Whispering Wind and Logan Bell

“Mum, this is Logan Bell, I hope it’s okay that I invited him back home for bread and jam?”

“How nice to meet you Logan, I’m Willow,” the young woman said smiling at him, “You’re right on time! The bread’s just out of the oven, there’s butter on the counter and jam in a bowl beside it. Please, help yourself.”

Whispering Wind had picked up a loaf of bread and hefted it a few times; he loved to feel the weight of the loaves. Logan heard a crackling sound coming from the counter and was surprised to discover the bread was making the sounds! Whispering Wind laughed at his expression and passed him a loaf.

“Hold it to your ear, it’ll sing to you, go ahead give it a try,” he said.

Logan held the loaf to his ear and marveled at all the crackles and crickles the bread was making. He shut his eyes and listened for a while and then the sounds of the boy and his mother chattering joined the bread and it came together like a song with music and chanting.

“Just because they can doesn’t mean they should,” sang Willow.

“But Mother, they say they’re only taking a little and leaving plenty behind for the bear and squirrels,” countered Wind.

“Just because they can doesn’t mean they should,” sang Willow.

“But Mother, they say their ancestors ate them, all over the world ancient people ate them; it makes them feel connected to their pasts,” countered Wind.

“Just because they can doesn’t mean they should,” sang Willow.

“But Mother, they say they need to, the nutrients are unavailable in any other form, the gathering makes them feel good, it’s medicine, traditional,” countered Wind.

“Just because they can doesn’t mean they should,” sang Willow.

Whispering Wind sighed. “You always say that Mother! The last group that came through here were rather nice people. It wouldn’t be harmful to let a few people gather would it, ah don’t answer, I know what you’ll say:”

“Just because we can doesn’t mean we should!” they chorused together.

Logan opened his eyes. He wondered what they had been talking about.

Wind handed him a warm chunk of bread, and while he buttered and jammed it, Wind spoke.

“Acorns,” he said, “Folks come to collect acorns. Sumac. Elderberries. Crabapples.  Earlier in the year it’s wineberries. It’s always one thing or another, there’s always more than one group, some are on wilderness walks and some aren’t even aware of the others. What they see is an abundance of everything, and they feel entitled to their share of it. I’m tasked with getting them out of the forest.”

“Getting them out?” Logan echoed.

“Hmm, yes, you know like in Goldilocks: I’m usually with friends, so we change into bears.  That’s enough for most people to drop and run, if they don’t we talk to them, whose been eating our food?  whose been sitting on our trees?  whose been sleeping in our dens?  That works, talking bears freak them out, especially when they’re only familiar with dancing ones, but they have the wildest experience while they’re at it and that’s what they’re here for to begin with!  Only the bravest return, most determined foragers return::  after a long long time.  When I’m alone and it’s a group of women I like to change to wolf, they feel like Red Riding Hood then, eventually they see me and grab sticks, or talk to me like I’m a dog while they back away carefully until they feel safer, then they run for it.  Though they probably tell folks, makes for a great story of their wild day!  . . .  we’ll get the game warden looking for wolves or bear hunters as a result.  If the hunters overlap with us in bear form we sometimes get treed by their dogs, then Mum shows up and reminds them that they can’t shoot on private property, so they go wait by the road thinking sooner or later the bears will run down, and we go home.  We don’t always change into bear and wolf, especially not when the folks are armed; so we talk with them, and sometimes there’s nothing going on, other times it’s wiser to do nothing, so it’s not a one shoe fits all thing:what happens always depends on the moment.”

“Isn’t that a bit high handed??  After all, there’s so much!?”

“Yes, well, that’s what I’ve been told, countless times:there’s so much, we’re all part of nature, we’re only taking a little, our ancestors ate these, it’s for medicine, it’s healing, we’re getting in touch with nature, it’s to be enjoyed, to be shared, it’ll take care of itself, we’re being ethical about it, and on and on. Here’s the thing:: there are animals that rely, as in depend on, what’s being gathered for sustenance::it is their daily fare and unlike us humans, with our farm markets, farm stands, home gardens, community gardens, grocery stores, and cooperatives::animals have no other alternative food sources::this is It for them. And while it’s true, the ancestors everywhere ate of these foods::the ancestors were also stewards of the Earth and All the beings that lived on the Great Mother::the ecosphere they lived in was not the one that we live in, the equation’s changed, and to eat, drink, and forage in imitation of the ancestors is something we can do but it doesn’t mean we should; well, not without questioning what the impact Is outside of ourselves, what we could do instead that fulfills both our quests and honors all beings?”

