Love Letters to Earth

by Henry Quicke









The Roosh’s aerodynamic physical features show the effects of hundreds of generations in a windy environment.  They are short and thin, with strong legs to keep them upright in gusts.  Their noses are narrow with bulbous tips to deflect the wind before it reaches their eyes, which are deep-set and dark, pockets of calm in the turbulence.  Their cheekbones are high and their jaws angular, their faces delicate chevrons.  The men shave their heads, and on warm days enjoy the pleasure of the wind across their naked scalps.  The women grow their hair long and keep it tied in back, out of their faces, except in lighter winds, when they let their hair fly and marvel at the lift it generates, the way it would surely pull them off their horses in a strong gale and raise them into the startling and infinite blue above the plains.

On the Roosh’s gently rolling landscape, the winds on an average day would be enough to knock down trees, which explains why there aren’t any.  An outsider would have to shield his eyes and turn his face from this wind, and gusts would blow him into the needlegrass.  But the Roosh remain firmly planted, with a gentle, almost imperceptible lean into the wind, as though they have a mechanism in their bodies that anticipates the gusts and prepares unconsciously.  On days when the winds gust and shift erratically, the Roosh’s leaning becomes a graceful dance, an entire camp leaning one way and the other.

Despite appearances, the Roosh are constantly aware of the wind.  They have no written language, and so the motion of the air is their only means to communicate.  Without the wind they’d wander aimlessly on the endless and barren plains, never sure where to find game or edible roots, never sure when to camp or move on.  Worse, without the wind, their entire tribe would dissolve into an isolationist band of melancholy navel-gazers.

To them, the wind is a necessary third-party in their communications, a go-between or runner.  This fact alone makes them seem isolated, even from each other: the Roosh don’t speak directly to each other; they speak to the wind, and the wind carries their words for them.  Generally, the Roosh aren’t troubled by this.  They know that if they show the proper respect for the wind, it will carry their messages faithfully.

Showing the proper respect means that the Roosh are always alert to the wind’s subtleties—its direction, its shifts, the strengths of its bursts and softer undertones, the temperature of its notes.  It means, too, that the Roosh are forbidden to make any gesture that defies the wind—to speak, spit, or flatulate into the wind is a terrible blasphemy.

But it’s true that the Roosh have uncertainties that other peoples don’t think of.  Say a Roosh mother speaks to the wind, the wind carries her message to her son, but the son doesn’t behave as she expects.  Suddenly her faith in the wind is shaken ever so slightly, and she can’t help but wonder if the wind has played a trick and changed her words before they reached her son.  Or if a lover’s pleas get no response from his beloved, he wonders if his messages are even reaching her ears.  He curses the wind, grows melancholy and withdrawn, and concludes we are all prisoners of our own skin, at the mercy of fickle winds, ultimately unknown and unknowable to others.

The Roosh are most afraid of the rare days when there is no wind at all and a deadly silence settles on the plains.  Talking is pointless, then, and everything that had seemed worthwhile only yesterday now seems static and foolish.  Leaders are unable to make decisions, hunters don’t know where to find food, and most people stay in their tents, searching their memories for behavior that might have offended the winds.  They make all kinds of pledges to improve themselves in thought and deed, deeply agitated until the winds pick up again.  When the winds finally return, the whole village celebrates in what’s known as a rabash, or talk-circle.

The talk circles follow from the Roosh custom that in any conversation, the speaker must be upwind and the listener downwind.  Thus, when two Roosh converse, they circle around each other, chins raised in solemn respect for the wind, speaking and listening, speaking and listening, each according to his position in the talk-circle.  They often hold hands as they speak, and fast talkers look like a pair of children swinging each other around, leaning back against the sky, defying gravity with their words.

For ceremonies and celebrations, the Roosh form a huge talk circle out of the entire community.  Sometimes the person at the head of the circle (facing downwind, the honored position) will begin with the opening line of a story.  The circle then moves, slowly at first, counterclockwise, with each person in turn adding a line to the story.  Sometimes the stories recount the history of the tribe.  At other times, the stories are inventions purely for entertainment, and these often become contests of cleverness and originality in which the story swerves in surprising directions that challenge the next speaker to think quick.  The rotation speed is increased with each revolution, and then the circle becomes a game of quickness.  If a speaker stumbles over the next line, he is removed from the circle to the laughter and comic jeers of the others.  The circle then accelerates as it tightens, but also jerks to a halt more frequently as fumblers get ousted.  The last few rounds are spectacular displays of mental and physical agility, with participants swinging each other in a blur and jabbering like auctioneers.  The last two participants grab each other’s wrists and kick up a cloud of dust that blows into the ecstatic crowd.  Their words come in staccato gusts until one falters and they stop, the crowd still cheering, and hug each other while their dizziness subsides.

The Roosh have hundreds of names for the winds that blow on the plains, each of which has special significance, both individually and in combination with other winds.  The mahoon is a wind that blows from the west, steady and strong for at least a minute at a time, and wrapping itself around things, so that the Roosh feel it on both sides of their bodies at once.  Such a wind is calming and makes the Roosh believe the day will go well.  A sapooth is a wind from any direction that seems to press down from the sky, adding weight and making travel slower.  It brings messages from the sky, usually forewarnings of a difficult winter or an approaching calm.  The Roosh are fondest of the cloopit, usually out of the north-northwest, which comes in big, laughing bursts followed by teasing moments of silence.  A day of cloopit usually inspires a communal talk-circle.

When the Roosh die, their bodies are burnt in a fire pit and their ashes scattered to the winds.  The winds of the dead are never spoken of by name.  They swirl aloft, carrying the ashes of hundreds of generations, all spinning in an endless talk circle for those among the living who will lift their chins and listen.