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Emptiness discomfits me, snaps at my innards, and scrapes barnacles from my imagination while the sun-drenched afternoon toasts new budding on the snowflake viburnum outside my study window.

As a solitary dog-walker trudges up the hill, her chest heaving, a creeping barrenness unravels my grasp of life’s fabric.

I sit in my wing-back chair, close my eyes, and wait, uneasy and surrendered. Imperceptibly, a new courage emboldens me to listen. From the emptiness, an ineffable sense of the Sacred emerges, a whispering not found in human discourse or books.

This is something else.

It hurts: one of the faces of grief, united with the Ukrainians’ plight, the world over.

Yet, a wise potter once said, “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds what we want.”

Classics in whatever genre—words, notes, pigment, marble, metal—require the artist to dig for inspiration into his/her psyche, realm of the Sacred. Facilitating the process is a servant heart, a willingness to change direction, and a letting go of the work—it never being finished. Indeed, the artist is co-creating with the Creator of the universe and learning a new way of being-inside-and-outside of the world.  Fortunately for us, there have always been such individuals who embraced this sacrifice of arduous becoming.

Aaron Copland is one of these artists whose music invariably opens me to the Beautiful where interludes of stillness speak. Appalachian Spring (1944), commissioned for the dancer Martha Graham and company and interwoven between the 1848 tune, Shaker Gifts, evokes such gentle hushes. Its war-weary audiences flocked to performances, their psyches uplifted by this new vision-in-sound that was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music. 

War-weary myself this afternoon, I turned away from the news and listened to Appalachian Spring, scored for a chamber orchestra of thirteen instruments; its barely audible opening notes excised my scrambled psyche of turmoil and pried open my imagination. Immediately, I was in another world, deeply soothed, until twenty-five minutes later, again muted notes brought closure to the piece, and with it, an aching within me.

But the memory remains…

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