Tag Archives: Nature

(364) Stay Tuned

Yesterday a friend gave me this awesome shirt:

StayTuned

I decided it was perfect for my musings today. I am typing this as I go, after thinking about the theme a lot, after going to Lakes Park and sitting in my power spot. Here goes…second last post!

**

Moving toward 2016, I understand my life is going to be more and more about sound. How the world sounds. How I sound. How we sound to each other.

Walking in the park today, I was behind two people who both had ear buds in, yet were talking loudly to each other. They obviously were listening to something, but decided it was important to communicate.  But here was my thought: If we really want to hear each other, we should be cognizant of shutting out other noise. It is like the people who talk on the phone when the television is on. Why?

**

This year has opened me up to sound. I planned a whole vacation around sound. We heard bluegrass music and blues music and synthesized music and musicians talking about the sounds specific instruments make, the sound of Jim and I singing together in the music booth at the Birthplace of Country Music, the sound of the Flint, the Cumberland, and the French Broad Rivers, the sound of old blues musicians wafting across Dockery Farms, the sound of The City of New Orleans speeding next to Money Road in the Delta. These sounds have stayed with me and I call on them from time to time.

Today as I walked I brushed my hand through all the palm fronds I passed. “How can I duplicate that sound” was my constant question.

**

Paul Simon had an exhibit on his songwriting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I was unable to get there, so I purchased the exhibit booklet. In it is Simon’s speech when he was inducted into the Rock Hall.  He said:

I thank Sam Phillips for Sun Records, for rockabilly’s Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, whose recording of ‘Mystery Train’ remains my all-time favorite. I spent a career trying to get that sound.

This stood out to me for many reasons. First, because “Mystery Train” is my favorite Elvis tune, mostly because of the way it sounds. And second, because this came late in the book and I had already read Simon’s words over and over again about trying to get to a sound.  The exhibit was called “Words and Music,” but from what I read it was really about sound.

As I stay tuned to the sounds in my life, I am looking to get them into any music I create. My music teacher talked mainly about sound when I told him I wanted to write songs. Silly me — I thought it was about lyrics. Seems that isn’t always the case.

Not sure why I’m just learning that.

**

A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook:

Soundmeme

We are the music we love. I want to do this experiment. Tell me the song that matters most to you, and I will listen for you in it.

**

Years ago I heard that our DNA, when related to various musical notes, creates a different musical composition for every person. This idea has never left me, and continues to intrigue. Today I found there is a website for it (of course there is) where you can actually send in your DNA information and the type of music you like, and they will create the composition for you. Here is a future birthday present!

If interested, check it out here.

They have created songs for all kinds of things, including this one for whales:

 

So, yes, sound is in our very DNA.

With sound comes vibration. This is why crystal bowl meditation and bells during ritual services and chanting monks lift us to new dimensions. Sounds and vibrations are our lifeblood. They can heal or poison.

**

As I finish up this blog, my plan is to stay tuned to the Five Questions in my life. They have truly become a part of me during this journey, and now I cannot imagine living life without seeing it through the lens of the Five Questions. Not writing about it will free me up to be in the moment, to search for the sound in the message, to stay tuned to doing the next right thing. All year long I have been listening, and this message comes to me continually like a drumbeat.

Listen.

Here (hear).

Now.

 

 

 

(359) Visions

Here I continue with Encyclopedia of Ordinary Life, the letter “V.”  Not sure how ordinary visions are, but they have been a driving force for me.

August 1994

I’m walking on the trail in the Cuyahoga National Valley on a muggy summer weekday. As I walk, I feel “lifted” out of my body.  Everything around me looks alive and moving ever so slightly. Then I saw her.  A woman, well advanced in age (what we might call a crone), sitting on a rock in the woods with children gathered around her. She has gray hair, pulled back. She is wearing a long skirt. The children are apt with attention. I have no idea who this woman is, but I see her clearly. Then she’s gone.

Later I realized that somehow she is an incarnation of me.

September 1997

I have decided I want to learn an instrument, my first choice being a mandolin. My husband Jim suggests I start with a guitar. We walk into Sam Ash Music Store and start looking at the Martin guitars. The salesman takes one down, and I practice strumming it. For a few minutes Jim and the salesman walk away, leaving me alone with the guitar. I am in love with the sound it makes.

Then I see her.   A woman on a high stool, singing songs about mythology to a small audience. I can see her right there in the store, and this time I know that somehow she is me.

