Concerto For A Crisis



I've been struggling with what to write these days. We're hiking more than ever to fill the empty time, yet when I sit down to write a review, the words feel forced. And not because my heart's not in it, no - my heart has never before been more tied or in tune with nature and it's source power - but because the traditional review starts to sound hollow and empty, like something left unsaid.

So I do what I always do when my own words fail me. I go searching for someone else's words to fill the void, someone who made sense of my heart's feelings, someone who jotted down its similar tune and left them someplace for me to find.


I wanted to share some of those words with you today. Maybe you'll hear the matching melody to your own heart's song and they'll help fill a void or feed some part of your soul.



Walter Prichard Eaton lived, breathed and wrote Berkshire County. A resident of Sheffield, Eaton was the first journalist to pen the "Our Berkshires" column for the Berkshire Eagle. A prolific author, he published a collection of essays in 1920 under the title, "In Berkshire Fields."


Uncertain times were a familiar subject for Eaton. The essay, "From a Berkshire Cabin" was written in August of 1918, and America was deeply embroiled in the hostilities of World War I.


We may not be in armed combat, but there's a striking comparison to these current times. Although we are living through a different type of global crisis than a World War, the parallels of our own inner and outer turmoil seem to rise to the surface like algae on a stagnant pond. A global spectre, a seemingly undefeatable enemy, and unprecedented carnage. The front lines look different - medical scrubs clothe these soldiers, not fatigues. They wear masks meant to shield microscopic bacteria instead of mustard gas, hoping the heavy antiseptic artillery thrown from the trenches is a efficacious defense.


From his, "...peaceful...quietly lonely and lovely spot where my cabin stands..." Eaton conducts a dichotomous symphony. Lilting tones trill out the tranquil beauty of his surroundings. Then the pitch sharply descends into minor key, chanting the intrinsic dissociation and discord that World War I ushered in :


"I am aware with a pang of almost intolerable sorrow of personal variety. My sin is that I have not worked for others, only for myself. We have struck the pitch of course, in a moment of national stress, when "crowd psychology" plays a large part; there is no sense of denying that. Can we hold the pitch when the tension is relaxed? Can we continue to realize that no individual happiness, no individual attainment of the beautiful, not national prosperity even, is worth much in the sight of the 'All Beautiful' unless it is part of a larger world happiness and beauty? "


Eaton wondered why we were capable of sending a massive army to fight overseas under the banner of universal humanity, but couldn't, as a nation, mobilize for a similar ideal on the homefront?


"The forest seems to whisper hope. But it is not going to be easy. Human selfishness, alas! in the form of greed has not always been scotched, even under the stress of war. Its tremendous grip on the world's affairs in times past, however, as we now see only too plainly, has been in no small measure due to the lazy selfishness of myriads of good people, who would not sacrifice their own comfort, their own delightful leisure in their ivory towers of beauty, to fight for control of the civic machinery, to make what they knew in their hearts to be the right prevail. Those times must pass.


We must descend from our mountain cabins, our towers of ivory; we must come out of our gardens, forgetting our beautiful enjoyments, or our precarious jobs which carry no attendant enjoyments, and remembering only the ideal of beauty in our hearts, the ideal of beauty which means, too, the ideal of justice and mercy and peace and happiness for each and all, demand of what rulers we shall find that they give over to us the machinery which controls our destinies, and the destinies of all our fellows.


The forest seems drowsing in its loveliness, and I am loath to leave it, to descend to the valley road, to dinner - to the Sunday papers. It is hard to come down from a mountain cabin, from an ivory tower, to give up a solitary possession or resign a comfortable privilege! "



With Earth Day on the horizon, I happened upon a different "green" holiday, seemingly forgotten.


On June 1st-3rd of 1990, the United Nations introduced the Environmental Sabbath Program.

An "International Earth Rest Day," this interfaith celebration promoted a three-day period of renewal and reflection every June for Mother Earth.

The brainchild of Dr. Noel J. Brown, the UN Environment Program published a selection of prayers, stories, meditations and other ideas that were distributed worldwide amongst multi-religious groups as a means to celebrate the Environmental Sabbath. The prayer below sang out to me as a collective song of suffering I was feeling all too well.



A Prayer of Sorrow

We have forgotten who we are We have alienated ourselves from the unfolding of the cosmos We have become estranged from the movements of the earth We have turned our backs on the cycles of life.


We have forgotten who we are.


We have sought only our own security We have exploited simply for our own ends We have distorted our knowledge We have abused our power.


We have forgotten who we are.


Now the land is barren And the waters are poisoned And the air is polluted.


We have forgotten who we are.


Now the forests are dying And the creatures are disappearing And the humans are despairing.


We have forgotten who we are.


We ask forgiveness We ask for the gift of remembering We ask for the strength to change.



The third and final verse to this literary concerto came as a result of my new job as 1st grade teacher. Wholly unqualified for this position I knew there'd be challenging days ahead, but I never expected to spend a Tuesday morning tearfully blubbering my way through a reading of "The Giving Tree"



"Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy."






One reason why Shel Silverstein's artfully simplistic story has such universal appeal, is that for everyone, it can be understood differently. There's no set way to decipher it, no singular moral to glean.


One might take this story as the foolish epitome of human selfishness, while another may see this as the sorrowful representation of the lengths someone will go for the things they love.

At its core, it's a profoundly beautiful story about unconditional love and sacrifice, succinctly juxtaposing our sometimes selfish and frivolous human values against the humble goodness of pure, selfless love and limitless kindness. It was the story I didn't know I needed to hear.


It's been a joy to see people's outdoor adventures fill up social media, seeing a wave of folks and families turn to nature for something to do, someplace to be. It reaffirms that message that nature is not only the first but simultaneously the final frontier. It began and it is all that remains. We remember it when all else is stripped away from us. Like that little boy on the stump, now an old man.

During this time of great suffering on Earth we often feel torn between healing ourselves and attempting to cure the social and economic ills that plague our culture. Like Eaton's cabin, it is easier to construct our little ivory towers of safety and beauty, to live on our own tiny islands and shut out the ugliness. But in doing so we miss the forest for the trees.

One thing I know for certain - if we continue to view ourselves as separate from the rest of the world and not as a part of this living Earth, we'll never understand that our individual participation extends to the whole, that justice and mercy and peace and happiness is intrinsically universal.


Remember to come down from your "mountain cabin" once in a while, remember who we are, and remember what was there for you. Remember that the Earth itself is a healer, full of comfort in wild places, remember to seek songs that make your heart sing, and remember that which we would like to see, we must help bring into being.


Let us try and remember when all else returns.


The End.



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