There are things that I consciously pack in my backpack: stove, hammock, sleeping bag, food. And so on. All the essentials and a few luxuries my back will bear.
But in the packing process, there are other items that make their way into my pack and into the woods. Subconscious little brain worms. Books I’ve read. Conversations I’ve had. Lessons I’ve taught. They are there just as real–if hidden–as those bomb-diggity campfire pizzas I created last weekend. But on the long trails, when there is nothing but time and footsteps, these mind memes rise from the surface from the depths of my sub-conscious pack where they were stuffed last week.
One of those luxurious gems of contemplation is the idea of harmonics and vibration. Last week in a study of imagery and mood in literature, I proposed this TED talk to my students. Be forewarned: it’s a bit disorienting, exploring the relationship between sound and brain function.
At any rate, while I was in the woods, I had a lot of time to lay around and listen to the woods. To some, that sounds really boring, as there seems to not be any sounds at all. But when you get to the point where you get into that quiet place where you can actually hear the woods, you recognize the rich tapestry of music, a million little symphonies–the water over rocks, the mating calls of frogs and birds, the crack of sticks and leaves underfoot, the wind grazing the leaves in casual passing–repeated in cycle, over and over and over.
Such is a blessed and rare time and place where you breathe this music all day long, waking to a morning yoga and sleeping to a gentle blanket, all set to this natural harmony. One morning, I played with a technique I learned at the Hindu Center one class that uses a vibration of breath, matching that pitch of that vibration and the rhythm of the breath to the woods around me. The body and spirit–set to the note of this harmony–radiates a palpable wellness of being. By Monday, the bites and weary legs aside, I felt myself glowing as I approached the car to drive home.
There’s a lot to get to that natural harmony back in the city, where the repitition of tardy bells and the timber of twittering, trebling teenagers tends to dictate the tunes. By the end of the week, that harmony seemed a bit more distant. But Della met me with a CD a student had made for me as a “thank you” for a rec I haven’t even written. With an early release due to exams, I popped in her eclectic mix of down-tempo electronic, and I elected an afternoon yoga class as opposed to a decent Friday Happy hour like every other sane person. There, the teacher bookended the class with music, but taught the class without, an option I usually enjoy. I’ve heard lots of music in the years I’ve taken class, from new-age, froo-froo spiritual to house remixes of the Glee soundtrack. My former philosophy students wouldn’t be surprised to know that re-mixes of chillstep to Alan Watts has become one of personal faves. But nothing beats the silence. Just you and the breath. Sometimes the absence of sound is just as sweet as the sweetest harmonies. As Keats said, “Pipes heard are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.”
Now it’s Friday evening. I haven’t put a post on this site in months, but the music and harmony of the woods has resonated something deep within me, and I’m sitting in the backyard, husky at my feet with the sound of incipient summer: the ice cream truck, the neighbors’ music, children up and down the street, and my back yard haven–birds and insects and a soft soundtrack of music a friend made me years ago. Somehow, the confluence of all things coming together a very happy hour indeed.