Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

(Belated) Memoir Monday: “Blown Away” by Jan Adlmann

You could accurately say I was “blown away,” pun intended, when one day some years ago, delving distractedly into a box of yellowed “Miscellaneous Prints” at a Santa Fe antiquaire, I fell upon this more than merely curious image depicting some loopy fellow purportedly in the dubious act of “Feeding on Wind.” What?

Even I, who’ve long been considered amongst close friends a notorious nut case when it comes to all things blustery was, at that moment and still today, knocked out that some obscure artist, apparently quite long ago,was compelled to illustrate such a decidedly dotty activity.

Crouched and bracing himself, knees uncomfortably bent as he leans into it all, his features contorted in a powerful effort to devour the onrushing gale, this bizarre fellow, all streaming hair and wide-eyed rapture, instantly spoke to me, for I have forever been a huge friend of Aeolus, ancient god of the winds.

My earliest recollections of leaning into the wind, figuratively, are those many, many times as a child when I arranged myself on my bed in such a way that my head would lie by the open window where, in the fields out back, several huge trees–I remember a towering maple, and an elm–had been growing for a long time.

What I loved about this was twofold: that is, hearing the wind in the trees and watching how their branches flailed and thrashed about whenever there was a mighty gust or two, which was quite often.

Too, I remember watching with great fascination through our winter storm windows and doors, how a snow storm hurled blinding clouds and veils of fine snow around the house while making a really fine roar as it gradually sculpted enormous drifts.

Being inside the cozy house but looking out on a maelstrom of winter at its most fierce, now, that is a delight hard to describe, perhaps what the tumult in a snow globe would sound like, if we could but add some sound track.

I like all sorts of wind–whistling, howling, sighing, moaning. In fact, for many years now, I have gone to bed having turned on my “wind machine” sleep aide device. There are various tracks with this machine, all possible to ply without interruption. throughout the night. My current favorites are “Wind in Trees,” “Natural Sounds of Pure Wind, ” and low and mournful, more than a little forlorn “Arctic Wind.”

And so I can demonstrate for you an number of wind phenomena which, in their various ways, can throw me into something close to a trance.

If it is an especially blowy day, I will find myself suddenly transfixed, no matter what I am doing, by the sudden mighty rustling of a big tree. (I have been known to fall, mid-sentence into a kind of mesmerized state when first hearing such a thing.)

And then there is the sound of seaside flags snapping in a stiff, on-shore breeze, sounding almost like gun shots and then the incessant rattle of the ropes lashing against the flagpole. As I say, such meteorological mini-epiphanies are out there, for me, all the time.

Observed waiting alone in front of an elevator on some fiftieth floor or so, I once was asked if I were “feeling all right, Mister?” I had been standing there for many minutes, having discovered the groans and shrieking of the wind in the elevator shaft and, like the guy in my strange engraving, I was caught leaning into my particular rapture.

A place I have returned to over and over, not the least because of the good chance of experiencing totally overwhelming winds, is Palm Springs, California. On barren, God-forsaken desert hillsides outside the city there are enormous wind farm arrays where one can drive up, get out of the car and wander among the tall, flailing blades, cringing at their deafening roar and, best of all, literally  lean against the wind, without falling. Those lofty farms are, for me, the embodiment of “wuthering heights.”

My ultimate homage to the wind, though not intended as any such thing has occurred when I have been on a few journeys to the far flung, live volcanic Island of Stromboli, off the coast of Sicily. I once had dear friends with a summer house there; they are, alas, now gone with the wind but, in the day, I went there quite often. I loved their stark, white-washed house perched on a cliff above a gratifying raging sea–and frequently engulfed in tumultuous winds, to boot.

The homage I have paid resides in the fact that when visiting that forbidding rock cast in the sea, I was also visiting the home of Aeolus himself, according to Greek legend. It is from his seat on towering, conical Stromboli that Aeolus opens and looses his awesome bag of winds upon the world.


©Jan Adlmann 2014

Jan Adlmann, a long-time resident of Santa Fe “but born a ‘Maine-r’,” has  long been a director-cum-curator of art museums, “from coast to coast.” Additionally, and equally as significant in his professional and personal profiles, he has spent a good part of his life in world travel—most often solo, very often as a fine art tours lecturer. Adlmann always suggests that the “city of dreams,” Vienna, has marked him as profoundly as his Down East birthplace and the American Southwest.


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