Essay of the Week: “Nature’s Rhythms”

By Matthew Chiu

An apple, some dried cranberries, a stale tortilla, and enough water to last a couple of days. Is that enough to last me 24 hours on a beach all by myself? I must make shelter to live, and all I have is a notebook and a pen to keep myself company. No, I am not auditioning for ‘Survivor’. I am experiencing living in a world where the Earth’s resources are depleted in a simulation at the Island School on Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas.

I create a shelter out of a damaged tarp and three wooden planks that I found laying on the beach–my version of a tipi. It looks wobbly enough to fall apart any minute. I assure myself it will not.

Hours pass. Looking around the desolate beach, I see endless pieces of random garbage scattered across the shoreline, everything from broken buckets to plastic bags. But as I look more closely, opportunity forms and I attempt to marry my passions–music and sustainability.

There was a bright red bucket, as big as two football helmets placed right on top of each other. I grab it and hear beautiful, harmonic chords of boundless music, music that shapes the foundation of my childhood. I don’t literally hear, but I feel the music inside me, slowly forming a being of sound.

Next, I find a massive blue water jug. This piece is almost full of sand. Striking it produces a high-pitched noise. My eye catches another water jug of identical size, but white. A formation of my past flashes before me: my parents who are pivotal in the growth of my passion for music. Dad fills the house with everything from Billy Joel to EDM. I reimagine and feel the joy of listening to such variety.

A small green trash bin joins my drum set, completing the skeleton of my imagination. The set reminds me of singing with a chorus in second grade. Six years later, I attend jazz camp. Scat, I learn, is a form of improvisation. It pushes me to go for the chances I may not otherwise take, and puts me in the moment of living with sustainability.

A black plastic crate–with a large gash in the middle–looks like something used for fruit. It becomes my chair. I tear two branches off a tree and now I have drumsticks. My drum set is complete. Where people might’ve seen trash, I saw opportunity. I brought back life to something that may have been the cause of the Earth’s fall.

I move the sticks in rapid motion, a consistent tempo with an intricate rhythm. As I unravel my tense arms with every hit of the drum, a passion and drive develops. I envision a work of art, an album in particular, slowly forming with each beat. Unknowingly, I start to create different pieces–songs.

With their blunt originality, my drums give these songs their distinguished sound. Some behold a slow tempo with a minor key indicating a time of hardship, such as times sitting on the white sand lacking hope with feelings of desertion, or times fondly thinking of my family and friends. I also hit the branches quickly. Speed indicates my highest points in accepting my fate of independence and temporary isolation.

Observing my placebook, seven unique songs have emerged into a reflection of my 24 hour experience. I create my album using live natural instruments to produce music richly embodying sustainability and origins of my nature.

An overwhelming shadow starts to approach my safe haven, and with the snap of a finger and the beat of my drum, my time in solitude ends. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I will ruminate on this experience endlessly. My mark on that beach encapsulates my growing love of music and sustainability which will live on into eternity.

Matthew Chiu, a 2018 graduate of the New York Harbor School, will be a freshman at Tufts in the fall.