“In every walk with nature
one receives far more
than he seeks.”
Awaking to a day of frustration embroiled with lack of focus and an inability to get back into writing, I lay in bed, my mind surfing into crevices, trying to find another trick to release me from a stuck-in-sludge zone. As the welcomed cool breeze from our open windows washed across my bare arms and face, I thought of Helena, an instructor at the Spalding Writers’ Retreat in Buenos Aires. Like this stimulating air, her lecture on writing and being a writer had been refreshing. This gorgeous, shapely, stylish, figure at the front of the room had the ability to empower us all. From South Africa, her accented, soft, articulate voice filled the room and our minds.
“Get out. Commune with Nature,” jetted from her mouth as easily as a hello, though her style was patently urban, not outdoorsy. She had slightly waved, long, light brown hair, which she gently, from time to time, flicked back from her eyes with a long slender finger. Dressed in high-heeled leather boots, fitted blue jeans, a long black v-necked cashmere sweater and a muted olive green and turquoise silk scarf casually draped around her neck. “When you can’t seem to put a word on paper, the so-called writer’s block, take a walk. Listen. Feel. Let all your senses receive.”
She marched to the other side of the room, paused, turned abruptly with her scarf and hair swinging, and looking each of us right in the eye, “You are a vessel,” she enunciated with her melodious accent. “An enormous vessel. Let all of nature’s smells, sounds, textures, sights flow into you—an empty vessel.” She continued, “You’re working, you know, when you’re just doing this…taking a walk, sitting in a restaurant or café. And when you sit down at the keyboard and type, it’s just dictation. The creative work has been done. All that you have taken into the vessel spills out into your fingers.” She stretched her slim, elegant hands out in front of her. “It’s yours. Use every bit of it.”
So this morning I did just what she said. I took an early morning walk with our five dogs. Past the horse barn, around the pond, through the woods. The path lined on both sides with tall pine trees, meandered where I could, occasionally, encounter a deer or wild turkeys. The path crossed a gurgling stream, finally opening into a field, which my husband had cleared of crowded spruce to build a pond for the wildlife, and had planted field grasses and trees—maple, oak, pine, birch, willow and dawn redwoods. He calls this area “The Park.” And there, above the pond overlooking the area, I sat down on the weathered, wooden bench.
I looked. I listened. I took off my shoes. I closed my eyes. And it happened. I became an audience of one to a magical, uplifting and energizing concert. The small stream from the mountain trickled over and around the rocks as I heard the soft, strumming of fingers over the strings of a harp. A sparrow entered as a piccolo, trilling a slurred, upward three-note passage. A woodpecker engaged a snare drum into several repeated triplets. A distant owl, further up the mountain, occasionally added a gentle sustained note of a French horn. Wind gusts made their way through the woods, participating with a pianissimo to the gradual swell of a kettledrum. While crickets were pulsating a vibrato with bows on violins, a crow or two would add a slash of a harsh bow on a cello. When the winds reached the pond, small ripples captured the morning sun to add a dance of glittering stars. Through all of this, all five dogs lay quietly at my feet. I grabbed and released the earth with my toes as I let the sounds and sights gush into my vessel.
Suddenly, a high E of a clarinet pierced the soft air as the resident red-tail hawk darted through the bucolic stage. Instantly, all the other music ceased. The quiet amplified his cry. He dove and then soared up and out and then dove again, his screech filling the empty orchestra pit. With his last dive and climb, he disappeared back over the tree line, leaving my dogs and me to the sounds of silence.
I sat for a while and waited. Only the leaves were sighing. Helena was right. I felt filled with energy and inspiration. I stood up, then looked down at my dogs. “Let’s go to the writing studio. The concert’s over.”