Herb Benham

Herb Benham

The Bakersfield Californian

I am fond of wind. Wind is the evidence of things unseen. If faith were weather, it would manifest itself as wind.

“I’m having trouble sleeping,” Sue said the other night. “The wind chimes are too loud.”

“The wind chimes are too loud?”

I thought I’d heard everything. When you have been married for a spell, it takes a lot to surprise you. I was surprised. This was a lot.

People have to sleep. I know that. They have to fall asleep in a timely manner, stay asleep through the first three or four hours and then fight their way through the sometimes difficult 2 to 4 a.m. period, which can derail all but the soundest sleepers.

I am a friend to sleep. Sympathetic to my fellow sleepers. The first thing I ask in the morning is “How did you sleep last night?” I want the person to whom I am married, or guests, to approach the day as rested, eager and wide awake as I am most mornings.

The wind chimes are keeping you up? Dogs, trains, low-flying aircraft, sirens, I’ve heard of many hindrances to sleep, but never wind chimes.

Everyone likes wind chimes. Wind chimes are like Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and four-leafed clovers. They are the puppy that never grows up, the toddler who still mispronounces her r’s and the cinnamon roll with a pat of melting butter on it.

“I’ve never heard of anybody who doesn’t like wind chimes,” I said. “I am stunned.”

I wish you had told me you didn’t like wind chimes before we were married. I would have like to have known that. While I expected some turbulence, I thought we were a team when it came to wind and wind chimes.

Wind chimes are made by gentle people in religious orders who live at 16,000 feet. They eat gruel, healthy gruel, but gruel. Wind chimes are how they pay for their gruel.

These gentle people are not just hanging a bunch of metal tubes or bamboo shoots together willy nilly — a short one and two long ones separated by a piece of gnarled driftwood. When the metal or bamboo brush against one another, the sound is designed to have a soothing effect on its listeners and make them less argumentative.

“Can’t you take the wind chimes down when it gets really windy?” she said.

Take the wind chimes down? Who takes wind chimes down? Once wind chimes go up, they stay up unless a vine grows in their midst and needs untangling.

Take the wind chimes down? Wind chimes aren’t in play that often. Wind chimes require wind. Most of the time it’s not windy. This is not the Mojave Desert, Pistol River or Tornado Alley.

This is Bakersfield. We are grateful for the mildest spring breeze. We are thankful for the occasional sturdy winds that blow the discolored air over the mountains.

“I’ll bet if you asked your readers, you’d find that a lot of people don’t like wind chimes,” she said.

Don’t like wind chimes? My readers love wind chimes. My readers sleep through the night like baby chinchillas to the tinkling of the wind chime symphony.

“Would you like some ear plugs?” I asked, offering a pair that I don’t think I had used from a previous airline flight.

They were still in the small, folding cardboard box so I assumed they were new.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said, staring at the box.

The wind died later that night. The wind chimes returned to their quiet, neutral almost invisible state.

“How did you sleep?” I asked.

“Well,” she said.

Good. There is hope for you. Not much, but some. Robert Louis Stevenson and I have faith this poem may help:

"I saw you toss the kites on high

And blow the birds about the sky;

And all around I heard you pass,

Like ladies' skirts across the grass — 

O wind, a-blowing all day long,

O wind, that sings so loud a song!"


Although I appreciate the concern, I do not have lymphoma. Sunday's column was about Alan Wright, an old college friend, who has been recently diagnosed with lymphoma. While I am concerned for my friend, I have never felt better. 


Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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