The Basque Wind

A cave on Anboto associated with Mari.
A cave on Anboto associated with Mari.

Fancy a romantic travelogue, or maybe a mythic tale of elemental passions? Don’t let Anne Wilding’s “The Basque Wind” carry you away …

Iker first came to her on a day out with friends, stopping in Durango to admire the Lariz Tower, taking the bus to Atxondo, then walking through the valley, past the nestling hamlet of San Miguel, to gaze up at Anboto Mountain.

“Legend has her there.” A friend gestured the expanse of cave-pitted rock. Mari — goddess, weather, wind.

Iker felt her presence in the breeze blowing salty mist over the grass, lingering in his clothes on the bus home, on his skin undressing for bed. 

The next day he returned alone and scrambled up the brutal mountainside to her cave, somehow knowing where.

Mari was accustomed to lovers. All adored her, then forgot adoration on returning to husbands and wives. But Iker came monthly, weekly, moved to Durango and climbed Anboto every day.

With this new love she blew softer. At first the people were glad: “What gentle weather!”

Then autumn’s leaves rotted on the trees and in spring the buds were sparser for it. Flowers grew thin on the uncomposted ground.  

One day, as they lay in the half-sun at her cave’s entrance, he said, “I will live up here, survive on birds and rats.”

The breeze halted for an imperceptible second, began again with a little gasp.

That night all Biscay heard her mournful sighs — in chimneys, alleyways, the orange-tiled rooves of ancient farmhouses.

The sound made lovers clutch one another closer, crying for their own mortality and the separation death would one day bring.

Next morning, before Iker came, Mari took her deepest breath. For hours she inhaled salt, mist, mulch, till the air hung still in the valley and wise folk said, “A wind is waiting to blow.”

Before his body smashed against the Lariz Tower, the people of San Miguel, Atxando, Durango, say they heard the young man laughing for joy as he flew on the wind.

Anne Wilding is an English language teacher, originally from the UK and living in the Basque Country. Her work is inspired by the natural landscape and the stories of people she meets. She has stories published in The Same, Montana Mouthful, 101 Words, Microfiction Mondays and on the podcast The Wireless Reader. She’s not on Twitter, but you can get an idea of what inspires her on instagram @anniewilding.

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