“Boy, I found you gathering berries in the wild off those bushes back there, so if that isn’t the biggest bs I ever heard I don’t know what is! Sounds like you may be keeping all the good stuff for yourselves, hoarding it!” Logan burst out.

Wind and Willow both chuckled. “Seems that way does it?” asked Wind, “Thing is when you Live in it, you get a different sense for abundance.  Appearances can be deceptive especially when you’re comparing to what’s in a town or city, sure it seems bounteous::tell that to the chipmunk, the vole, and deer, they’ll tell a different story.  We don’t collect everything that grows here, it changes year to year. Like the wineberries and blackberries, me and my friends go for walks and sure we eat off their canes but it’s the turtles, birds, and foxes to whom goes the harvest. Drives us crazy when folk come pick berries, mushrooms, and ‘wild’ greens to sell in town or to restaurants! That’s called stealing:: food out of animals’ mouths. They’re so caught up in a fantasy of being part of nature; don’t realize that the beings living up here Are Nature, not just playacting in it, this is their home::and that means a lot.  More than feasting off the wild to connect with the wild, disconnected from asking::who needs this food more, me or the bear?  Can I sit with this basket of acorns all day and enjoy the company of the squirrels that might come eat them and it be natural enough? Do I have to take the roots and shoots?  What other options do I have that the creatures living here don’t?  Would you go into a friends house, a strangers’ house, and raid their pantry without asking?  Uninvited?  It’s like with those bushes you’re going to cut down, they’re an excellent nourishing food source and they multiply, spreading so fast that we pick them too and it doesn’t disturb the birds or the bees, there’s enough for all  . . .  for now::ever ask how come they like it?   You think it could be that we’ve been taking for long enough that they’re turning to these as a food source instead? . . . .what else are they going to do when elderberry elixirs and bitters are in demand in cities, sumac hawthorn cordials are a trend, and hundreds and thousands of men and women want anti aging serums, luxuriant beard oils, and rosy-cheek glimmer glows sourced from plantfoods?!?”

Logan was nonplussed. His mouth full of bread; he quietly chewed. Willow filled a glass of water from the sink and handed it to him. It was cold and sweet and fresh. He realized that he had assumed these people must live in a bubble of sorts since they were so far away from ‘everything’, he wasn’t so sure anymore, and even if they did, he felt awake, alive, like a participant.  How long had it been since thinking was a pleasure instead of a depressing pain in the neck leaving him weary, numb, needing medication of the herbal kind or other sort? He reflected on all the conversations he and his buddies had, about what? Politics, religion, world conditions, climate change, recycling, increasing violence, displaced people; always something or the other that was outside of the immediate, or else they’d not yet come up with solutions, fix its, answers; not content to sit with the questions and be provoked.  Just talk, talk that didn’t become a way to walk, other than to walk away from the discussions feeling cynical, bitter, hollow and unsatisfied, powerless to do anything, over glasses of wild carrot juleps and mint gin and tonics . . . but was there a way to coexist, coinhabit, cocreate?  What was it?

“Well, I’d best get going,” he said abruptly, “I’ve enjoyed myself more than I have in oh, years I do believe! Thank you for your hospitality and the food.”

“A pleasure to meet you Logan, come back and visit when it’s fresh air and company you need, I’m sure my husband would love to meet you!” said Willow.

Whispering Wind pressed a loaf of bread wrapped in newspaper in one of his hands, a jar of jam in the other and gave him a hug, “Next time Mum might even show you her unicorn, she doesn’t always invite folks back either, means she likes you  . . . . even if you’re a bit queer”.