We buy the guitar.

Reflection 2015

I am not sure if I have ever had any other “visions” because these are the two that were most meaningful to me. I was in an incredibly interesting time in my life — my late 30’s to early 40’s.  In the next few days I will be sharing a lot of what happened during that time, the things that really drove me, and led me to the life I lead today.

I have not yet turned my guitar into a vehicle for songwriting, but feel that day is near. I am not yet the crone with the children gather around, but I do think of this vision whenever I think of giving up teaching. Somehow I am meant to be a teacher and somehow I am to make this vision become a reality in full. When I first saw this vision, I didn’t even know I was going to become a teacher. That wouldn’t be revealed until three years later.

As I wind up this blog, I will be revisiting all the things that have mattered the most to me. I think it will be the perfect way to end up this year of exploring the Five Questions I’ve been on — certainly another journey that has inspired me in ways yet to discover.

(358)Christmas Eve, Lighthouse Beach

Lighthouse2

All

It’s all just water

this life

all aspects

coming, going

waves, ripples,

floods, waterfalls,

condensation, clouds,

humidity, dew, and frost.

Lighthouse1

Phantom

Fort Myers Beach, a

phantom in the distance

a haze of buildings

blending to white

cloud sky.

Lighthouse3

Grounding

On the ground

Healing in motion

comes up from the earth

through my spine

       to my mind and heart.

The waves sounds

constant and rhythmic,

coming through my

chest cavity

my ear cavity

       to my mind and heart.

The sun direct on me

warm, but not hot

drenching me in its

yellow goodness

       brightening my mind and heart.

Lighthouse4

Waves

How do I love

     that wave

Yes — the one

that happened

in the time it

      takes for a breath

     in and out.

How do I love it in

all of its white frothy

glory, saying to me,

I’m here,

I’m gone,

it was fun.

How do I love the next

wave, and the next?

Why is there so much to love?

 

(357) Twilight Wine

It began the day I bought Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. It was April 2000, and my life was very close to changing drastically, as our move to Florida was right around the corner.

On this particular Saturday I had picked up the Davis CD at a good sale price. I had no idea if I would like it — I had just heard many times that it was very good. It was twilight, and I took a glass of wine and decided just to sit in my upstairs room alone and listen to the music, while I watched the changing light out my window.

I cannot really explain what happened. I’ve often likened it to a religious experience. This jazz music, created in 1959, moved me deeply. But not in a way I can put my finger on. All I know is that when it was done, something had moved inside of me.

MilesDavis.KindOfBlueRemastered1-300x300

I tried to recreate the experience, but once something like this happens, it is hard to ever reinvent the the feeling. I still love listening to Kind of Blue, but it is always in the shadow of that first time.

Then last weekend I was talking to my music teacher, Tom, about writing songs. We discussed writing music and writing lyrics, the processes involved. Then he mentioned Kind of Blue. “Those songs don’t need lyrics,” he said. “It is all said in the harmonics and melodies of the music.”

Tom had named what I had been unable to verbalize. I was so stunned by what he said, I couldn’t even respond. That was what I had experienced. It is in the music. Words are not needed.

Somehow, during that Twilight Wine evening fifteen years ago, I heard all I needed to hear come through the currents and rhythms of a master and his band. When I said it was like a religious experience it is because it spoke to me on a level that I did not have direct access to. Trying to paint any fancy words on the experience diminishes it somehow.

So that’s it. Twilight, wine, and Miles.

Nothing more needs to be said.

(355)Miracle

It was a winter day in early 1992. I was driving my Buick Regal to a meeting across town. I was taking a two lane road that cut through a valley, which entailed going down a hill. Unfortunately, it had just begun to snow–the wet, slippery kind of snow. Salt trucks had not made it out yet, as they were quite good about getting the hill salted quickly in these kinds of circumstances.

When I got to the hill, I found myself in a line of traffic. Immediately I felt my car slip a bit, so I began to pump the brake. This is the recommended procedure. But it didn’t help. My car continued to slip and slide as I descended the hill. And then I realized my steering was not working. I found myself in the opposite lane heading for a collision with a pick-up truck. I was unable to do a thing. I was pumping the brakes like mad, to no result. Steering still was not working. I found myself suddenly back in my own lane (miracle!) and that is when I decided just to let it all go. I had this moment where I just gave it up to the Angels. If I plow into the guard rail, so be it.

