up & away

Blinds drawn in a room

that used to smell like summer.

You can’t always tell

if you’re underwater.

But you’re alone

beneath the atmosphere,

and hoping someone else

is drowning here.

Close your eyes,

and feel the thunderstorm.

It’s all around you

in your handmade downpour.

Before the lights turn on,

you’ll be swimming in the sky.

Up and away,

the rain will carry you through the night.

echolocation

It was only ever a very small step away.

Roll through the kinesthetics until you lose your balance, like you always do. It’s so hard to stand on two feet when the ground is fluid. Bunny trails and rabbit holes lead to roughly the same place and you’d do just about anything to fall all the way down. You find yourself, quite literally, in a world of your own making, and there isn’t a way out that you can see.

You keep on coming back to the way that things should be, like a dog with a tennis ball, but that wasn’t what this was ever about. Perhaps it would be easier if you could leave your skin and float in a different dimension, one where you were only aware of the way things sound. But you know that isn’t how life works, and you’re trapped in a visual reality. The way you see life becomes a mirror — one that is dark on the other side. Everything bounces off of the sounds, comes back to your brain, tells you what to see.

Strings rumble through your consciousness like thunder. Is this a dream?

Make a sound. Call out to the shadow of what may or may not be inspiration. What comes back to you? Can you hear it?

The Gospel and Northerness; or, Preaching to the Why

I don’t normally repost on here, but I could never express this idea in better words.

Travis Whitehead

C.S. Lewis called it “Northerness”. An overwhelming, bittersweet longing in your gut when confronted with the stark, harsh, beauty of the world. It rests heavy on a man’s heart and in his mind before bleeding into a sense of deep joy. Joy that I am very small and there is something very, very big of which I am a part.

I won’t try to improve on Lewis’s own description of northerness, found in Surprised by Joy:

Pure “Northernness” engulfed me: a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity… and almost at the same moment I knew that I had met this before, long, long ago. …And with that plunge back into my own past, there arose at once, almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I had now lacked for years, that…

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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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