Photo by Steve Johnson on

Gusts rattle the metal cabin roof, light breezes create a rustle in the dried brown leaves of the surrounding oaks. Wind can be heard in the distance, an approaching low-level roar that builds until all is immersed. I like to imagine the vast sheets of wind traveling across the plains of Indiana and western Ohio, arriving at our outpost along the glacial till, land of soft hills and wide valleys.

How happy was I to discover the word ‘psithurism,’ defined as ‘the sound of the wind in the trees and the rustling of the leaves.‘ It’s an onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like its meaning. In the pines, I become taller, longer, more fully upright as I listen to psithurism. It’s a community of UP out there in the woods.

Alexander Technique teacher, Frank Pierce Jones said ‘anything can be regarded as the stimulus to which you choose the response of lengthening and freeing.‘ Anything. Choosing ease and length when captivated by psithurism is an easy choice. Choosing to ‘think up’ in response to fear is quite another.

We resist expressions of fear, such as shaky knees, sweaty palms, pounding heart, by ‘pulling down,‘ successfully dulling sensation, making ourselves smaller, contracting. There’s a time and a place for that response, but not when there is a show to perform, a song to sing, a line to deliver. We can choose, even when the stimulus is fear; ease and space. This is precisely what Barbara Conable encourages us to practice in her primer, How to Learn the Alexander Technique. Her advice is ‘Embody the fear.’ Feel it, choose to not ‘numb out’ and ‘think up’ instead.

Now we’re talking! And moving, and singing, and dancing, and, and, and….

2 thoughts on “Psithurism

  1. Steph April 19, 2021 / 4:39 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful description. It brought much-needed peace.


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