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Singing the Wind
A bird...sings because it has a song.
— Chinese proverb
I love to sing. Well, more accurately, I should say, I can remember when I was a child how I loved to sing, dancing around the house singing along with my mother's opera records at the top of my lungs, just loving the feel of the music in my body and the joyful expression as a spirit. I still want to love to sing, but years of training and criticism and competition made it not such a joy, and indeed, had silenced my singing voice almost completely.
But I believe it is natural for each of us to sing, just as natural for us as humans to sing as it is for birds. Our songs are as much a part of nature as bird songs. In times past, we humans sang much more frequently than we do now--around the piano, in pubs, in church, even while working. The Australian Aborigines measured space by singing while they walked--"songlines" are intricate song cycles that identify landmarks and subtle tracking mechanisms for navigation, often evoking how the features of the land were created and named by the spirits during the Dreaming, when they created and named the trees, rocks, waterholes, animals and other natural phenomena. Traditional songs from around carry the sounds and sentiments of a place, a mother's lullaby sings her love to her child's heart to heart. Songs are our natural music that each of us can make for ourselves.
Today, in our consumer world, recorded music has replaced live, and we pay stars to sing for us.
I know I have songs within me that are my songs, my natural music. And I have wanted to express these songs. But, of course, the trivia of daily life often seems more important.
In 2007, I think, while visiting San Francisco (I lived in Florida at the time) a friend invited me to a singing circle.
When I lived in rural West Marin County, California, I belonged to a singing circle. It was all women. We met once a month in the evening, outdoors, under the full moon. We sang empowering songs, some written by members. We had songsheets with words and learned to sing in harmony.
This singing circle was different.
The woman who organized the circle had the idea that she wanted to have a place where she could just "sing from her heart," not written songs, but just whatever sound that came forth from her, without thinking. She chose an outdoor setting at the top of a hill in a park, and brought a CD of a simple drone and flute. She played this CD and invited us to make whatever sound we chose.
What happened was very interesting to me. I had often wondered in the past how composers and songwriters come up with music. In music composition class, it was always hard for me to write music. I could play music other people had written, but I couldn't write my own. Larry, who has no musical training, makes up little tunes all the time and has even written songs with words. Wonderful songs. But I, the trained musician, couldn't do that.
But this day, I just closed my eyes and listened and didn't think. I just listened and sang. I just let whatever note come out that wanted to come out. And I amazed myself. This music just poured out--high and low, with various rhythms...and wonderfully harmonious with the recorded music and the other women. Passersby stopped to listen.
This is how I always wanted to sing, just free and joyful and natural. And I saw that I could.
Near the end, I had an experience that delighted me. I knew intellectually that my voice is a wind instrument (isn't that amazing, that our bodies are actually musical instruments!!!!) but on the top of that hill, with the wind blowing in off the Pacific Ocean, I was actually breathing in the wind with every breath. And as I exhaled each sound, the wind carried it off to wherever it was going. The wind was literally blowing right through my body, singing through my vocal cords.
For me, this was another opportunity to experience the fact that Nature isn't somewhere "out there," separate from me, but right with me--even in me--all the time.
Every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.
— John Muir