Sitting in the corner of my room is an acoustic guitar with a worn neck and several dents to prove it’s travelled with me over the years. I began teaching myself guitar in high school; I hoped my ability to sing an acoustic ballad might cancel out the scrawny physique and rumors I wore head gear with my braces each night. It became increasingly apparent, however, that I had very little future in music. My fingers fumbled over the strings like drunk spiders, and my voice was still breaking and was not aided by my braces which gave me a lisp and my singing the overall impression of a duck having it’s feet steamrolled.
Over the years, persistence with the instrument has contributed to something one might call confidence. My voice stopped breaking and my fingers sobered with experience. Eventually I found it in myself to string one chord next to another and even attach lyrics to some of melodies I created. I suppose these would be called songs though it’s rare that anyone hears them. These songs are really just conversations between myself and the Divine, with no room for an audience.
I was down along the shoreline yesterday on a cold spring evening, the type that makes it seem as though the calendar has jumped straight to autumn. It was a blustery day and the tide was receding against the wind, providing the water with a consistent chop as it rushed against the rocks on the shore. The sun wasn’t out and the coast was blanketed in a dense fog. The world felt barren and remote, dead and cold.
But every now and then, the wind would cease and I’d find myself surrounded with stillness. In the midst of this peace, I was mesmerized by the sounds of calm. The water, now driven by a recent dream of the wind, pushed into the rocks, which punched back to the tune of splashes and ripples. Birds chirped and peeped from the trees, perhaps to each other, perhaps to no one. When a small breeze returned it brought about the rustling of the leaves, nature’s tambourines. The entire scene was as if I’d noticed a symphony in the world around me, like I’d walked through a side door in a dark city alley, and found myself sitting in on the warmth and wonder of a famous composer’s rehearsal. The difference was that this symphony never stopped playing. This was not a rehearsal but a performance, a performance from which nature didn’t grow weary and wouldn’t cease. It was a performance that couldn’t end unless the performers themselves ceased to exist. The fact that I was there to observe their show was nothing short of grace, a little extra blessing for my day. I wasn’t the intended audience, just a fortunate man who stumbled in from the dark alley of my preconceptions.
Lately songwriting hasn’t been easy to come by. Many times I will try; I’ll pick up my guitar and sit with a notebook in hand, trying to weave the words out of thin air. But in these moments, inspiration is not to be found. Melodies fall flat, clichés smack me upside the head and instead of brilliance, I give in to silence.
But then there are nights when I find myself down by the shoreline and I realize there is no silence in the world. Because silence is the absence of testimony, it’s the absence of the rocks crying out because no one else will, it’s the absence of a Love we’ve pushed so far away it finally decided to leave. I’m glad there’s no real silence to be found in this world, that even in the silence a symphony is playing, because it’s a reminder that Love still remains. The birds sing, leaves shake and waves splash and dance their testimony to this Love.
In songs and in life, my best efforts at grandeur often turn out to be out of tune or remarkably cliché. On the other hand, my most beautiful moments are those of calm humility when I sit mesmerized before a world that knows how to worship. I have been on this planet nearly a quarter of a century and yet I’m still looking for my song to sing. Maybe this is why I’m enthralled by the rocks, the waves and the birds of the field for whom the command to free oneself from worry has become a liberating license to worship. Sometimes I’ve found that I need to listen to the simple command of Love: “Look…look at the birds of the air, the trees of the field, the waves and the wind. Look and do not worry.”
The world has a song to sing even when I do not and perhaps, sometimes, looking is my song.