Logan chuckled and hugged the boy back. He felt lighter than he had in ages, his heart felt full and his mind awake, clear as a chiming bell. He set out and found his way back to his car. It was right where he’d left it. He got in and started it up, thinking about the strange twist of events his day had taken. As he drove past the spot where he’d met the boy, he noticed a shape lying on the ground next to the oak he’d fallen asleep leaning against. He slowed down and noticed it was a bear, was it asleep? He stopped and watched for a while; feeling very excited having never seen a bear before. Then, as time went by, he became aware of how still the bear was. He got out of the car and threw a chunk of bread near the bear, it didn’t move. His heart in his throat, he walked cautiously toward the bear and saw it’s eyes were back in its head, it was frothing at the mouth, quite dead. Knocked over and open near it’s paw was an empty bottle. Logan felt around in his pocket. He dashed back to his car and searched. He returned to the bottle by the bear and moved it with a stick, oh dear!! It was the concoction he’d had with him this morning when he’d set out. It had been in his pocket, handy for when he’d need it. He looked at the dead bear and felt a huge wave of despair rush over him. He hadn’t meant for this to happen! How careless he had been! What was he going to do?

He picked up the bottle, got in his car and drove down the road, keeping a lookout for a ranger station. He took out his cell phone and discovered there was no access here. He became keenly aware of his surroundings, and glancing at the creek he noticed dead fish washed up on the bank, on the rocks, on the sand bars. Dead herons. Dead turtles.  Dead snakes.  Dead deer.  Dead coyote.  Dead, all around :dead, like the bear. He stopped at a pull off that looked down on the creek in both directions, and to his horror there was death washing up on either side. It couldn’t be from the bottle could it? He didn’t want to believe it, but his eyes took in all the dead forms and he dropped to his knees feeling heavy; responsible. He had brought this here. Tears trickled out of his eyes.  He cried then sobbed like he hadn’t done when his wife died years ago, when his son had died before that, he wept until he began to keen, his body wracked and shuddered from the depths and bowels of his sorrow, he no longer even knew what he was crying about::he wrung himself inside out at that overlook, his mind emptied of all thought, he sat with himself and poured himself into the earth, flung himself to the heavens, until there was nothing left but the burning sensation in his eyes. Spent.

When he opened his eyes again he found himself in a meadow with wildflowers. There were honeybees and hummingbirds flittering about. Turtle crawled slowly toward a knotweed thicket, chipmunks scampered over the grasses, rabbit was chewing on jewelweed, heron fished rainbow trout,  coyote slunk about in pursuit of deer munching on crabapples, snake basked in the sun, bear munched on acorns, then butterfly landed on his forehead, peed on his nose. He felt the damp droplet roll down his cheek. Butterfly pee, who knew! The light was golden and glowing, and from within it came a white horse, a mare with a shimmering mane, a single horn rising out of her forehead. She walked to where he was sitting and touched him gently on the cheek with it; a tingle went through his body. He shut his eyes and dared to reach out and hug her. She nuzzled his neck and he snuggled against her for what felt like eternity. When he opened his eyes, there were sparkles everywhere. He was sitting with his back against the fallen oak, and the boy was walking toward him with two baskets full of ruby red gold flecked berries, calling, “Well I’m done! Don’t usually pick as many as this, but since you’re cutting the bushes down, I figured I might as well!”

Logan stood up, checked his pocket for the bottle and found it secure. He shook the sparkles around.

“I’m Logan, Logan Bell,” he began, “If you want you can call me Grandfather, I have no grandchildren, and you look to be about how old mine would be if I had any. I’m kind of hungry and thirsty, you wouldn’t know of a place I might get a bite to eat around here, before I get to work that is?”

Whispering Wind looked at him and grinned. “I know just the place! Fancy some bread and butter? Follow me, oh and I’m . . . .”

“Whispering Wind,” Logan finished with a wink, “I know, a little bird told me.”

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5 thoughts on “Whispering Wind and Logan Bell

    1. fairy tales are interesting, often they had practical applications in their time that we today may overlook when it’s out of context, so we pick up on the innate wisdom to it but miss out on the hands-on occurrence from whence it emerged

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