All of my adult life I have tried to discover the most electric, stimulating, lifeforce-charging and lifeforce-changing music I could find at that particular moment in time. One of my high school boy friends told me dismissively that I lived as if I was in a movie. And why not? What does a movie have that life does not? A soundtrack. I have been trying to find a solution for real life’s particular failing from the time I could swing in my grandparents’ backyard and make up my own scraps of music.
But perhaps nature does have its own soundtrack.
While watching a documentary called “Muscle Shoals” about the seminal soul music created in the 1960s and 1970s in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, I heard an oral story handed down to a man of the Yuchi Native American tribe from his great, great grandmother.
The Yuchi (also spelled Euchee or Uchee) people originally lived in the Eastern Tennessee River valley in what is now central Tennessee. They lived alongside the Tennessee River which they called Nunnuhsae, meaning “the river that sings”. The Yuchi people believed that a young girl lived in the river, sang her river song, and thereby protected them. Then the white people came and built dams in the Tennessee River Valley and muted the river girl’s song. And it seemed that they could hear the song no more. But the Yuchi people believed that in the quiet places, you can still hear her sing.
Listening to a babbling brook or gurgling spring captures the essence of living, as it moves, constantly changes, and somehow stills the troubled mind. However, not many of us live beside a lake, river, beach, creek, or stream. But when it rains we can hear the sound of moving water which is a symphony of natural wonder. Lord knows it rains seldom enough here in East Tennessee, that I look at rain as an exciting, replenishing miracle for my garden and for me.
In the movie “Wild Mountain Thyme”, written for the screen by John Patrick Shanley based on his play “Outside Mullingar”, a young woman named Rosemary farmed her family’s land alone after the death of her parents. On the next farm, Anthony lived on his family’s farm with his father.
Anthony confided to Rosemary that after his mother died he could no longer see colors, and asked Rosemary, “Where do we go when we die? The sky?”
Rosemary replied, “The ground.”
Anthony said, “Then what’s the sky for?”
Rosemary: “The sky’s for now. The sky is for now.”
So we have the river, the rain, the sky. And as our country’s young poet laureate Amanda Gorman said on Inauguration Day 2021:
There is light if we are brave enough to see it.Amanda Gorman, January 2021
There is light if we are brave enough to be it.
May we heed the call and listen to the natural rhythms of the Earth around us, and be wise enough to live by them.
~ Anna – 5/30/2021