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Photo of a lake at sunset
Photo Credit: Deb Spillman

Spirit in Song and Word

Guest blog post written by Joe Lombardi. Dr. Joe Lombardi is a retired professor at Hendrix College in Arkansas. His ideas have appeared in the Connecting to Nature eePRO Group before, and his love for the environment and environmental education runs through his blood.

"Spirit" is a true autobiography of my youth as a camper and counselor at a camp in the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania for children from urban Philadelphia. Though the logging intrusion on the camp at that time was local and temporary, the urbanization of those country roads, forests, and fields in that area of Pennsylvania over the years was heartbreaking to those of us who knew it when.

All are rooted in my love of nature and music. At least the love of nature, and maybe the love of music are grounded in “biophilia” or, as defined by E.O. Wilson, that sense of oneness with and passion for nature that seems to be a part of human experience.

The sensitivity is why we seem to experience esthetically trees, gardens, flowers, mountains, lakes, streams, oceans, and the natural world in general. Like an “imprinting” process such esthetic and emotional components of humans are inherently a part of our development, our ‘make-up’ or if one wishes, our “species ancestral memory.”

But like many of our emotions and aesthetic systems, our biophilia needs to be nurtured by early experiences. Perhaps the younger we are when we have positive experiences with nature, the more easily and with greater intensity our biophilia develops. These passions, feelings, and emotions that are within us define our “spirituality” and that which we often refer to as our spirit.”

The song lyrics for "Spirit," describe such early experiences in my life and in the lives of so many campers and counselors who spent summers in those rolling hills. It also reflects my thought (and to a large extent—the reality) of watching that rural area of eastern Pennsylvania overtaken by the ‘progress’ of development.

"Spirit" (song lyrics)

Joe Lombardi

As a child growing up in Philadelphia, I had not much of nature to see,

But streets of asphalt and buildings of bricks, was how most of the world seemed to me.

Then my summers I’d spend in the country in the east Pennsylvania hills,

At a camp near farmlands and forests and fields, serenity that dwells with me still

 

Over the years I would learn there about Native American lore,

And I began to fell one with the natural and wild, like those who had lived there before.

And a voice from within me would whisper through the rustling red maple trees.

As the spirit that nurtures the universe spoke in the sounds of the soft, summer breeze:

 

(CHORUS)

I will be here as long as the mountains, the rivers, the lakes and the trees;

And till then may I watch eagles soar through the skies and the salmon come home from the seas,

As I watch over all of Earth’s children, the land, air and water so blue,

And All of the creature that never ask why, I’m a spirit within each of you.

 

It spoke from the stream I would swim in, and the willows that shared its shore

And the whippoorwills’ song as the nighttime drew on or the wind through the old cabin door;

In campfires on cool summer evenings, with the flame’s dance and crackling song.

Or the chirp of the crickets and the katydids’ trill that would comfort me all the night long.

 

And the spirit remained always with me. Through the seasons I could still hear it call:

From the cornfields in summer that covered the hills, to the gold leaves that colored the fall.

Or a winter’s night snow on the fence rows, bright mountain drifts reaching the moon:

Or the bullfrog’s spring bellow that would lull me to sleep, to awake to a mockingbird’s tune –--

It spoke:

 

But encroachment by men was relentless, and the life of the forest grew still:

As the bulldozers plowed out the wide logging roads to haul trees to the old lumber mill.

And as forest were transformed to houses and yards and the fields to apartments and malls.

Then gone were the katydids, turtles and stream, and the whip-poor-wills’ long evening calls.

 

And gone was the red fox that slipped through the fence-row, the wildflowers that blossomed each year,

And the blackberry thickets that bordered the fields that fed the box turtles and deer.

Now their home has been taken away from us all, and we’ll suffer the loss I believe.

For I know that the death of my campestral home left the spirit within me to grieve –

It spoke:

 

“I am the soul of the universe. I’m the seasons of winter to fall.

I’m the life of water of air and of the land, and the creatures that ‘bound in them all.’

And I’ll speak to whoever will open her heart to a wisdom we harbor within;

That we are all one with the stars and the sun, with the earth and with each living thing.”

 

I will be here as long as the mountains, the rivers the lakes and the trees;

And forever may I watch eagles soar through the skies and the salmon come home from the seas.

As I watch over all of Earth’s children, the land, air and water so blue,

To all of those creatures, even those who ask why, I’m a spirit within each of you

The recorded song can be found on the Joe Lombardi Songs website.