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  • Writer's pictureNicole E. Anderson

Channeling Grief Through Nature and Music

Well, I guess this goes without saying, but the world is not the same as it was a few weeks ago. We've all had to change our daily routines: how we leave the house, how we run errands, how we work, how our kids learn. Change is stressful enough, even when it's expected and of our own volition. Now, here we are, thrust into a new normal. We didn't ask for this, and we didn't see it coming. We're being mandated on state and federal levels to change our ways of being. We cannot visit our loved ones. We cannot hug and touch. This causes immense stress to our body, mind, and soul. We have to actively avoid news outlets if we want to escape the constant release of statistics, documenting how many more people are confirmed positive, and how many more people have died.

We all respond to stressors differently, and particularly in unprecedented situations such as these, there is no correct way to react. I spent the first few days upset at all of the experiences I had planned that now needed to be canceled. I was disappointed that parts of my job were now on hiatus. But as the circumstances sunk in, I began to change my tune. I'm better off leading with compassion for others, and care for myself. With all the negativity flying around, I needed to be strong.

I had big plans for The Hiking Harpist this year. Plans that included new ventures, travel, and opportunities. I could sit around dwelling on what isn't, or I can focus on what I still have. When I first began hiking with my harp, I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted out of the experience. The project ended up taking on a life of its own, bringing a new depth of peace into the already tranquil natural environment. The more people I've met and the more music I played, I discovered that the real beauty of The Hiking Harpist lies in its ability to evoke emotion and connect others. I could think of no better time than to tap into the root of this project, and try to spread love and comfort in the best way I know how.

So, as the days became warmer and springtime graced New England, I set out to the North Shore of Massachusetts with my harp. I went to one of my favorite parks, Halibut Point State Park in Rockport. At first glance, it seemed like any normal spring day. Lots of people walking around, enjoying the weather. The ocean was blue and the sun shining bright. Families were getting fresh air with their children, who laughed and played. But the beaming sun can't shut out the dark cloud that was hanging over our heads. Closer observation showed families gathering in clusters, staying far away from strangers. Hushed chatter brought up the topics of stay-at-home orders, sanitization, and worry. I unpacked and tuned up, hoping for my harp to work its magic the way I've seen it so many times before.

I walked over to the overlook by the quarry, sat down, and began to play. A small crowd of people gathered, still in their clusters. I heard the whispers among spectators. The topic switched from the current events to the harp music. I heard the clicking of cameras. I felt the dark cloud over all of us lifting just ever so slightly. And in that moment, tears began to well up in my eyes behind my sunglasses.

I have faith in my harp. It is not an infallible peacemaker, but it has the ability to change the atmosphere of places. I have witnessed this outcome far too many times to deny it. I also have faith in humanity, that when we're faced with these challenges, we will rise above them and overcome them. I have faith in myself, to stay strong and keep my composure...until the moment when I realize that composure must give way to raw emotion. In my own journey to grieve the loss of the life I once lived, I had been so focused on staying strong, that I forgot that it's okay to let go sometimes too. One thing about therapeutic music is, we cannot be shut off if we want our music to emanate healing. We have to remain open to the music's energy, and when we do, the music can heal us as we play, just as it heals the listener.

I never underestimate the power of bringing my harp into nature. The Hiking Harpist's 1-year anniversary is coming up this month. It won't look the way I expected, but one part has always remained constant: soulful connection. That day, during a time of social distancing, nature brought us together, and the music brought us hope.

hiking harpist no words with surreal eff
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