One of my neighbors has the most amazing yard, a secluded wonder of horticultural beauty. Screened by cypress and magnolia, it features an array of lovingly tended plants and the sounds of bird song, wind chimes and water. A little stream runs over rock to a tranquil pool. Walking past the other day, I saw my neighbor working in it and stopped to tell her how much I appreciate the sights and sounds.
“Oh, the sounds,” she said. “I don’t know about the sounds. I worked so hard to tune the stream, to get just the gurgling sound I wanted. But one leaf falls in it, it changes everything.”
Wow. What a story! Who would think to tune a stream? I love that my neighbor has this sensibility, that she would even consider such a thing. Maybe this is common among horticulturists; after all, they orchestrate the visual components of their gardens with equal care. It’s an enchanting idea: To tune nature the way you would an instrument. But what a job! As my neighbor found, the variables are infinite. You get it just the way you want it and something else happens.
It seems to me this is a metaphor for life. We all want to tune our streams, to make things just the way we want them to be. And then, darn it, life gets in the way. Some stray element gets into the garden, a volunteer plant, maybe, or a raucous species of bird. Even the wind brings pollens sparkling in the air. A robin’s nest tumbles to the ground. Leaves clog our artfully designed pools. Who can control all that change? We all want to, at times.
What would it be like to open ourselves to the way the stream sounds right now, without thought of how we might keep it that way? To enjoy it in its beauty and its disarray and its tumultuous, disquieting change? To discern, beneath the surface of that never-ending change, a wholeness that brings all things into harmony?