When I walk, in my memory I hear Bach’s “Anna Magdalena.” I vary the temps, the instrumentation, piano to organ to harp to full orchestral arrangement ala Rimsky-Korsakov’s bible of orchestration. I walk into the music, so immersed in beauty that I often step off the trail into the weeds, like a distracted driver.
When I walk, I feel I am in a parallel wood to reality. Passersby bring me out of it and just as quickly I am back in my mind. This morning Anna M. morphed into Samuel Barber’s frantic “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” which sent my legs pumping to six miles an hour—until it ended and I climbed three bluff hills, hearing “his truth is marching on.” Not bad for an atheist.
I possess what archaeologists call “the eye,” wherein I see everything, every camouflaged creature, every arrowhead buried in gravel beds, every movement of the forest. I see the unseen: ancient Indians walking the very field I’m in which I am standing, the dead lying in graveyards. I suspect Thornton Wilder and Langston Hughes had the same gift. They did not need eyes.
Handel, of course, has me all beat. He saw God and ran for his apartment and emerged a short time later with the entire “Messiah” in hand.
There is a barred owl living in the forest where I walk. I have seen her with baby owls several times and many times heard her call. She lives in a hole in a sycamore tree, launching herself down to the path at snakes and squirrels who don’t see her. I hear her sing: “Who-cooks-for-you.” And we do counterpoint. I duel with Carolina wrens and cardinals, but I can’t do the rapid trills of finches.
Now I’m one with the orb spiders, an LSD dream of arachnids, preeminent spinners. Seemingly overnight they are weaving masterpieces between low branches, under porch eaves, four-foot-wide webs, trawlers and fly fishermen, somehow looking bookish, motherly, their handiwork cozy haunts under which to read “The Wind in the Willows.” And their prey, caught in the web, mutter, “We are proud to die for you.”
The breeze, the chattering water, the rustling of leaves, the slight friction of parachuting cottonwood seeds, the agony of the baking earthworm, choruses and formal choirs and fiddlers and drummers and thrummers: Whitman: “Give me solitude, give me nature.”
Tobias Picker, whose masterpiece, “Old and New Rivers,” plays in my mind, the only music perfectly capturing the scream and secret and hush and serenity and trumpeting and howl and the “who” and ripple of the teaming universe. This is the music I will die to.
These are my companions, like Leopold Bloom’s companions in “Ulysses,” the passing loved ones, bawdy ones, drunk ones, troubadours, angels. This is how each day begins.