A GIFT OF HARMONY
- BY Dr. JANE ANDERSON -
Several months ago, I was invited by the Baha’i Community to a Fundraising Dinner aimed at purchasing a Peace Pole for our community. Such a Pole serves to act as a silent prayer symbol for peace on earth; a peace that is sorely needed in these troubled times.
At the Dinner, the theme of peace was expressed through fellowship, speech, song and music.
One item particularly touched me.
I could actually feel the music from what is called a “Dreamharp,” a small lyre carved and formed completely out of one piece of wood. Its soothing and vibrating tones entered my being and tuned up my soul. The experience was deeply calming, and I found the idea of an instrument being able to harmonize a person intriguing.
I related this to one of my friends, and a week later he offered me the gift of attending a three day workshop to make my own Dream Harp. He appreciated how much I needed a holiday but knew that, without the finances, the likelihood of my escaping from endeavours for justice in our Church and the world would be slight. This present provided a mini-vacation, a chance to have a break from my work.
Before beginning my adventure, and during my Morning Prayer, I began to recognize and meditate on references to harps and lyres in the Psalms. David writes: Make a joyful noise, all the earth; break forth into joyous song! – Sing praise to God with the harp, with the lyre and the sound of music!
All creation sings before God who comes to judge the earth.
God will judge the world with justice and the peoples with equity (David, a skilful lyre player, who endured many battles and was often at war within himself, seemingly found reprieve from his struggles when playing this peace-communicating instrument Psalm 98).
At the beginning of the workshop, our teacher, Nis, and we six participants introduced ourselves to each other. To my delight, two other Catholics from my parish had also enrolled.
We were each given a choice of three woods from which we could carve our Dream Harp. Unsure, I waited for the others to choose What was left was a flawed, rough, sawn piece with a knot near its edge.
It was not particularly attractive in colour, but Nis said that this piece of Morton Bay Fig would produce the mellowest of sounds.
That fitted entirely with my aim to produce soothing music and besides, I instinctively tend to align myself with the rejected.
This piece, in its imperfection, was perfect.
Next, we were asked to draw a design within the body of the wood. This fulfilled the practical purpose of creating a strong bridge for the instrument, but the design also provided an opportunity to stamp our Dream Harp with our own special image. Vicki,  whose cancer had returned for the second time, drew symbols of her three children. Steve and Evelyn, who were making their harps for children and grandchildren, chose nostalgic scenes that had surrounded former homes.
Larry chose a fish, the ancient symbol of Christianity, and Ann, an environmentalist, chose a dolphin. I chose a dove of peace, a Christian and Muslim symbol of harmony, suggesting the mutual sharing of aspirations and efforts to build a just and peaceful world.
Except for Steve, none of us had ever used wooden hammers and chisels, let alone made an instrument. However, under Nis’s patient and skilful guidance, we slowly carved into existence a beautiful instrument stamped with its redeeming sign sprung from the trials and tribulations of each of our lives.
It was not an easy exercise. At first, I had no idea of what I was doing. My amateurish hammering splintered the top layers of the wood.
But this potential instrument was very forgiving and with growing humility, I learnt to carve the wood with care, discovering the worth of its fault and the underlying beauty of its ordinariness.
The woody knot became the central feature, an eye of the dove.
And when I worked with or across the grain, it yielded straight and swirling patterns, giving flight to my dove, journeying towards peace.
On the third day, we inscribed the back of our instrument with messages of significance. Most wrote something to their families, while on mine I inscribed a poem: “Dove of Peace, Come Into Our Hearts. Make them Just, Help them Love.”
After sanding, oiling, stringing and tuning, I held my Dream Harp close to my heart. That long-awaited moment had finally arrived. With each gentle strum, I felt the vibrations enter my being. My Harp’s charm was irresistible, calling me to sit quiet and receive its gift of Harmony.
There has been a profound lesson for me in all this. The pursuit of justice and peace through social activism finds its equilibrium and power through the practice of inner peace. And for that insight, I thank those in my harp-making community, and especially dear and generous friend.
Nisargam, the designer and craftsman of such instruments, can be contacted through this website.