Election night, 2008, we danced to the music of a traveling band from Italy. The band had been performing in Ashland earlier in the week. While they were in town, they commissioned sleeping quarters in the home of a friend of mine. We’d heard that they were very good. “World class musicians” we were told. We invited them to play for us. They agreed, and so it was that on the night of the election of our new American President, an international crowd gathered in Ashland to celebrate the democratic victory.
The band members consisted of five handsome men with an unmistakable European air about them. Their instruments were percussion, violin, bass, french horn, and keyboard. We waited in great anticipation for the music to begin, wondering what beat would be woven into the elixir of excitement that wafted through this evening of new experiences. There were other international travelers among us; a mother and daughter from Chile, and a husband and wife from Japan. There was joyful gaiety in the midst of broken accents and truncated sentences.
And then it began. The music started quickly, and with great enthusiasm. It was a rapid pulse of energy and beat. The room began to fill with expanding notes that rose up from vibrating instruments and moved toward us in a great mass like a swarm of bees. Within minutes we were immersed in a riot of sound and pulsation. Our senses seemed overcome by this new and unfamiliar experience of music, much in the way just a few hours earlier reality morphed into the surreal when following the emotional speech of our new president elect, the embrace of members of an African American family and a Caucasian family was televised throughout the world.
It seemed fitting on this night that no one among us could adequately describe the nature of the music we were hearing. In my attempts at characterization I came up with something like a fusion of polka and the music of Syrtaki, the dance of Zorba the Greek. During one sequence there were hints of the Adams Family theme song. But as the evening carried on, one by one our bodies began to resonate with this curious vibration, and then lead us to the dance floor. The sensation of new sounds and movements carried us well into the night.
The following morning, as usual, I suited up with leash and baggie and headed into the forest with my dog. It was a beautiful late autumn morning in Ashland, with rain and wind and sleet as I headed to the trail. Raindrops danced on my cheeks while the whole of my body received the melodic whisperings of the wind. The freshness of the morning invigorated my senses. The forest was vibrant. I swung open my arms and invited its vibrancy to permeate my heart, shaking loose old paradigms and patterns and thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This, this now, this is a time for great change. And I prayed to the wind and trees, the earth and sky that I be readied for the task of self transformation that lay before me.
As Krista and I made our way to the upper trail, the movements of the election night dance reawakened within my being. Through the wind and rain and fallen leaves I began to undulate with dance, feeling the trees around me like the audience of onlookers during my dance of the evening before. I felt powerful! The music, the dance, the energy, my spirit and freedom – “what power this is” I thought! To dance in the forest with the trees as my witness, knowing that the energy I was expressing moved through each of them, to another, and another, and from this forest to the next until all of God’s creation had felt me.
I shuttered with the audacity of my thought! “Is it possible”, I wondered in silent communication with the trees, “that I could have such an effect upon creation?” And the trees answered, “do we have such an effect upon you?”
Yes! Yes! I feel the forest’s influence upon my life in remarkable ways. The energy of its expression cultures my thoughts. It remedies my restless heart, and freshens my spirit. I feel the dance of the forest. And I am a part of it. The wave and expression of energy that I think of as my own does not come from me. It is the music of life flowing through me. I am but one of its many dancers as the forest through the trees.
Krista, totally engrossed now watching the squirrels as they leap from limb to limb, barks to them to come down and play a proper game of chase. Although she doesn’t stand a chance at catching one of them, I have never seen her enthusiasm for the games with the squirrels dampen. For dogs, I’ve noticed, and likely squirrels too, it truly is about the journey and not the destination. I wondered, then, at the prospect of a world awakening with renewed passion for creating a peaceful planet and good will toward all mankind.
In our silent moments together on this rainy November morning, the forest, Krista and I concurred that it is surely time for us all to dance again!