Then I found myself at the bottom of the hill. My steering was reinstated. I had not crashed. I pulled over into the feed store parking lot, shaking profusely. I called Jim on my car phone (yes, I had one of those!) and related what happened. Neither of us could figure out how my steering had disengaged.  I felt the Angels had protected me.

About a year later, we visited a car show. My lease was going to be up, and I was shopping for a new brand. The big selling point for the cars was a thing called “anti-lock brakes.”  We spoke with a saleswoman at the Infinity dealership, and asked, “What’s the big deal with anti-lock brakes.” She explained that in unstable conditions, the brakes will lock up causing the steering to go out. Bingo!  That is exactly what had happened to me on that hill. The brakes and the steering were useless to me. When I stopped trying to steer and pump the brakes, my car was able to make use of those mechanics once again.

So, perhaps the entire event had nothing to do with angels, and more to do with technology. Still, I recall that moment of just giving it over, knowing anything could happen, and not having any attachment to the outcome as one of the most important moments of my life. I opened the door to a miracle. And I received.

(345) Recharge

 

 

arrival

Back to my Power Spot this morning, nestled in, 68 degrees and bright warm liquid sun. A few birds calling here and there — it’s a New Moon; I have come to ground myself in knowing I know the truth. To ground myself in trusting that truth.

Tall grasses sway

I turn my face to the sun.

Water still below

ducks

Allowing what is.

Oblivious to my thoughts,

two ducks troll by me.

P.S. It was a perfect day.

(344) Dangling Conversation

This morning I stepped out onto the lanai at around 5:30 a.m. to say my prayers. I listened to the frogs conversing across the lake. One would croak, and then across the way another. After a bit I realized there were three frogs involved. Sometimes there would be a break in their croaks. That brought to mind the phrase “dangling conversation.” I would be eagerly awaiting the next croak that would not come.

“The Dangling Conversation” is a song written by Paul Simon and performed on Simon and Garfunkel’s album “Sounds of Silence.” I looked up the words today and, although it has nothing to do with frogs, it certainly has a lot to say about relationships. I have contended for many years that Simon is our greatest American songwriter, and this is another example of why. You don’t even have to know the song to appreciate the poetry in these lyrics. How he could evoke something like this at such a young age is truly marvelous.

Every year I think I am going to do a lyric study with my students on Paul Simon’s songs.  Reading these words makes me think once again what a great unit it could be. This song along is so full of subtle metaphor and hints of who these people are. My favorite: “And I only kiss your shadow…”

It’s a still-life watercolor
Of a now late afternoon
As the sun shines through the curtain lace
And shadows wash the room
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
The borders of our lives

And you read your Emily Dickinson
And I my Robert Frost
And we note our places with bookmarkers
That measure what we’ve lost
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm
Couplets out of rhyme
In syncopated time
And the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
Are the borders of our lives

Yes,we speak of thing that matter
With words that must be said
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is the theatre really dead?”
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow
I cannot feel your hand
You’re a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
In the borders of our lives

 

(340) Wood Stork

In the middle of the night a couple of evenings ago, I heard this line of poetry in my head:

There comes a time you leave a place…

I made myself get up and write it down because I knew I would forget.

**

wood stork
Photo via Sarah Kaizar’s blog, 2013

Yesterday morning on the way back from my music lesson, I saw a wood stork flying above the road over Harlem Heights. I felt there was a poem there. Ever since my workshop with Nick Flynn, I have been paying close attention to images that stay with me. This wood stork is one. Not only that, but my friend Laurie and I had a short conversation about wood storks yesterday.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so!

Today I combined these into a poem, which  includes a lyric from a song that naturally seemed to fit right in.

There comes a time

you leave a place

of knowing.

And instead

take time to just listen.

Look:

The energy swirling around you

has a purpose.

The wood stork wafts over the road

intent to fly against the draft,

and is pushed back.

Be one with the wind,

and let the spirit take you

where your heart wants to go.

 

(333) 18 Years Ago

Today is the anniversary of the day I opened up to a new adventure in my life.  It wouldn’t be until about a month later that I actually accepted the idea into my heart. November 29, 1997 still lives vibrantly in my mind. I wrote an essay about it in 2004 and it was published in a book called Sacred Waters in 2005.  Here is my essay to commemorate that day:

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Under the Surface  (2004)

On a new moon Saturday in late November, the skies over northeastern Ohio were gray and the air had a chill.  I walked the trail through the woods near my home, a winding path through deciduous trees and pine forest.

