Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I,
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
– Christina Rossetti
The Christmas sky hangs low and sullen over Liverpool this Monday morning. Shivering uncontrollably at the side door of St. Peter’s Church, 10-year-old John Winston Lennon turns up his coat collar against a bone-chilling mist. He shoves his fists into his pockets and, while he waits for the sexton to admit him to the choir’s rehearsal room, clutches his overcoat tightly from within.
A flurry of movement erupts behind the boy as parishioners scurry past the cemetery at the side of the church. Heads down as they take refuge inside their place of worship, the church-goers do not notice the tiniest opening cutting through the gloomy clouds.
Outside, the air crackles and whooshes as a ray of sunshine blazes forth and lands at John’s feet. The aperture dilates as if it were the iris of an eye adjusting to the darkness below. Lifting his gaze, John’s face is bathed in a marmalade warmth. The sky in this magical place is a cerulean blue where a lollipop sun glows all lemon. The mountains are a sweet purple hue, and ruby-red strawberry fields stretch on forever.
Musical notes rain down, hover around the boy, and assemble to form playful melodies. The boy jumps to snatch the notes and laughs when they burst like soap bubbles. He leaps three feet into the air and remains there, suspended weightless, until he floats back down to earth and his feet settle gently upon the ground.
It doesn’t seem odd that the sky opened up for me. I had been expecting something wonderful to happen. My childhood years were blessed with enchanting little moments all along the way. I talked to the trees and whispered to the stars and paid attention to the extraordinary.
When I was five years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.
The world is full of surprises. They are diaphanous spirits coursing through space. But unlike comets following a known trajectory, surprises zip and zing until they find an opening to land. Where some of them alight is purposeful. We attract happy surprises with the thoughts we project; they know how to find us. They pick up our signals and head right for us when we make a place for them in our hearts.
Sad surprises descend on us too. Sometimes it’s instant karma and sometimes flashes of randomness occur across the universe, and there’s no avoiding them.
I was surprised when the music of my life changed suddenly as I lay dying in front of the Dakota apartment building. I rose from my own body and watched the scene below. Musical notes appeared once more, swirling softly out of focus; this time they became my wings.
The creaking of rusty hinges startles the boy out of his reverie. The heavy wooden church door groans as the old sexton pushes it open.
“Did you hear that, sir?” John asks.
“Hear what, lad?”
“The music, sir, it was beautiful. It came from the sky.”
“Are you daft, boy? It’s freezing out here. The choir master is waiting. Get into your robe now. Off you go!”
“But, sir, there were musical notes all over and I was floating.”
“Imagine! You’re such a dreamer!” the sexton says. Hurrying John inside, he lugs the door closed without an outward glance. A few lingering notes rise back into the light, carried away by a wind perfumed with frankincense and myrrh.
Life no longer has a clear beginning, middle, or end. It’s like watching a movie on a big screen. The plot unfolds in a linear way and then the end credits roll. The story is supposed to make sense. You think it’s over, but it’s not.
When the theater lights come back on, out we go, tumbling into the street. We feel the emotion of what we’ve witnessed and now the new things we experience are affected by that. We continue living, but it’s a different life than the one we lived before we went in.