Caveat: This is probably the most emotionally-fueled essay I have ever written (besides being far too long), but I needed to write it (ick, how many times have you heard that on an internet blog website? Cliché, Mike, cliché…). Feel free to skip it if you’re here looking for more rational discussion. May I suggest a few alternatives?
Continuing: Today was a bad day. I won’t go into it but suffice it to say by the time work was over I was in extremely poor spirits; an odd mixture of future-oriented despair and past-oriented vindictiveness. Before heading to dinner, my research partner and my professor decided to go to the hotel’s weight room and exercise themselves up an appetite. Not up for any more people time, I instead went for a walk.
Michigan, as I’ve stated here before, is excessively green, and not 100 yards from our hotel is a forest. I walked along the road until I came to the end of it; a dirt road continued which I followed. Met with a fork and a decision to take the jaunt into the woods proper along a narrower path or along the road, I chose the former and veered into the greenery. Slowing down as I was forced to navigate the bushes and dirt piles, I began to notice some details I had been missing when I tromping just to tromp. Extremely small frogs (literally not bigger than a dime) were hopping here and there, big red spiders were crawling. I began to stop and watch the animals and consequently began to feel a sense of peace setting in little by little. Then I realized I was singing.
I had the privilege this winter to portray the character Dickon in the musical adaptation of The Secret Garden. If you’ve seen the musical or read the book, you know that Dickon is essentially the embodiment of the Yorkshire Moor, communing with nature and bringing Mary to and helping her resurrect the story’s titular garden. Playing Dickon was an extremely positive experience; besides being simply fun to play, the character (at least in the musical) brings hope and joy wherever he goes with a sureness and excitement that betrays his absolute confidence in both his own abilities and the power of the supernatural (in the show, the charm of the garden).
Part of the reason people like stories is that they show us heroes we wish we were more like, and this is no exception. Idealistic, optimistic, and confident in both my abilities and in the providence of God to direct things for the best without sacrificing calmness and humility; these are all things I wish described me more. Instead I have oscillated incessantly between supreme arrogance and supreme self-deprecation, frequently resulting in the lowness I felt today and making me quite the opposite of Dickon. In his opening number, he banishes winter and commands the changing of the seasons to spring. In another scene, he conjures inclement weather to revive the ailing garden and hearten Mary and in still another he invokes the charm of the spirits of the garden to help Colin walk. It was the first of these songs that I found myself singing as I walked through the woods.
Continuing to walk and chanting at a more audible level (not too audible, you never know who is listening), I imagined myself again as the wild-eyed youth from the moor I had portrayed, singing not to placid audience members but to trees and animals and things alive and becoming so. I imagined the forest bending to my words and becoming somehow even greener than before. The sky cleared and animals began to follow me. By the time I finished the song, I not only had completely lost my melancholy but had quickened my pace up and even felt like dashing and exploring. Along the way I also reminded myself of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The walk continued with music from The Secret Garden in my head playing the whole time. On the rest of my sojourn I saw a deer, a black and yellow bird, a nigh-infinite number of bugs (they saw me too, as well as touched and tasted and probably smelled and heard), and found a river with water skaters on it. Completely healed by the time dinner rolled around, I walked back to the hotel with a grin from pretending I was speaking Yorkshire. In all, it was probably one of the more emotionally involved experiences I’ve had in a while – cloistered away in so much self-reliance and comparison all day long, I tend to forget how faithful God is and how great creation can be when you’re out in it. Thankfully Dickon was there to remind me.
Come a mild day, come a warm rain.