The returning

(I used a metaphor from my Glaciers article to develop this copy for the program that was used at the Gala Concert, attended by NATO heads of state at the 2006 NATO Summit in Riga)

Long before there were Latvians, there was a land covered by ice. When the ice melted and the glaciers retreated, life returned to the land. As streams and rivers flowed into the sea, people flowed into the land. Just as the landscape transformed itself through the movement of ice and water, so too the ancient peoples that settled here adapted to these changes. Tribes, languages and cultures evolved, sometimes clashing, but also coalescing.

It all came together in 1918 when the Latvian state was proclaimed, although ‘being Latvian’ had already been a state of mind for many centuries. Independence was short-lived – only two decades. Following a hot war that blazed around the world, a cold war descended upon the land. Hopes, dreams and aspirations were frozen in time. This political glacier did not begin retreating until 1991.

For Latvians today, the last 15 years have meant the end of another Ice Age. The ancient symbols of the warming sun and enriching water continue to serve as powerful metaphors for Latvia’s resurgent cultural, economic and political life.

The Baltic Sea, once a forbidding barrier to a free world outside, has now become an inland lake, surrounded by a unifying democratic spirit. Latvians are now part of a growing community of common values called the European Union. This evolution from a small state on the frontiers of Europe has continued with Latvia’s membership in an even broader transatlantic alliance known as NATO.

The Latvian poet Rainis has written that ‘He who evolves himself, endures.’ This is something every Latvian understands, for nature teaches that life is constant change, movement, transformation and evolution. Evolution can be a painful process and not all can survive its diverse challenges. Those who join with others can rise to meet the challenge and ensure a better life for coming generations.

Each human life may seem like a drop in a vast ocean. But it is an ocean that teems with life because of these individual drops and their ability to unite, flow together and become a force of nature itself. Whether it is a force for good or bad, is up to us.

Tonight’s concert is divided into seven parts which trace the path of one drop of water through this endless cycle of regeneration and renewal.

Ojārs Kalniņš

The Returning

Part I

When rain embraces the earth, a spring is born

Part II

When the spring finds its way, it becomes a stream

Part III

The place where the moon shines down on the lake

Part IV

The place where dreams of stars are safeguarded

Part V

Where the river gets the strength to break out

Part VI

So that city lights can shine

Part VII

For the rain will return to its harbor once again

In the beginning, there were solitary droplets of rain and dew, crystal clear and pure. They joined together to form a spring, which became a stream, which flowed into a river that rushed to the sea. The people of Europe have found the path to a spring of hope, which allows them to flow together once again, into a sea that unites them, yet allows them to retain their individual ethnos and independence. The Returning is a hymn to the cycle of endless movement and change, for only flowing water can nourish life.