Have you ever been alone lying on your back on a quiet day on some remote hilltop overlooking the tundra somewhere in Alaska? I have. It was in late August, 1999 and I had just been dropped off to pack a trophy caribou a hunter shot, (who was wealthier than he was in shape) to the top of the mountain where the Super Cub pilot could land and fly the meat , hide, and antlers back to main camp.
As I lay there waiting with my eyes closed, hands folded beneath my head the sun beat down on my tired and aching body. I heard the blow flies race by me, like Formula 1 cars. But, even between the racers, I heard a distinct “hum”. It wasn’t the props from a distant aircraft either. I wondered what that sound was. Later I asked some of the guys in camp, and they told me it was called, “Tundra Hum”.
Tundra Hum as I perceive it, after much thought, seems to be the frequency of living things on the tundra. The sound emitted by all living organisms combined into one frequency: Tundra Hum. I don’t know the exact frequency, or the exact note, but according to my experience and my ears, it sounds a lot like “Om”.
According to the Yoga Journal, “Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is said to be the sound of the universe.” In addition, “Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om.”
The sounds in my home are FAR from the tranquility and peace of Om or Tundra Hum.
This week, Isabella (6 ½ months old) is sick, and seems to cry at everything. Nothing seems to console her. My heart crumbles every time she looks at me through those watery eyes, looking so rough with her disheveled hair, runny nose, and quivering lips.
My youngest son, Joseph screams at the top of his lungs because he feels like he isn’t being heard as the middle child. Or, he screams in retaliation against his older brother David who did something he didn’t like, whether David was justified or not. And, when his mini-Sumo wrestler legs hit our hardwood floor with every step, it reverberates throughout the house and sends shockwaves into my spinal column.
Much of the time, I hear David talking, but I couldn’t tell you a word he’s said, because he’ll talk regardless of whether anyone is actually listening or not. He seems to talk…constantly, about nothing in particular. And, unless he gets into my face and says, “Excuse me Daddy…” I don’t know that he’s talking to me.
It’s easy to tune out the sibling bickering, or light crying, but when my three children erupt into a volcanic chorus of crying, yelling, and screaming in syncopation, It disrupts the temporary sense of balance I’ve worked so hard to reconstruct after the last meltdown.
I haven’t figured out how to handle that kind and level of stress yet. It’s a different kind of stress than being in the military. It’s different than being in a life-threatening situation, It’s different than stress at work, or stressing over finances, or being unemployed. These are my children, and I love them dearly, but when they push me beyond what I think is the threshold of my patience, “ I am angry. I'm like a large tornado of anger, swirling about,” as Will Ferrell says in 2005's Kicking and Screaming.
The truth is, I’ve given up a lot of my own dreams, desires, and little pieces of myself here and there in order to be the primary care-giver for our children. Sometimes I feel resentful for making that sacrifice as I watch my future prospects of employment slip further and further beyond reach.
The days I feel most frustrated are the ones filled with absurd temper-tantrums thrown by both boys, and an insane amount of attention and care needed by Isabella, in addition to not getting anything done around the house.
On those days, the really hard days, there seems to be no incentive to stay home. I can’t see how I’m having a positive impact on my children’s lives. I feel like a failure as a father, and by proxy a bad husband because I know I’ve caused my wife grief. It hurts her to hear about the tough times because it means we’re not living in harmony.
The longer I stay at home and take care of our children, the more I realize just how important it is to find and keep harmony in my life. I take care of my children, but I haven’t been taking care of myself.
Now that Spring here in Alaska, it is time for me to align myself with the season of renewal and schedule time to reconnect with nature by doing things I love, like backpacking, canoeing, fishing, and hunting.
I have always found my harmony in the wilderness. That is where I have always found my deepest connection with God. It’s where I find the answers to my most difficult questions. The wilderness is where I reconnect with my physical, mental, and spiritual strength. It’s where I find my balance. There, I know Om.