first february

My Februaries have always been new times. But the repetition of the newness is an oldness in and of itself. Today is the first song on a dusty 12-track vinyl that somehow surprises you with new melodies every time.

I know February isn’t thought of as the month of newness. That’s January, naturally – thirty-one days of fresh starts, resolutions, decisions, tiny shoots in the skeletal dirt and snow. But fresh starts don’t last long. Some shrink, some lose their meaning, some melt and trickle into forgetfulness. But, thank Goodness, others grow. Habits can be lost, or they can settle into a comfortable rhythm, a steady relationship, well-worn and well-known, soft leather and warm pajamas. No, there aren’t any fruits yet. Those days are still to be known. Spring, the days of growing. Summer, the days of nurturing. Autumn, the days of harvesting. But that’s not discouraging — it’s exciting. Today is the half-way point between winter and spring, after all. Today reminds us to keep moving forward: Winter always ends, and it always ends in spring. No matter what happens, there will always be that rebirth, the newness from the beginning of time. It’s so secure. So comfortable.

There are so many songs and stories that you will come to know. So many loves, ideas, tragedies, losses, adventures. You will meet so many souls. Like you always have, like you are doing now. Just like you do, every February. I promise they’re all there, as concrete as much as the present. They’re so close, but just barely ahead, friends standing and waving across the street. What you will see and learn draws from today. The next moments come from this moment. Like they always do.

It’s so wonderfully repetitious, so old, so fresh, so known. It’s so comfortable.

There’s no need to run towards it. The seeds you sow now will grow, and you’ll know them soon. Until then, have a warm, safe, comfortable, happy First.

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(art not by me)

Words, letters, speeches, books, texts, poems, songs…

Wind, lilies, stones, grass, rain, paint, mornings, coffee, tears, strings, hills, frost.

Don’t speak.

Communicate. Commune. Communion. Community.

Lyrics, prayers, testimonies, sermons…

Bread, wine, water.

Understanding is not limited.

It is from the past,

old books, faded paint, ink, wisdom, philosphy,

from the future,

dreams, songs, inspiration,

from the present,

your eyes on mine, silence, a heartbeat,

from around us,

the wind and the grass and the waves and the sky,

from above us,

a Man who says more with blood and pain and love than we could ever say with words…

but then again…

we can never say very much with words.

Earthrise

Imagine standing on the gray surface of the moon. You’ve been there so long you can’t remember why you came, or where you came from. You can’t remember that you’ve been anywhere other than here. Maybe your parents came first. Maybe your grandparents. Maybe their grandparents. Regardless, this is all you know, all you’ve ever known, all you ever expect to know. You’ve never thought of anywhere else, or imagined that anywhere else could ever exist.

But you’ve seen the planet. The blue one. Everybody tells you that it’s just some rock, or maybe a dying star, if it’s even there at all. Very likely, it’s just a figment of your imagination, or some strange refraction of light in space. It could be explained away, with scorn, or with facts and science and numbers. It didn’t matter how. It didn’t matter that it was there. It wasn’t you.

Of course, you can’t help but wonder why, in this monochromatic world, in this gray, barren, godless universe, the color of the dying star is the same color as the eyes of your parents.

What is art?

Now imagine you brought paint here, that you have colors and paper and an easel. And in the twilight, you sit down and stare at that dying star, and watch it come to life as the blue goes dark.

Why does it feel so much like love?

You don’t know what you’re recreating. You don’t have a word for it, because you can’t imagine life anywhere but here. You know nothing but this bleak, cold world. But if you had a word for the feeling, it would be something like homesickness.

Whatever it is, it hurts in your chest.

Do you have the image in your mind yet? Is it an image, or more of a feeling?

It’s not a true story, but it’s truer than fact.

It’s why we have art. What else would remind us of the place we’re longing for?

old stories

I am lucky enough to be homesick for a place almost a thousand miles away.

I was there in my mind, and then I was there in person. I don’t know which was more breathtaking. It was a place where the mountains are so old that they almost breathe, and the rocks stand tall and story-worn like humans. Where old stories and legends could come true. The cracks in-between the fairy tales, the places of danger and mystery, the side-plots, where it always seems to be night but the air is hot and red from the monolithic sun. The stars are bright and old and the dusty earth sparkles beneath them.

