a harp on the hospital floor

several months back my uncle was in the hospital. he was on a medical floor (as opposed to a critical care unit) and it was fun to stop in on him. on one such visit a patient in an adjacent room attempted an “escape” and some large commotion in the waiting room drew four security guards and two police officers. amongst the constant in and outs of physicians, nurses, and medical residents there was a general level of “buzz” in the air throughout the unit that was palpable. no one was calm. not the staff, not the visitors, and certainly not the patients. everyone was rushing and darting and attending to things. call buttons went un-responded to and the swell of security staff roaming the hallways made for a tense atmosphere.

when my visit had commenced, i departed uncle jerry’s room into the rush of activity. emerging into the chaos, i took two steps and then i heard it. coming from a chair perched between the nurses station and the entry door to the unit were the lilting sounds of a harp. the harpist, a young woman dressed in street clothes, sat on the edge of her chair, eyes closed, lips shaped in a slight smile. the effect was mesmerizing. as people neared the music, visible changes took place in their stature and demeanor. footsteps slowed, expressions lightened, and shoulders dropped. a fragile calm seemed to hover in the five foot radius of this anomaly and began to spread.

i have thought of this experience frequently in the intervening months, wondering at the power that a simple presence had on such a frenetic setting. the sound of harp strings in the middle of chaos, urgent need, and even, possibly, danger somehow settled things. calmed them. soothed them. people could have rushed past the musician or dismissed the calm that the harp imposed but they didn’t. instead, they slowed, spoke with less harshness, and, sometimes, even stopped. they were pulled in, it seemed, by the shear unlikelihood of harp music in the middle of a hospital floor. the mellow depth of the music pulled behavior and feelings from one extreme toward a more balanced center. it felt possible, in the moments that i savored this, to be aware of both need and gift, sickness and health, urgency and calm.

i want to be a harp on the hospital floor of my every day life. when it would be easy to be swayed by gathering discontent, i would like to see beauty. when negativity threatens to take root in my speech, i want to invite hope. when my eye gravitates toward the ugly, i want to re-train it to beauty, especially in the broken. when impassioned opinion drives me to act loudly, i would like to chose the balanced, integrated calm of the harp. and when i’m not these things...please be the harp for me and bring me back to center.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that music thanatologists (hospital harpists who play vigils for patients transitioning between life and death) begin with a beat that matches the human heart? That's in your metaphor too, I am guessing...