The Maiden and the Wind
(after Que doncella se casa con el viento? by Federico Garcia Lorca)
Once upon a time, there was a maiden who lived in a tiny cottage with windows whose curtains were made of stars. The cottage sat nearby a steep cliff, which was so high that the maiden could hardly see the bottom of it. She didn’t even dare look over the edge, for fear of falling. But she knew, from the sound of crashing waves, that the precipice tumbled all the way down to the sea.
Every night, lying in her warm bed, she listened to the seething ocean and let it lull her to sleep.
The maiden also listened to the wind. Just like the waves of the sea, the wind daily kept her company. He came up over the cliff edge to meet her each morning, and she could smell the salt air on his breath. On a hot summer day, the wind felt cool and clean and soft and tender. On a cold winter day, he was sharp and edgy and raw.
She bade the wind a friendly hello at the start of the day, and a friendly goodnight every evening. And often they would sing a song together that went like this: Someday I will meet you, in your grace. Someday I will see you, face to face.
The maiden had many jobs and tasks to do. So, she was happy to have the wind as her companion as she went about her day. He blew gently on the back of her brown neck, as she bent over her garden, working. He teased her knees as she walked to get food at the market. He kissed her on the lips when she ran here and there, getting things done. The wind floated all around her, like the presence of an angel.
But always, the maiden would eventually go inside her cottage, shut the door, and close her windows tight. She drew the star curtains closed. She lit a fire to keep her house warm, and cooked her dinner, and read her favourite stories as she ate. Once she was full and all was quiet, she headed to her cozy bed and listened for the waves to help her fall asleep.
The wind began to feel a little sad at being left out this way. He puzzled over it. After all, they were always friends when the maiden was outdoors during the day, so why not now? He resolved to find a way to know her fully.
One night, after she’d tucked herself into bed, the maiden realized she couldn’t hear the sea whispering its lullaby from the bottom of the cliff. All she could hear was:
She missed the rhythmic sounds of the soft ocean waves rolling up and down on the shore. Listen as she might, all the maiden could hear was: Whoooo-ooo . . . are . . . you??
Finally, she pulled the pillow over her head and fell into a fitful sleep.
The following morning, the maiden’s face was a little long. Her dreams had been disturbed by images of swords and blindfolds. Her skin was dry. When she went out to face the day, the breeze felt raw and it chapped her sensitive skin. She wrapped a scarf around her neck and head to protect herself.
But still she sang to the wind, Someday I will meet you, in your grace. Someday I will see you, face to face.
The wind liked her song, singing it back happily.
That evening, after a long day of work and social interactions, the maiden retired to her cottage and shut the door as usual, drew the star curtains closed. She lit a fire and sat nearby with a hot cup of tea.
Normally this would have been a cozy, restful moment. But now, there came a whistling cold draught from under the door. Whoooo-ooo are you?? What . . . is . . . your . . . name?
The maiden laughed gently. Harmless wind, she thought with fondness. For the first time, she sang the song inside her house: Someday I will meet you, in your grace. Someday I will see you, face to face.
The wind took this as a flirtatious invitation. He whistled quickly under the door and ran into the room, sweeping about, making the fire flicker.
The maiden shivered. She put another log on the fire, took a towel from her cupboard and stuffed it into the crack under the door. Then she wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders and sat down again with her hot tea, finally at peace.
But that night, once again, when she tried to fall asleep, her friend the ocean was drowned out: Whoooo-ooo-oooo-ooooooooooo??
Whoooo-ooo . . . are . . . you??
What . . . is . . . your . . . name?
And again, the maiden stuffed her poor head under a pillow and fell asleep restlessly. She tossed and turned, her body wracked with night sweats.
In a nervous dream, the wind rattled her windowpanes with ferocious intensity. It wiggled the locks and threw the windows wide open, separating the curtain of stars. All the while, it howled Whoooo-ooo . . . are . . . you?? She knelt at the open window, her face streaming with agitated tears, gazing out at the soundless ocean which shuddered in the moonlight. The wind stung her skin red and raw.
She cried out, “My name is a secret!”
The maiden sat up suddenly in her bed. Her blankets were all askew.
Sure enough, the window was wide open and moonlight flooded her room. The curtain of stars whipped around, nearly ripping from its rod, as the wind tore through the whole cottage. The last embers of the fire flickered out, and a few things fell from shelves and counters.
The wind whistled in ecstasy as he flew about the place. He loved seeing all the things that the maiden had hidden from him thus far. Her bedclothes, her sleepy eyes and rumpled braids, her little fireplace and kitchen and the cluttered leftovers of her dinner. He whirled and swirled under and over everything in sight.
