Wednesday, April 21, 2010


by Clare Brauer-Rieke

At a Wailin' Jennys concert a couple of weeks ago, I heard a beautiful song called Arlington. As I know is the experience of many, I listen to words in music in a way I do not or cannot when they are spoken. On this evening, the words of this song communicated to me something I hadn't realized I had lost. I have forgotten how to "not know."

Where do you go, little bird
When it snows, when it snows
When the world turns to sleep
Do you know, do you know
Is there something in the wind
Breathes a chill in your heart, life in your wings
Does it whisper 'start again'

In this modern era, it can feel like there is so little we don't know about the Earth and its workings. The lyricist could have easily Googled "bird migration" or "wind formation," and found the technical answers to her questions within minutes; but I heard expressed in this song a resistance against this "objective knowing." The lyricist instead seems to suggest that we should ask our questions differently. We might instead ask as a way of reconnecting with a lost mysticism, a lost spiritual inquiry, and a lost world of mystery.

Where is your home, restless wind
Is it there, is it here
Do you search for a place to belong
Search in vain, search in fear
Or is your spirit everywhere
Is your voice every tree
Your soul of the air
If there's no home, is there no death

In this way of asking, we learn it isn't about the answers. It is about the questioning, the engagement, the wonder. As Earth Day approaches, let your celebration be one of the mystery and spirit of the Earth as much as all our access to knowing the Earth in facts and figures. In the quiet in-between space, allow for creative questioning and imaginative interpretation. Maybe what you discover will surprise you.

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