Safety. We fret about it, especially lately, what with terrorist activity, earthquakes and tsunamis, job losses, stock losses, and steadily increasing divorce rates. We long for that feeling of comfort and security we had, if we were lucky, when we were very small. It’s hard to find.
We can remove guns from our public buildings; we can stand in eternal lines while they scan for bombs and knives and nail clippers in our purses; we can store our food in the basement and pack a 72 Hour Emergency Kit to put by the back door; and this might bring a sense of preparedness and some security. But the deepest, surest safety lies in feeling confident in the people around us.
Constancy. Sister to Dependability. Something in my soul longs for steadiness; for just the right amount of repetition to make me feel like a warm bed and a down comforter and a hot meal at a familiar table are just around the corner.
Between kindergarten and second grade we moved five times. Two thousand five hundred miles. We left our oldest sister, and our German Shorthair Pointer, Schatze. We left the warm dry summer nights of Idaho and replaced them with hot wet, sticky breezeless nights in Pittsburgh. Our houses changed, our father left more and more often, we changed schools every year for the first three years, and to top it off I knew for positive sure my first grade teacher hated me.
So when school ended for the summer and we loaded into the station wagon pointing west, I felt like I was going home. Where home was safe.
My mother had six sisters who all made their homes in the west; all of them in Idaho in fact, except Aunt Edna who lived in Salt Lake City UT. Six sisters and two brothers, one of whom died before I was born. Her brothers Marion and Daniel had died before mom was born. Lots of mouths to feed in those days.
My mother’s sisters all lived in humble homes, half of them farmhouses, but their doors were always swung open wide when we came. There were always enough blankets and pillows for sleepy children; enough bread in the bread box; enough milk and eggs and home bottled peaches. I never slept better than on the lawn in an Idaho summer night, the stars twinkling in the pure clear indigo sky like silver glitter spilled on a velvet skirt; with the shadows of dishtowels hung on the clothes line flicking in the moonlight; and a chorus of throbbing cicadas pulsing against our whispered conversations. It felt delicious and cozy and safe.
Years passed and our lives shifted. I married and busied my life with children and music and service. Drove kids to art and dance and piano lessons; worked in our church and neighborhood communities; served as PTA president…all the good exhausting busyness of a blessed life. But once in a while we would pause and make the trip to Idaho; to meet the Aunts for a birthday lunch, or to soak a worm in an Idaho stream.
Always…always…it felt like going home.
When Mom’s oldest sister, Ruth, celebrated her 90th birthday, I wanted to somehow express to her my gratitude for the safety. I wanted her to know how important her steadiness was to a little girl in a shifting world. All of my aunts, really, represented such constancy to me and my siblings.
Gratitude always begins with awareness. And so I began remembering, in detail, what it was that was so powerful to me. I realized that what was so comforting and safe to me could be construed as boring to someone else. Blessedly, eternally boring. Unchanging and unchanged. Though at 90 she no longer lived in that little white farmhouse on the border of Blackfoot Idaho, I wanted Aunt Ruth to know that the steadiness remained locked in my heart and my memory. And I wanted to thank her.
So this is how I thanked her; her and Aunt Mae and Becky; and my angel aunts who had gone to heaven: Ruby, Edna, and Mary. I sat on the couch in my cousin Marilyn’s house surrounded by some of the people Ruth loved and who loved her, and I played this little song. The writer part of me wanted to find something that represented the constancy they gave us. The most constant thing about Idaho, just about anyone will tell you, is the wind.
This blacktop unravels here on the outskirts of townDust rises from gravel like the trail of a jet going downWe pull up in the shade of this tree that is agelessIt’s never not been here, it waves its leaves at usThe screen door slaps open, I smell toast cookingAunt Ruth’s in her kitchen, the curtains are flappingHere in the window, here in the Idaho wind
CHORUS:Idaho Wind sweeps through the desert and up through the sage and the pineIdaho Wind sweetens the sheets and the pillows that hang on the lineAnd the willows bend low, and she is whispering through themDeep waters flow and she’s calling me to themSure this is home, Sure as the Idaho Wind
II.I’ve come here forever, certain of what I would findThough lately I travel through memories locked in my mindThere’s the shell of a truck we pretended to drive inThe old barn our three little kittens were born inWe’re Indian maidens, our arrowheads hiddenWe’re pioneer women, come searching for freedomOur shawls drawn around us, here in the Idaho wind
Calling me home, home to the Idaho Wind.
Sure, this is home….sure as the Idaho wind.