Nearly a year later, a dear friend and neighbor was dating a man who had worked in the library. Not sure why, but he gave the book to my friend. I marveled at its unexpected entry into my life, and my friend Cathie and I still laugh about it to this day. After perusing it in detail, I returned it to the library from which it came.
But that is not the story that I tell today. There is a allegory in the book called Jumping Mouse about a mouse that hears a roaring in its ears. The story is really about people who are often too busy with the trappings of everyday existence to hear the song of the river, the symbol for authentic life.
And so I begin my story from earlier this week.
I had the profound pleasure of attending the retreat for the Class of 2010 TogetherGreen Fellows. It was held in the magnificent Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, in the heart of Washington DC. It was a time for closure for all 40 of us, after we had spent the past year in each other's midst.
|2010 TogetherGreen Fellows and the Buffalo Dancer II.|
On Wednesday morning, our last day, and before the meetings began, I took an early morning stroll in the National Mall. It was surreal to be in this place as the slanting rays of the sun peaked over Capitol Hill and splashed across the golden landscape extending down and beyond the Washington Monument. I was in a reflective mood, after three days of complete immersion in the sanctifying waters of this nature-inspired realm, the Museum of the American Indian and people who gathered there.
|The Buffalo Dancer II. There a little mouse hole just under his right foot!|
Hearing a rustling in the plants that grace the riparian edges of the museum, I looked for a regular DC resident, perhaps a House Sparrow. But what emerged from the vegetation was something far more curious. It was a tiny mouse, a ground dweller, with whiskers brushing across the brush, eye glued upon its immediate surroundings. It was unaware of my presence, or perhaps complacent within the normally human dominated surroundings. I prefer to think "he" was there to instruct me. So, I became a watcher, frozen in time and space, as the mouse went about doing its mouse things, always close to the living earth.
I simply hung out with the mouse. After what seemed like an eternity, he climbed upon the first ledge of the giant bronze figure and made eye contact with me for the first time. Not overwhelmingly startled, he scurried a bit, jumping to another ledge to the base of the statue. Then, as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared into a tiny hole at the soul of the dancer's foot. In my mind, he transformed into the Buffalo Dancer.
My mind reeled over what I had just seen, going back over the many times in my life that Nature had become my facilitator, easing me through life transitions, dark abysses, and everyday joys. And then I remembered the story of Jumping Mouse, who had heard the roaring in his ears, and tracked it to its source.
Fast forward a bit through a morning that featured an incredible Storytelling workshop, views of the Capitol building bathed in autumn light, a deft accipiter breaking a flock of pigeons into a burst of colorful hues....... Fast forward through another moment of clarity as Jesus Garcia of the great Northwest (what we call the Southwest) nourished my soul with a story that tingled my olfactory and culinary senses, allowing the food history of the desert landscape to come alive.
Fast forward to a luncheon, where a beautiful collection of TogetherGreen stories, performed by my dear friends and colleagues, inspired a room full of dignitaries with their undying passion and underlying joy.
And then...... "The 2010 TogetherGreen Fellows have nominated individuals for the Mentor Award, which recognizes three people who have supported their class in a special way during their Fellows year."
First, Diane Husic..... simply amazing..... Biochemist. Chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences at Moravian College. World-renowned Climate Change Expert....... The list goes on and on, and includes... Brilliant, kind, compassionate, outgoing, effervescent, parent extraordinaire, writer, transcendent, the power to change the world resonating from within and overflowing into the natural landscape..... And the FIRST Fellow with whom I crossed paths at the hotel last Sunday. (We immediately joined forces, jumped on the Metro to the Whitehouse, and participated in the protest of the Keystone Pipeline!)
Second, Fernando Bretos...... from the moment I met this man, I was mesmerized by his passion and ability to inspire. An American of Cuban descent, he touched my life as he has so many before and after me with a vision of an art/nature alliance that restores the Red Mangrove forests of south Florida and engages people in community and joyous fellowship along the way.
(I drove my wife crazy when last fall we watched a Nature episode on Cuba where Fernando was featured, as I exclaimed, "I know that guy, he's really great!" about five times throughout the documentary!) A scientist with an artistic flare, Fernando's impact extends around the globe. Again, I think: Brilliant, kind, compassionate, outgoing, effervescent, transcendent, the power to change the world resonating from within and overflowing into the natural landscape.
And then.... What? Greg Swick? How did this happen? A mistake perhaps.... But then, no, I think I "get it" ...
Thanks, little mouse, for providing me with a clue, for always being on the other side of my mirror, and for joining me in my journey to discover the source of the roaring in my ears. Thanks for pushing me to confront my fears, to plunge into the river of life, to fight against the current, and then to let go and allow its natural flow to carry me to a place of trust, passion, and peace.
Thanks for jumping, little mouse, for as we jumped together, we caught a glimpse of the sacred mountains. And we became the Buffalo Dancer, and delighted in our dance of thanksgiving....
|Grandpa Greg jumping with Noah, my inspiration!|
"Standing 12 feet tall and weighing a ton, the statue showcases the spirit of the Pueblo Indians, depicting a young man offering thanks in the ceremonial buffalo dance. "Native American people pay respect to the buffalo for everything it gives them," Rivera says, "and show their gratitude in dance."*
*quoted from http://www.historynet.com/george-rivera-art-of-the-west.htm