River Music

    Sometimes we do not choose our river, neither its depth nor speed nor path.  Sometimes instead   we do the whitewater tumble, washing up on one shore or the other, clinging to rocks and reeds.

    Other times, we live our lives, and a river rises up to meet us in danger or in joy.

    My family has come to dwell on the winding shores of the broad and slow Merrimack River.  Sometimes in the summer, I drive myself and the dog to bask on its grassy banks.  Golda barks at everyone, and digs frantically.  I wear headphones and read voraciously, raising my head now and then to catch the sun full on my face, and water the panting animal at my feet.

    I’ve downloaded a new album from iTunes, The Talis Scholars Sing Palestrina.  Plugged into the iPod, my brain wants to do nothing more than ride the perfect waves of polyphonic sound, while my dog showers me with dirt and winds her leash around my chair. 

    Then, yesterday, in spite of the frenetic dachshund, something happened.

   My mind had floated away from printed words and swirling memes on the swell of a Palestrina Gloria.  Awash in sound and glory, I looked up and saw the Merrimack–the grassy near shore, broad expanse of shimmering water, and wooded far bank–in glory.  I gasped, because for that long instant, all the world–the trees, the sky, the little girl walking by–seemed a fountain of praise.

    I was seeing my river, my world, under a musical influence.  It was a moment I will long remember with awe and gratitude.  You should try it.

    We do not always choose our river, neither depth nor speed nor path.  But often we can choose the music.

    There is a chant I have repeated so many times it springs unbidden to my mind and my lips when I am afraid, need guidance, or know no other words:  V’ahavta et Adonai Eloheha,  And you shall love the Lord your God.  It is from the Torah and in the prayerbook.  I sing automatically it when the plane is taking off and when it is landing, when someone is being born or near death.  When the River rises to meet me in danger or in joy, the V’ahavta rises within me to either hold or kiss it back.

     We cannot always choose our river, but we can sometimes choose the music, and if we choose often enough and wisely, the music becomes part of the river, and we are that much closer to the One.         

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