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Forte: Creativity imbues us 
with life and energy

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Denise Dillenbeck

Denise Dillenbeck, Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster.

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The 13th-century poet Rumi wrote these words:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.

Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground.

I have drawn comfort from this poem dozens of times over the years, but recently it seems especially relevant. Facing each morning has been tricky for many of us during this contentious time. Rumi’s advice to actually make something beautiful, instead of only studying the day’s issues, has transformative power. It made me wonder what was happening in Rumi’s world when he wrote it.

Brad Gooch’s book “Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love” shed some light on what made this man an artist and seeker. When Rumi was a child, Genghis Khan was gathering Mongol forces to invade and conquer much of Asia, and Rumi’s father fled with his family from Tajikstan.

Thus began decades of life as a refugee. Rumi never returned to his homeland, as much of it had been demolished, and he eventually settled in Turkey. There, his most influential and beloved teacher, Shams of Tabriz, was taken from him suddenly and heartbreakingly, and the grief from this loss compelled him to pour his suffering and love into poetry.

The man knew hard times. He knew confusion, displacement, upheaval and loss, on a political as well as a personal level. He chose to grapple with it by giving it voice, and making something beautiful with it.

When I pick up my violin to start the day’s practice, it feels like taking the hand of a very old, dear friend. I may answer emails, work with colleagues, donate time or money to causes later that day, but for those precious hours of practice I engage with my own heart and mind, and replenish them so that I have something to give in my work and relationships.

The act of creativity infuses us with life and energy. The pencil and sketchpad, the piano keys, the Play-Doh, the recipe in the kitchen, even just singing in the shower, all have the power to transform our fears about the world into something beautiful. Something that connects us to that world and to each other.

There are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground.

• Denise Dillenbeck is Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster. Learn more about her and her role at

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