We are walking through our ‘back forty,’ an undeveloped area near our home. I see signs of green sand lily foliage that will host beautiful white blossoms in a few weeks. Their spidery leaves with white edges are popping to the surface out of bulbs below. From the open space above us a whirlwind spontaneously descends and paints the air with a swirl of dust. We have to close our eyes to prevent grit from temporarily blinding us.

Whirlwinds, or dust devils, are seen by some native cultures as ghosts of ancestors speaking to us. Job heard God speak to him out of the whirlwind. Celtic legends suggest the swirling winds act as hosts to fairies moving from place to place. I always experience some kind message when I encounter this phenomena. In this moment, I behold a visible memory of an ancestor—a grandfather who met a cyclone face to face. 

I also connect with the tornados affecting the southeastern United States today. I cannot imagine the devastation of losing one’s home while the Covid-19 challenges continue. I watch as the whirlwind passes by, it withdraws its energy and disappears into the sky. I send prayers with the departing wind to bless those experiencing severe weather on top of virus fears. We are definitely in a time that spawns a whirlwind of causes and conditions.

Other times were not so different. My grandparents lived through World War I, Spanish flu epidemic, and the Great Depression. My parents experienced the era of World War II, Korean conflict, and polio. I grew up during the Cold War, measles, the nuclear threat, Vietnam, and all the wars since. Now we have another event that should bring us together if we allow it to do so. We are witness to the message interconnection on a global scale.

The same message is in the whirlwind and sand lily. They reveal to us a fundamental truth about nature’s rhythms. They invite us to know who we are without making it a crisis. Buddha gave a wordless sermon to his disciples by holding up a single white flower. It was meant to convey “suchness,” the ineffable nature of everything. If we do not gain clear awareness through quiet perception of simple things, the message becomes louder until we understand—like a recurring dream.