Anne Lamott recorded these lines read by a friend to her, lines she claims were written by a Lakota Sioux: “Sometimes I go about pitying myself. And all the while I am being carried on great winds across the sky.” According to Lamott, they helped her deal with vicious feelings of jealousy, ones which made her life miserable.
They’re exquisite lines. Often I worry about using language that’s too abstract. “Great winds across the sky” is at once both natural and mystical. It calls to mind the air at the tops of mountains, air which breathes through natural wonders. All the same, despite our ability to imagine the winds, the sensations, the sky, the imagery feels like it presents more form than substance. Winds are invisible; the sky is more a field for seeing than a thing itself seen. I can’t help but think of the firmaments from Genesis, the divisions which allow order to proceed from chaos, the divisions silently witnessed daily.
The great winds across the sky speak beings beyond jealousy. Can those beings be joined? Lamott’s honest enough: this is a world where we’re told to compete, told if we don’t work and strive that we deserve to starve. It’s near impossible not to be jealous in such a climate. Moreover, I know from experience that it can be great insensitivity which breeds jealousy. I had no choice but to be jealous when I felt shut out of everything—no friends, no attention, no accolades, no opportunity. For Lamott, the friend inspiring the most jealousy didn’t care about a precarious financial situation affecting her and her son. There might be a righteous anger underlying some jealousy.
Still, I’m thinking about these things because I’m wondering about my own motivation. Is it possible, in some small way, to be the “great winds across the sky” for another? I don’t know about that. I do know that dedication to one’s craft has to involve appreciation of those who also practice it as well as a healthy respect for your own talents. You can’t afford to feel a failure when you know enough to be jealous.
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. New York: Anchor, 1994. 127-130.