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"For me, and, I am sure, for most of you, to be human is to always be in the process of becoming, to be in quest of openings, of possibilities." ~ Maxine Greene

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Song Lines

I was recently in Boulder visiting some friends and colleagues at Naropa University and, after speaking about my trip to Australia and showing them pictures, I received on loan a book titled “Stories from the Origin,” by Ann Parker (another Naropa faculty member).

In this book, written 30 years after her own travels in Outback Australia, the author provided vignettes and musings about the Aborigines, about her own perceptions of life “in the bush,” and the juxtaposition of those perceptions with the continual unfolding of a different reality ~ a reality that has been described by Aborigines as “The Dreamtime” (and they refer to it as many other things, as well, but that’s too much to go into here).

What struck me about the book were the similarities between the author’s experiences and insights and the experiences and insights I had when living in a small village in northern Alaska about 25 years ago. I was there only 9 months as a high school teacher, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember something from that space and time; it profoundly altered my perceptions of myself, of my students, and of the greater cosmos. My recollections from those months have been working inside of me all of this time, continually shaping my trajectory, much like water has shaped the Grand Canyon over hundreds of thousands of years.

For a long time, I have wanted to take my journal entries and sketches from that Alaskan experience and publish them. But, as the years dribbled one into the next, other things took precedence and I figured that no one would want to read about them anyway. But, now, after reading Ann Parker’s book, I realize that those stories are timeless; they need to come out. Somehow, I feel as though giving them a voice will further that trajectory (whatever it is) in a powerful way. I don’t know what it will look like, but it feels urgent now in a way that it didn’t before. I am excited about writing my stories, and will endeavor to publish some posts about my process as I go along.

In Ann Parker’s book, she writes about “song lines” and “singing the world into existence” ~ I found all of this incredibly intriguing. The concept of a “song line” parallels my inner yearnings to publish my stories; I feel like I am trying to listen very carefully for my own “song line” into the rest of my life, and somehow through writing about things that happened a quarter of a century ago, I will finally hear my own tune.

It goes like this (and I am paraphrasing and quoting Ann’s writing here, while she also quoted from a book published in 1997 by Bruce Chatwin, titled “Songlines”):

“The Aborigines believe in the existence of ‘song lines,’ which are like ‘energy lines’ that guide them across the landscape in search of each other, in search of another encampment, or some yams, or a watering hole. The belief is that the totemic ancestors (those from the Dreamtime), while traveling through the country, scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of their footprints. These dreaming tracks lay all over the land as a means of communication between tribes. The song is the map as well as the direction finder. If you know the song, you will always find your way across the country” (pp. 76-7).

I love this idea of song lines … Who knows, we might ALL have “song lines” of one sort or another ~ an inner map and compass ~ but the continual cacophony of our daily lives drowns them out. I certainly do not mean to co-opt the Aborigines’ ancient beliefs, but there must be something universal and connected about their song lines, and my resonance with them. Such an experience leads me to ask, “If there is a song line for me to follow, what is it be saying? Where did it come from?  Where will it lead?”

As the title of this blog asserts, the answer will come while I evolve … intentionally.