Listen. The dead are talkative tonight.
My wife and I are taking shelter from a spring storm, relaxing on our hotel balcony, when the conversation, via wind chimes, begins.
You see, in the Apache tradition, wind chimes are voices of your ancestors whispering their wisdom. At least that’s what my mom said each time she hung chimes in our yard.
And she had dozens, scores, hundreds. No one ever counted them all.
One conspicuous set were huge tubes that looked like they’d been pried off a Peterbilt. They hung low, and if you didn’t duck while walking by, you'd whack your head and set off a discordant rebuke. Only gale-force winds could awake them. Then, they spoke in solemn tones.
On mom’s rose bushes were humming-bird-sized bits of brass that chattered incessantly. Mom said they were her grandmothers whispering, sharing bits of gossip not meant for children.
The patio chimes were her aunts, inviting mom in for a cookie.
Mom loved them all spending hours in her yard socializing as it were. And this aural seance grew as, over the years, Mom gave voice to every tree, bush and bough.
Being a smart-ass teenager, I once accused her of running “a spiritualist surplus store.” And said that she was, sadly, “out of display space.”
"On the contrary," she said, "I'm just getting started." And she was. Her collection expanded indoors. When I saw this, I laughed and pointed at her painted-shut windows. "How’s that going to work?"
She shrugged. “The spirits will find a way.”
I sighed, thinking she’d finally gone nuts. But on my next visit, I saw scads of small, oscillating fans, and her chimes cackled at me.
Score one for Mom.
Once I asked: “Mom, why do you need so many?” I assumed she’d answer with our family motto: "If a little bit's good, then a lot is better." It’s a bit of a joke, but a lesson taught to her by the Depression.
But that not what she said.
"Well, we’re a big family. And everyone wants the last word.”
Weird but true, I suppose.
On the balcony, the wind picks up. The chimes ring out.
Mom said that the spirits speak, and as long as we're listening, they live on. Our love makes them immortal. And their love, in their music, opens our hearts and makes us fully alive. Their voices, their stories, remind us we are not alone.
Tonight, I listen.
Grandma shares a juicy story, grandpa an off-color joke. Aunt Mary lures us with cookie-memories. Yikes. It’s there. I think I heard it.
So, maybe mom wasn’t nuts, entirely.
Or maybe I’m losing it….