May America Too Meet Its Better Self!
(Editor’s Note: Another post from my friend Rick Sowash, one of America’s great composers. See info on Rick at bottom. Subscribe to his wonderful weekly post that the below comes from.)
In 1935 America seemed about to collapse. The Great Depression lay heavily upon the land and it was feared that a revolution was imminent. To many our grandparents, living at that time, it was plain that democracy was failing.
One American writer, Odell Shepard, responded by retreating to a cabin in the woods of northern Connecticut, determined to live “a life resting down upon the things found true, a life delving under and soaring over the wreck of the present to the things that everlastingly endure.” He would write a fine book about his time there, titled “The Cabin Down the Glen.”
When August came upon him, as it has now come upon us, he found himself wanting to go for a long, long walk. Here are his words — wise, lyrical, leisurely and lush — about that desire.
“Ah, to set out on a walk now, and a long one, through this ripe country of the summer hills;
to loiter along lanes grass grown and spotted with shifting shade, where the goldenrod brightens the sunshine and the cardinal flower flows in the cool;
to lean for hours over bridges while fancy follows the curl of the waves, and to lean on fence-rails at evening while my thoughts grow still as the corn;
to ask my way of no one because one way is as good as another;
to drink at the spring and the brook, to eat where the deer browse, to sleep under pines;
to be free once more as the tiny glistening ball of thistle-tuft that slowly twirls and drifts and settles high up in the blue of noon;
to welcome all weathers because I like them all, and to delight in every landscape because I know that even the fairest must derive its beauty from the beholder, as the farmhouse window shining at sunset draws all its splendor from the sun;
to gild all things I see — not the bright and cheerful only, but those that need it more — with a mild radiance shining from within, as though I carried a portable sun in my pocket, or at least a private moon;
to find all the things I need and many that I do not deserve because I look for nothing;
to own everything I see because I go humbly as one who owns nothing whatever;
to study woodchucks and cows a good deal, trying to emulate those half-wise creatures in so far as they are worthy of imitation — that is, to lose haste and eagerness without losing intensity;
to realize that there is time enough for all good things and that nothing of mine can be kept from me;
to make my peace once more with the good brown earth from which I came and back to which I go, accepting it utterly and ceasing to wish for any nobler origin or destiny because there is none;
sometimes to sing because I am happy, sometimes to talk to myself because no other listener would understand, but most times to be silent because the only things worth saying are so far beyond the reach of words.
Ah, to sink down and down into the ancient quiet that broods among the hills, seeking no man’s company — and yet, perhaps, to meet my better self someday on a bridge or a brown hilltop or resting beside a brook in the softly breathing woods, and to have some talk with him!”
I hope you find Shepard’s strong, enthusiastic, life-affirming words as comforting and inspiring as I do. May all of us meet our better selves someday and have some talk with them!
May America, too, meet its better self!
With Shepard’s words still ringing in your consciousness, listen to the closing movement of my “Eroica” trio. It, too, strides along with high-hearted singing, assuring us: ”We will prevail!”
To hear it beautifully performed by violinist Laura Bossert, cellist Terry King and pianist Phil Amalong, click this link:
You can see a PDF of the score by clicking here:
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August 7, 2022