her instruction, and silently gloried in the song and breath of the island. She is only 5 years old, and so the moment was soon over. She was off to romp and explore (and squabble) with the Gigglemonster. But that golden moment has taken up residence in my awareness. In those few minutes I was drawn back into my long-time love affair with the wind, but more importantly I was drawn into a new spiritual understanding. As I soaked in the sound and feeling of the wind and watched my daughter’s enraptured face, without even thinking I began to pray for her. I prayed for her present, and her future, and the life she has to give to this world. I prayed for blessings, and for the grace to make the good choices that would fulfill all the promise in her. In that prayer I felt the wind enfolding me, and breathing in my petitions. Unbidden, a verse from the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis came to me. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2; New International Version)
I have heard or read this verse hundreds of times, but the image of the hovering Spirit suddenly awoke in me with incarnated significance. You see, the Hebrew word translated in English as Spirit is Ruach. It is used frequently in scripture to refer to God’s Spirit, but it also means wind or breath. As I sat in the embrace of a powerful wind, and prayed with all a mother’s longing for her child, I felt God’s longing for creation.
In the days since, as a have looked out my window at the whitecaps freckeling the surface of the waters, the image of God’s Spirit hovering over the waters keeps resurfacing. I can sense the powerful presence of God’s Ruach (Spirit/wind/breath) hovering over the unformed world and breathing it into existence. I feel such hope, and joy, and blessing. To bring all of creation out of a formless emptiness far surpasses a human mother’s effort in procreation, and yet I can glimpse the echo of God’s will to bless creation in my overwhelming burst of desire to see my daughter’s life blossom. I can also sense, remotely but poignantly, the pain of lost potential: the grieving for a child, a world, a universe that has missed out on a portion of its intended blessing — the price of choosing its own way. That is my greatest fear for my own children, which drives me to my knees in petition for their future as the wind moans its song of pain. Ruach is a feminine word, and it is used as a feminine name for God. In that moment of windswept prayer, I believe I encountered the mother’s heart of God. The wind spoke to me, and continues to speak in alternating gusts and breezes, of overpowering love, and of gentle nurturing. Then, just as I relax in the luxurious support of that living breath, the wind whips past me and nearly knocks me off my feet. God’s Spirit is love, but that love is not tame. I cannot control the wind, for I am a part of the creation. I am God’s great delight, but I also sometimes push against God’s will for me, just as I sometimes fight the wind. And so, the wind speaks back to me now the prayer that I prayed for my daughter: for her present, her future, the life she has to give to the world. Only it is not only my prayer for her. It is also the Spirit’s invitation for me: for my present, my future, the life I have to give to the world. It speaks of willed blessing and feared pain. I am a daughter as well as a mother. The Spirit that birthed me breathed into me life: the potential to choose my own way. God will not control me, just as I know that I must not try to control my own daughter. But God wills me the blessings that flow from living the life I was created to live. And so, my prayer is now not just for Princess Imagination that she will live the life she was created for. It is also for me.
Ruach, hear my prayer.