The last gift I bought for my father, he never received. Friends and I were at the cabin (see January's Art of Nothingness entry) and I left the cabin that Sunday morning for a 20-mile drive to a non-descript little Texas town for some item that we had to have that I cannot recall at the moment. On the way home, I noticed a store on the side of th road, a sign in the window was lit up and said, Sale, and I had to pull over because this teeny tiny town on the Texas Gulf Coast does not have stores beyond the one gas station/grocery store and restaurant (right next door) and a few shops hemorrhaging with sea-shell art and coastal scene t-shirts. This store was not that. It was housed in an eye-catching single-standing old brick building with antique flower pots on its sidewalk and when I saw that Sale was accompanied by Open, well, I had to pull over. Time was mine, and in all the times I've driven this highway, there has never been a store like this before, so why not?
I walked in the store and was pushed back to the wall by the sound of the windchimes, the entire quivering inventory of them. Metal chimes, bamboo chimes, the whole square-footage of the place covered from the ceiling in chimes. Incense was burning as well. Perfect for a Sunday January morning in what was once was the fourth largest city in the state of Texas (in the 1800s). On that morning, this shop and these wind sounds were the absoutue sound of church to me. I was in a daze, and wandered the store's cluttered space, tables with candles and platters and vases, enormous paintings on the walls, boxes, lamps, every inch of space covered. And I commented to the attendee what a lovely inventory. She, with time on her hands, invited me back to the artist's studio where I stood bathed in the morning light through the east floor-to-ceiling windows on the east wall. I wanted to be an artist, a painter, sculpter, anything at all, but to practice what I was and to practice it there, with all the dust particles dancing through the light and tickling my eyes. I wondered then if Dad knew about this store but quickly shut that down with the awareness that he wouln't really care. Not his deal.
I checked out with a lamp and a candle holder. The wind chime that was in my future was not at all threatened. It hung from the ceiling, enormous, made of bamboo, about three feet in length. When I was purcasing the lamp, someone walked into the store, and the open door allowed the breeze to catch the wind chime's voice. I turned when I heard the deep tonal sound of it, and I thought of Dad, and I thought that he would like that sound. The cashier caught my eye and I told her, I have to get that as well. I was thrilled, if not a bit off kilter for buying my father a wind chime. What would he think? No matter, I knew he'd like the sound and I knew he'd like that it was a gift from me.
I hung the windchime before returning home that Sunday. Nervous to put holes where they shouldn't be, I found a hook just beneath the balcony of the upstairs bedroom, and hung it there so we could hear it whenever we sat on the porch. Visually, it was as if it had always been hanging there. I heard the wind blow through it and knew it was perfect for the cabin. When we got home, I called Dad and told him about it. He was sure that he'd like it, that it was made of bamboo was a big plus. He died two weeks later.
Today, when we arrived here, I walked outside and heard the wind blowing through the bamboo and that deep hollow tone it made. And I thought of Dad. And I realized that he will always be the wind that tickles the tone. Even as I write this, I can hear it right behind me, just over my shoulder, the deep tonal tickle. And I realize, whether or not he received it, this is the best gift I've ever given my father. He will speak to me through the wind.