Tuesday, January 25, 2022

What the River Sang

A few rays of winter sunlight find the stream bed in the woods with its drifts of meringue snow, its gloss of ice and exposed current of stones.

In May, there were small rippling waterfalls and gurgling musics all the way along the little hillside river, and I passed many happy (and soggy) hours engaged in the activity known in my clan as "tuning the waterfalls". Fetchingly shod in wellies and carrying a rusty hoe, I traveled the waterway every week or two, removing dead leaves, twigs and other debris so the water could sing on its journey down the hill and through the woods to the beaver pond on the other side of the Two Hundred Acre Wood. Birds sang in the overstory as I worked, the cascade sparkled, and sunlight flickered through the old trees.  The river told me wonderful stories as I splashed about.

Tuning waterfalls is a Zen kind of activity, and an exercise in mindfulness for sure. One has to be truly in the moment and engaged in the exercise at hand, the simple uncluttered (or uncluttering) matter of helping the river sing. She has to stop hoeing occasionally to receive instructions from the water, and she has to listen carefully to what it is saying. One never removes all the fallen leaves, pebbles and sticks; a few must remain as grace notes in the wild hillside symphony.  As Wendell Berry wrote:

There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.
In the depths of this icy winter, the river on my hill in the Lanark highlands is silent, but I can still hear it singing over the stones as it did in May. For this ever baffled and oft impeded elderly female, that is a fine old thing.

1 comment:

Mystic Meandering said...

I just love this... "tuning the waterfalls"! - deeply listening to its song. Reminds me of when I was a child and I'd go into the woods by our house to hear the sound of the little tribulette running (i.e. playing its tune). How wonderful it would be to return to that place, that innocence, that deep listening of where it wants to go. Even the water running down the sides of the road where I lived after a rainfall spoke to me :) You've inspired me today! Thank you :)