Old things have histories, fingerprints from everybody who has touched them. Old trees have laid their roots in more than just soil. Old books tell more tales than their own. And in some places, if you’re lucky enough (or if the old tales are strong enough), you can know them and turn them into a story of your own. They live on in places where the world hasn’t changed, not yet. There are places where, when you step on the footprints from thousands of years, you find yourself embracing them, wrapping around them, realizing who you are and where your heart can stand on the earth and stretch far into space.

We’ll see creation come undone
These bones that bound us will be gone
We’ll stir our spirits ’til we’re one
Then, soft as shadows, we’ll be gone.

It stays with you. I have seen the sun rise and set on your face, and know it rise and set again. Once the mountains called my name, and I woke to find the dream was not different from the reality. You never need to worry about being forgotten. I believe that nothing falls apart without coming back together, and sure as the vast and open hills remember my name, I know I will return to all the places I have ever been homesick for.

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fall driving

Morning is beautiful when autumn begins to flirt with aging summer.

It’s more about the feel of the air than the look of your surroundings. It’s more about the hints than the actualities. When you touch the green leaves, you already know the flame and crackle to come. The sky is blue, but as pale as snow.

When you start to drive, the smell of pavement and gasoline reminds you of donuts and cheap coffee. The sun is almost too bright, and you lay your arm outside the window to test how sharp the air’s teeth can be, and high-five the occasional truck barreling down the other side of the road. Corn taller than your head rises out of either side of the streets, punctuated only by white farmhouses that are beautiful with a new front porch and a mowed lawn, and would be beautiful if they hadn’t seen paint in fifty years. From the side of the street, you pass telephone lines that remind you of when the world tried to change the planet, and wind turbines that remind you of how the planet changes the world right back.

You listen to songs through your car speakers and pretend it’s the radio —

Fleetwood Mac, the smell of an old cabinet and the taste of cheap wine —

Helios, subtle stars and feathers in a pale dawn —

Fleet Foxes, coarse like sea salt and soft like honey-colored fur —

Sigur Ros, splintered glass with all the colors trapped inside, like the broken heart of a prism —

Enya, long grass growing through the cracks of a forgotten church —

Debussy, shimmering and drowsy, a morning on the side of the river —

Keaton Henson, the smooth curves of a violin —

The music interprets your surroundings for you.  The rising sun is the loneliest thing you’ve ever seen. There’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about a morning like this, but if there were something grand happening, perhaps the morning itself would stop being so significant. Because you have to reach the place you’re driving to. The first few steps out of the car feel like getting out of bed into a bright planet that you had just dreamed of, and for the next few minutes, hours, your mind is far away from the drive and the season and the music because you’re focusing on school or work or wherever you’ve arrived.

But on the way home, the sun is setting on the other side, and once again it feels like a movie as you drive away from the shadows and head into the deep glow. It glistens on the dark windows in your house, almost like the lights are all on, and it’s almost like there’s someone waiting for you at home.

atmosphere

There’s an old legend that when you can’t sleep, it means you’re awake in somebody else’s dream.

Sometimes I’ll imagine that somewhere, someone is sitting on his bed and looking out a window. He can’t fall asleep. His eyes are open. He looks like he’s awake. But his mind and heart haven’t been awake for ages.

And then, somewhere else, somebody’s dreaming about him.

He doesn’t think she’s there, he doesn’t even know she exists. He’s never believed in angels and doesn’t think that dreams can come true. But in the recesses of his mind, he’s aware enough to cling on to a mad hope that there’s someone out there who can help him.

You’d think that he can’t fall asleep because he’s inside of her dream. But in reality, she’s wide awake because she’s inside of his.

He’s sound asleep inside of his mind. She’s awake inside of hers. He’s desperate to be saved by her. She’s calling out to wake him. They’re looking for each other. They just don’t know it yet.

They breathe in each other’s minds. Lonely, longing.

She hangs, in deep, dark, space, looking down. It’s another sleepless night at the window, and with red eyes he looks up.