December, 1999

The Music Of What Happens

By Tom Bopp

     There is an old story about the legendary Irish hero, Finn MacCuhal; during a conversation after the day's stag-hunt, the topic arose, "What is the sweetest sound in all the world?"  After some discussion, MacCuhal was asked his opinion; he became thoughtful and, after a moment, said, "The sweetest sound in all the world is the music of what happens."

     Named for the snowy scribes that ripped Yosemite out of rock is Glacier Point Road, under six feet of machined snow routed with two pairs of grooves, into which each ski skitters and nestles like a stylus into an antique recording and begins the music of sizzling ice.

     Down a gentle, long slope, feeling the clear air gliding past, I close my eyes and hang perfectly still in space, listening as the skis play the record of the world spinning underfoot.

     My eyes open: I'm barely moving, just inching along. A congress of stooped, white-robed, slow-dancing trees disregard my passage, whispering anciently as their trembling jewels glitter in electric-orange sunlight. I push forward, eyes closed--motion and time become elusive--hearing the music of skis pushing up against my feet, dropping again, shaking, gliding, reproducing in miniature the regular crackle of hills and valleys passing underneath, or the occasional pop of a mountain range, or the glassy hiss of an ocean, and always the gentle swooshing of geologic ages of Earth swelling by at 78 revolutions per minute, until the music pauses, and my eyes open again.

     Summit Meadow--framed by icicled trees, blanketed with snow, a slow creek wandering through--breathes quietly as civilizations rise and fall like flowers. But the tick-tock of ice-ages send glaciers to sweep away treed meadows. Oceanic waves of mountain ranges and continents toss species into the air--dinosaurs, people, trees--atomized by gentle puffs of time. Galaxies of suns with their earths and their meadows blink into and out of existence, glittering lightly on the robes of dancing universes.

     For one sweet moment, nature hears its music through my ears listening to skis, and sees its dance through my eyes looking at Summit Meadow, and nods in self-recognition.