I spent the last few days with music therapists at their annual conference. These kind, passionate people wandered through the exhibit hall, light in their eyes, reverently handling ukeleles and tone drums, envisioning their students or clients playing and learning and growing through music.
Some work with young kids, some with geriatric populations, some with soldiers or special needs students. All of them have found a calling: to help others unlock something within themselves.
It’s a beautiful calling, laudable, human. But I don’t share it.
I like being around people like this. Intelligent, warm, determined, more concerned about their charges’ well being than their own personal advancement. I’m drawn to people like this. I’m charmed by their good intentions, the wholesomeness of their pledge, buoyed by their faith in their fellow man. There are very few people around whom I’m truly comfortable, and among music geeks like this, I felt my shield melting.
These lovely people made me ponder my own passion, the one thing in which I consistently lose myself. Yes, I play the piano–but that’s become an exercise in meditation now, a means to a different end than the exploration of music. I love sports, but not to the extent that every bit of minutia absorbs my energy and time.
No, the one thing that makes me reverent and focused and boundless is nature. Trees rocks mountains streams more trees flowers grasses dirt and yes even bugs (in limited quantities) air clouds rain snow leaves twigs blossoms buds moss anything green, anything living, anything outside. I could–and have!–sit in the woods for hours, listening to the wind and the trees pass rumors, watching the sky change moods, feel the earth slowly rotate while I cling to the surface by the will of gravity. I’ve wandered for hours in forests and fields, alone and lost only in the satisfaction, the pleasure of breathing clean air and uniting with the ground that created me. Outside, I am simply connected to God.
My garden is my way of putting something of myself into nature, a way of communicating, communing, with the growing things that make my blood flow. My summer begins in February, with the hopeful task of planting seeds of plants that will fill my September trug. Every year on April 1 (when ground is broken at the community garden), I sink my feet into the newly tilled ground, and feel the dirt respond with a welcoming rumble. For the next five months, we are gloriously reunited. I spend the summer dirty and happy and basking in foliage and sunshine. Consumed and alive.
I am a true nature geek, a believer in the sacred experience of opening myself to the power of creation. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way: one of my heroes, John Muir, http://ecotopia.org/ecology-hall-of-fame/john-muir/biography/ spent most of his life living out in the woods of what is now Yosemite Park, a mystic devoted to this majesty beyond comprehension. Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman–each of them attached to the natural world with fervent glee. It is because of Muir that we even have national parks today.
It is with this view of the world that I turn my thoughts to living in Portland. I am lucky to have a husband who understands and encourages my ardor (for arbor), who’s willing to live in a locale that satisfies my need for exploration away from mankind. His fascination with birds gives him a reason to be outside with me, and we will wander the mountains together. This is our plan.
It is because of this zeal that I am so disgusted with suburbia and all of its trappings, the concrete death of a once-verdant world.
This is who I am. Whether I can ever earn a living through such devotion remains to be seen, but I have hope. I am following this path patiently.
One of my favorite poets is Rumi, who ponders the connection between nature and spirit. I read him–and Muir and the others–as those musicians reveled in their instruments; with awe, ecstatic and bewildered, finding at last some words that approach this rapture.
In the Waters of Purity
In the waters of purity, I melted like salt
Neither blasphemy, nor faith, nor conviction, nor
In the center of my heart a star has appeared
And all the seven heavens have become lost in it.
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi
Should I ever disappear, just let me go. I’ll be in the forest, wandering, listening. I’ll return eventually to the people I love.