Sitting on the back deck, the sun to my right and cottonwood to my left, I listen to the wind. I love this sound so much that I could not help but to open the back door and step into it. The wind always means home, life and soul to me so it’s no wonder that I heard Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) singing “I listen to the wind of my soul” in my mind. I followed, and went to the internet, where I found him recently singing this song on some kind of British panel where the host assured him, “We still know the text. We can help.” I could also help after hearing this song thousands of times over the years.
In looking more closely at the lyrics, I discovered some things that had eluded me in the past. First, the song wasn’t written by Cat Stevens, but by Lenny Wolf, Danny Stag, Martin Wolff, and John Burt Frank, so thank you to these guys. Then the lyrics, which I’d never thought about much before, are crazy like a fox (deceptively simple but more like what Emily Dickinson might sing if she was a 1970’s folksinger). I was especially moved by the second verse:
I listen to my words but
They fall far below
I let my music take me where
My heart wants to go
I swam upon the devil’s lake
But never, never never never
I’ll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, neverI wonder what it means to never make the same mistake, and if it’s like never stepping into the same river twice. Also, who among us hasn’t swam in the devil’s lake on occasion? In a performance in Naples in 2007, Yusuf Islam says this song talks about the journey, and I think about how our words always fall far below actually naming the unnameable, touching the center of the mystery. So maybe it’s not the wind so much of my soul but of the soul of life we witness on this journey.
As I play various versions of this song sung by Cat or Yusuf (depending on the time it was recorded), a hummingbird tries to fill up at the feeder inconspicuously, the dog runs after a squirrel, and the wind makes its presence heard and seen all direction. Where it all ends up, only god really knows.
For a version of the song from the 1970s that features, strangely enough, a girl playing with a squirrel, check this out.