The Spanish have a lovely expression for “far away.” Donde da la vuelta el aire, is the phrase, meaning where air turns around, and it supposes an end to the world where, with nothing farther, the only option is to return, da la vuelta.
Reaching the far off end of the world must require the speed of a rushing wind. A wind that tears through leaves on trees and scatters those on the ground as it passes. Bursting into corners of lives that people would rather keep shuttered. Such winds have designations and even names: winds of change, welcome or not, that can turn a life from one course to another; four strong winds that blow, and keep on blowing, through upheavals and heartaches; the ole blue norther, beseeched to blow a loved one home again; the wind they call Mariah, wailing through the mountains like people dying. Mariah too could blow a lost love home into the arms of the waiting lover. Such a wind with such a task would go to the end of the world to achieve it.
I’ve seen the expression with viento, wind, but as I first heard it, it’s not the wild and bullying wind that arrives at the end of the world but air itself, the mild, mannerly medium of our lives. Air is good at standing still or moving languidly in small eddies. It seeps and filters. So how would it get so far as the end of the world? And why would air, which is wind without a motivation, even try?
When the wind is gone, often we’re relieved. There is peace, there is calm. Even being winded has the advantage of excusing a slowdown. But lose your air and you’ve lost everything.
That’s the difference between wind and air. The prospector pleading with Mariah claims to be so lost without his girl that not even God can find him. But the wind can. The wind will rush about, pushing and pulling. Not so the air. Air, seeping and filtering ghostlike, inhabiting us, is always near. I like to think that wherever air goes, it gets there because so do we. And then it arrives safely back.
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