I was standing there, flabbergasted, would be the word. It was literally just here a minute ago. I rubbed my eyes, blinked slowly, and pressed the heels of my shoes into the earth, grounding myself. But still nothing.
I was probably around seven years old when this happened to me, playing in the wooded area near my childhood home. I had found interesting leaves, searched for salamanders in the creek, and lifted rocks in pursuit of insects. Nature was always my thing. I had known that path by heart though, the thin wooded trail that led to an opening in a field before you got the creek. But that day was different. Instead of the trail leading to the field, it had led me to a small space in the woods where the trees created a kind of dome. Light was streaming in through sections of the thick leafy canopy above and rays of sunshine danced in the center. It smelled amazing. Like something I had never smelled before, like flowers in a campfire, I had thought. I entered the area slowly with a level of surprise and curiosity I had never experienced before. I could feel my heart beating and the fullness of my rushing pulse within me.
There, in the center of the cove, was a flute, or at least what I had thought to be a flute. I picked it up. It was light, wooden, with carvings I had never seen before. I had looked around and seen no one. What was this place? I ran my fingers along the carvings and marveled at how still and slow time and space seemed to be. Then, for whatever reason, I had placed the flute back down.
I had walked carefully, purposefully out of that seemingly sacred space, careful not to disturb the magic of it all. But as I started back down the trail and thinking, my meaningful slow steps became a jog, then a run, “Look what I found!” I started to yell once I saw some neighborhood kids up ahead.
And soon we were all running back to the place together. Some of them still carried cups and buckets for salamander catching and another kid was dragging a tangled light-up yo-yo. But suddenly we were in the field. What happened? The leafy dome, the sweet smelling air, it was all gone. After some arguing and mass amounts of childhood ego deflation, I hung my head and I went home. As I sat there thinking about all of this over dinner, I decided to not even tell my mom.
And now over twenty years later, I am thinking again about this memory for some reason. I’m not sure if this is an actual memory or a never forgotten childhood dream. Either way, it has meaning, significance to stick with me for all of these years. This past week, I started searching for the symbolism of flutes. I searched for this in various cultures but specifically in some Native American cultures, as this is a part of my own genealogy.
Late one night under the blue glow of the computer screen, I stumbled upon some information about Cherokee culture in regards to the flute. The article indicated flutes were special, sacred even, and made individually with one’s body measurements. It was considered disrespectful to play or, in some instances, even to look upon another’s flute (Searching Bear Flutes, 1992). I sat back in the darkness and released a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
We all do that though, don’t we? I thought. We all get so caught up in social pressures, other people’s lives, and routine, that the life we set out to live is not our own. It begins to lack meaning, purpose, intention. Haven’t we all forgotten to self-reflect, forgotten to ensure the measurements and designs of our choices, beliefs, and values are consistent with who we are, with who we individually were created to be? We end up spending a lifetime carving a flute only then to sit back and have no idea what kind of song to play with it. A lifetime of falling into the comfort of mediocrity and the external influences that lead our hands to carve the flute of a life perhaps we were never intended to live.
If I could go back to my seven year old self, I would affirm her decision to leave the flute in the forest. I would tell her that she will continue to create her own over the years. Shaping, shifting, learning, and growing to become the best version of herself. I would assure her that it is okay if her flute doesn’t look like the others. The gentle breeze through her honey blonde hair would assure her that she would forever keep that special wooded cove in her spirit. That she can inhale that sweet smell of floral wood-smoke and rest easy knowing she is intentionally living, intentionally carving her own flute to play her own song.
And it will be a song that her soul will recognize, because it was the song she was created to sing all along.
The Flute Story. (1992). Retrieved November 19, 2016, from http://www.searchingbearflutes.com/FluteStory.htm