I strolled along, kicking the leaves, taking in familiar sights and sounds. The trees were bare and the leaves were ankle-deep on the ground, pungent with the woodsy smell of rot as they returned to earth. In the distance, I heard the honking of wild geese as they migrated to a brighter place for the winter. I had only more gray days to look forward to, more cold, and probably plenty of snow.

At the end of the woods sat a lake surrounded by trees and picnic tables. My usual course was to walk right past the lake and straight to my car, drive home, and record in my journal what had transpired on my walk: usually a message from within, a creative thought, or a course of action I might want to take. On this Saturday, despite the cold, I found myself sauntering over to a table alongside the lake.

At age forty-two, I was beginning to feel the effects of midlife. The previous few years had been chaotic and demanding, and I now felt myself at a place where I could choose a new direction.

This was a solitary act if I ever knew one. I was certain I could figure it out, even though I had only a vague idea of what it might look like. I was convinced that whatever it was would come to me in a blinding flash, so I just had to wait for that moment. The wide expanse of lake reflecting the somber skies seemed to match the murkiness I felt about my own direction.

As I sat there, I watched six wild geese floating about randomly. They gathered together in a group and began to create a united voice, swimming from one lake edge to the other.

Listening to their calls, I was reminded of what poet Mary Oliver says about the sound of the wild geese — “harsh and exciting,” announcing their place in the family of things.

I felt a kind of communion with the geese as they toured the lake.  Once they reached the opposite edge, they turned around, again in unison, and it appeared they were going to swim back to where they came, like lap swimmers in a pool.

To my surprise, they suddenly took flight, in complete unison, the singing and calling continuing for several minutes afterward, as they flew toward new destinations, to warmer climates that would nourish them in the months to come.
***
I spent nearly an hour by Longwood Lake that day, coming to no conclusions about anything. Once home, I dutifully recorded my encounter with the geese, then promptly forgot about it as I got on with my day. I was a member of a local club and had some phone calls to make to members. One person I called, a friend named David, was home, and we got into a conversation on career matters.

“Helen, you should go back to school and become a teacher. You’d be so good,” he said.

I quickly denounced the idea as unworkable. After all, I had no college credits to my name, and with my current financial situation, the thought of attending college was completely outside the bounds of my imagination.

Yet, David’s suggestion didn’t leave me. For a month, I struggled with it, fought with myself over it, and loudly cursed him in the dark for mentioning it. Something under the surface was rising, something I could no longer deny.

One afternoon, desperate and alone, I found myself in my car, the heater running full blast, windshield wipers beating back wet snow, looking out across a frozen Longwood Lake. Snow lay on the surface and on the picnic table where I sat watching the geese just a few short weeks before.

I honestly don’t know what drew me to the lake — I don’t even remember deciding to go there. I shut off the car and made my way through the falling snow to a wooden fishing pier. I climbed the stairs slowly, methodically, marking my way in the snow.

I looked out across the white lake and thought about this thing bouncing around inside me, the long-held dream I never dared to dream: my desire to be a teacher. It was as if a thick layer of ice held it under the surface for more years than I care to recount.

With one swift stroke, David had broken through that ice. I had spent a lot of energy trying to fix the hole he made, instead of looking at what was seeping up to the surface. In a moment of surrender, with swirling snowflakes surrounding me, I softly said, “Yes.”
***
I live in Southwest Florida now. No wild geese visit me here. Instead, I am graced with great blue herons, snowy egrets, bald eagles, and common moorhens, all of whom come to the water for nourishment. Nearly seven years have passed since those days by Longwood Lake. Like the geese, I have found a warmer climate, a place that deeply nourishes my spirit. I have also found much more.

As I reflect on that November day in Ohio, I am convinced that mysterious forces were at work, causing a major change in my life. My time by the water created an opening, and along with the right words from a friend and a great deal of inner struggle, I found something that wasn’t lost, but was hiding.

I discovered this simple truth: finding one’s passion is a sacred act because it happens communally. No blinding revelations are required — just an open mind and a willingness to listen to that thing that calls to you from the depths.

This year I graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, and I will begin teaching middle school. The lake on which I now live continues to teach me about the family of things, the life we don’t expect, the places at which we never thought we’d actually arrive.

Like the wild geese, we may seem to be floating randomly on the water of our lives. But our Calling calls to us, causing us to lift our wings and fly, singing in unison with others, beating our way toward our previously unimaginable dreams, and the pursuit of our fantastic passions.