I Wandered by a Brookside

I have been taking a course over Zoom on the topic of intentional life transitions. Tonight was the third of four classes, and it was an illuminating evening, as was the coursework in preparation.

Among the tasks we were to do between classes was to go and “wander aimlessly.” I had a lot of trouble figuring out just what that meant. Pondered it for a few days, to be honest. Today I discussed it with my sweety, with the interpretation that whatever I do — however planned or casual — there is always an “aim” to it. Go for a walk? That’s to get fresh air, stay fit, enjoy nature. See? She helped cut through all that and suggested I should just go for a walk, but alone, so I didn’t feel obliged to go anywhere in particular or be back at a certain time, or whatever. That made a lot of sense. So that’s what I did.

I set off and took some random turns, ending up down a back lane where I admired a mural I hadn’t paid too much attention to before, and meandered through some short streets and parking lots to stop near a riverside condominium where we used to live when the kids were much younger. Out walking, I felt like a blank canvas in some ways and, at other points, I wondered… when I had been down a certain alley before… or looked way up a building to figure out which apartment I had lived in years ago… or thought about that time we cleaned up the riverbank with my boys, and neighbours and their son. Digging up the memory bank to make space for some new seeds, the seeds of the future?

This evening, I wondered if a song in my collection might capture the essence of what was going on.

Serendipitously (and maybe also receiving a touch of a “Zen slap” as one of my Colorado friends calls those moments of sudden wisdom/realization), I found one sung by Eva Cassidy (1963-1996). (Please also check out these links where I’ve featured Cassidy on this blog three times before, with her covers of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “American Tune,” and a posthumous version of “Autumn Leaves.”)

Today’s selection, “I Wandered by a Brookside,” comes from Cassidy’s 2000 album, Time After Time. The lyrics immediately gripped me, as they seem to be telling the story of one seeking solace in nature and finding nothing at first. In the second half of the song, there’s companionship to ease the hurting heart.

In my “aimless wandering” today, maybe I was learning to quiet my mind and look at the world differently. And perhaps that will help me notice the things I don’t always see or sense, like when someone important to me needs help and I don’t immediately recognize it, or any number of areas in my life and world that might be improved with some intentional tending.

“I wandered by a brookside 
I wandered by a mill 
I could not hear the water 
The murmuring it was still 
Not a sound of any grasshopper 
Nor the chirp of any bird 
But the beating of my own heart 
Was the only sound I heard 

The beating of my own heart 
Was the only sound I heard 

Then silent tears fast flowing 
When someone stood beside 
A hand upon my shoulder 
I knew the touch was kind 
He drew me near and nearer 
We neither spoke one word 
But the beating of our own two hearts 
Was the only sound I heard 

The beating of our own two hearts 
Was the only sound I heard”

(“I Wandered by a Brookside,” by Barbara Berry)

May we all feel that hand upon a shoulder when life’s pressures mute the sound of the brook. A lot of people are hurting nowadays. There are very few people who haven’t been affected in some way by the pandemic, and some are alone in what they are experiencing. And may we all be that hand on the shoulder, so that they can hear the sound of the brook. (The song also reminds me of a brook I know, near the home of a friend in Eldora, Colorado which I visited in 2012 and can still hear the sound of, thanks to those who’ve laid their hands on my shoulder.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Eva Cassidy’s official YouTube channel

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