Monday, April 30, 2007

The path of a tune...

One morning last week I was droving home from taking Matthew to his driver's ed class. I had the radio on and heard this musical interlude between Morning Edition stories. (I hope you'll follow the link, scroll down to the song titles and listen to If I Know a Song of Africa, Karen's Theme III). That's the melody that made me almost pull off the road as stears stung my eyes, remembering....

The music is from an old favorite movie of mine, Out of Africa. The movie won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Original Score, and a host of other awards. Because we had just returned from living in Kenya for three and a half years, the movie meant a lot more to us than it would have if we had never lived there. We had become familiar with the story of Karen Blixen, for whom a town, Karen, on the outskirts of Nairobi was named. We had visited her lovely home, now a museum, on the "farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills." We had hiked and picnicked in the Ngong Hills and even had American friends, still living in Nairobi, who were extras in the movie. Karen Blixen's story is quite sad, really, and the movie of course portrays a time in colonial history that is not particularly admirable. Nonetheless, the sweepingly beautiful cinematography and lush, romantic musical score make the movie worth seeing.

Hearing that music made me think of Kenya, of morning drives to the Nairobi Game Park, the pungent smell of burning garbage mixed with the sweet fragrance of bouganvillea blossoms, the sight of acres and acres of tea across the hillsides at Limuru, Kawangware market, our friend Mary, riding the train at night to Mombasa, and so much more. Sometimes my heart just aches to go back to Africa.

After hearing the music that morning, I decided to reread the book, Out of Africa, which is Karen Blixen's memoir of living in Kenya. (Her pseudonym was Isak Dinesen) The movie is loosely based on the book, and as is usually the case, the true story in the book is more compelling than the movie. I am still reading and marking favorite quotes.

This one, in which Blixen relates her experiences as a doctor to the native people on her farm, captures an understanding of God which we moderns quite often miss. I didn't remember this quote from reading the book long ago and was intrigued with the way in which Blixen arrived at the truth it communicates:
I knew very little of doctoring, just what you learn at a first aid course. But my renown as a doctor had been spread by a few chance lucky cures, and had not been decreased by the catastrophic mistake that I had made.

If now I had been able to guarantee my patients a recovery in each single case, who knows but that their circle might have thinned out? I should then have attained a professional prestige...but would they still have been sure that the Lord was with me? For of the Lord they knew from the great years of drought, from lions on the plains at night, and the leopards near the houses when the children were alone there, and from the swarms of grasshoppers that would come on to the land, nobody knew where-from, and leave not a leaf of grass where they had passed. They knew Him, too, from the unbelievable hours of happiness when the swarm passed over the maizefield and did not settle, or when in Spring the rains would come early and plentiful and make all the fields and plains flower and give rich crops. So that this highly capable doctor...might be after all a sort of outsider where the real great things in life were concerned.

Just coming out of a few days of personal distress, I have been thinking on God in the drought and the rain, the grasshoppers that land and those that pass over, the trial and the triumph, the difficult and the delightful. To see Him and fathom the "real great things in life" I must embrace them all, declaring with the Psalmist, "Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,in heaven and on earth,in the seas and all deeps. Blessed be the Lord from Zion,he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the Lord!" Psalm 135:6,21

Didn't know that's the place I'd be going when that haunting melody filled my car the other morning. God led along the path of a tune, through an old memoir, to timeless truth and gave me balm and courage along the way. Yes, praise the Lord.

1 comment:

tonia said...

I loved that book...so melancholy and evocative.

Isn't it amazing how life interweaves and overlaps...how we see echoes of our thoughts in seemingly unrelated places?

I pray the Lord's joy is breaking through the darkness for you.