A shadow of pain fell over the maiden’s countenance.
She got up and shooed out the wind. She stuffed more towels and rags into the crevices between doors and jambs, windows and sills, walls and baseboards. She closed the windows firmly, locking the latches extra tight. She pinned the star curtains closed.
Still, she couldn’t sleep. So she lit another fire and sat with her warm blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She drank hot tea.
Outside, the wind raged mournfully.
Whoooo-ooo-oooo-ooooooooooo?? are . . . you?? What . . . is . . . your . . . name?
He had so much enjoyed being inside the maiden’s house. It was lonely outside on his own in the deep night; he wanted to hear her sing that lovely song she sang to him:
Someday I will meet you, in your grace. Someday I will see you, face to face.
He continued to bang and rattle at the windowpanes. Why did she close him out so firmly? Did she not want him? He attempted to whisk down the chimney, but only fed the hot flames which licked at his feet and sucked his energy into their heat.
The maiden fed another log to the fire, drew the blanket closer around herself.
Atop the fireplace mantle, there sat five special shells that she’d once gathered from the seashore. Now they caught her attention, glowing pure and golden with the rosy light of the flames beneath.
The maiden gathered up the shells in her lap, along with a special paintbrush made from a baby seagull feather and some silver ink harvested from the bottom of a well dug by her great grandmother. For the rest of the night, she sat up painting something mysterious and wonderful on each of the shells.
Before dawn, the maiden rose. Dropping the blanket from her shoulders, she went out the door as naked as a newborn.
Shivering, she stood at the very edge of the steep cliff. She flung the shells, one by one, as far as she could. She neither saw nor heard them sinking into the sea.
But the wind saw it all. He couldn’t catch the shells, instead howled as he watched them submerge and disappear, shining, under the wine-dark waves.
Then the maiden slept for the next three days, her cottage shut up tight. The wind did not see her at all, and missed her greatly.
Things were a bit different, after that. Every time she left her home, the maiden would gather her scarf and shawl tightly around her. She turned her face away from the wind, as it always brought tears to her eyes. Sometimes she hummed quietly under her breath.
But never again did she openly sing their special song: Someday I will meet you, in your grace. Someday I will see you, face to face. For she didn’t know how the wind might respond.
The years went by. Long years, short years. Dusty years and wet years. The cottage became weathered, battered by sea salt and the wind. The star curtains grew faded, though they held together well. The maiden became a woman, then an old crone, and eventually she died. By then her body was wrinkled, wizened, and crowned with a set of long braids that unfurled all the way to her ankles.
Her loved ones set her body on a large pyre and lit it afire with a twig from a tree that had grown in her little yard. They stood around and sang and laughed and remembered her whole life, as she turned into a pile of thick sweet ashes.
Then they gathered the ashes and threw them over the cliff into the sea.
Finally, the wind had his chance. He’d waited a very long time, and now he could know the maiden fully.
He swept up her ashes with all his might, making a whirlwind. He thought he could hear the faint song she had sung, long long ago: Someday I will meet you, in your grace. Someday I will see you, face to face.
And yet, the ashes sank. Even in their littleness and lightness, they were still heavier than air. Each one sank to the sea, welcomed by the salty waves. They twirled down and down, into the depths.
The wind dived in and followed with determination.
Like an underwater tornado, he tunneled down into the ocean, feeling the maiden’s ashes swirling all around him. Most of them shrunk almost to nothing and melded with the brine.
But five big flakes of ash fell like lazy snowflakes toward the ocean floor. They settled lightly upon five glowing shells lying in the sand.
Silver designs and lettering still graced these shells, from the maiden’s artwork so many years before. They’d fallen in a row, each one a few feet from the next.
I . . . Am . . . Who . . . I . . . Am
He swirled and whirled around the shells in a frenzy, trying to scoop them up, but each time they fell down and landed in the same pattern: I . . . Am . . . Who . . . I . . . Am
Saltwater tears ran down the wind’s cheeks, as he read her elegant handwriting.
I . . . Am . . . Who . . . I . . . Am
Even though her song had gone silent forever, the wind finally understood that the maiden’s secret name was fully revealed all along.
He rose up toward the surface of the sea like a funnel of love, where he dissipated into a nothing but a foam of bubbles.
Far up above, the tiny cottage with its star curtains sat near the steep cliff edge. It was empty, and no one was watching, so no one ever saw.
But in their hearts, everyone knew, and they still know now.