A Prayer for Musicians and Artists

Autumn in the Ozarks is an exercise in deciphering metaphors. Colors shift, and every tree seems a personification of a different truth. The modesty of the lady maples wanes, green giving way to a more inviting rouge. She mixes her wine for the mighty oak, who's yellowing foliage is not a thing of cowardice, but rather of rarity. Neither saffron nor citrine are native to these hills; the autumnal oak is our gem.

The rivers overflow these days, saturated by the fall rains that wash through the region. The white bass have long-since made their run through the spawning grounds and have returned to deeper waters. The fishermen have moved to deeper waters, too, allowing these banks a sort of reprieve, a Sabbath. The squirrels sense the deepening stillness, and work double-time to gather a winter's worth of acorns, walnuts, and Arkansas hazelnuts. One river's rest is another rodent's work, after all. They gather and gather under the eye of the bald eagle, who wonders whether a juvenile might make easy pickings for its young.

Maybe it's a bold statement, but [tweetherder]autumn seems an evidence of the thinness of the veil between heaven and earth.[/tweetherder] The colorful metaphors show a glory beyond the simple natural order. Here, glory turns and fills; here, it gathers and hunts. Here, it is.

This is my favorite season in the Ozarks. I see God everywhere in it.

*****

Today's piece is inspired by the Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists from the Book of Common Prayer. It reads:

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  *Photo by Bhanu Tadinada, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

*****

OCTOBER'S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines' Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October's Edition, I'm musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington's are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth's new book, Speak. Don't miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I'll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

powered by TinyLetter

Clean Air

There was a time when Amber and I tried our best to undo our vows. We were young and headstrong, the sorts of kids who had loved like roman candles on the fourth of July--hot; bright; fast. For those of you who met and married in 'round about a year's time, you know how this sort of whirlwind romance feels, and how that whirlwind seems to continue well into your marriage. You also know that whirlwinds have a tendency to upend your fancy place settings and well-hung family photographs. It's just the way it is.

In any event, I penned the below poem for Amber a while back and stumbled across it last week. Though it tells a cryptic sort of story, allow me to unpack it. During the Christmas season of 2007, I visited a dear friend in Mozambique. The trip was an undoing of sorts, a course correction, if you will. I returned to the States, where things in our house began to change. Marriage secrets were exposed, forgiveness was extended, and the healing process began.

For the full story, visit Amber's place. Otherwise, enjoy my poem, "Clean Air."

(Note: This piece was first published on February 11, 2011. The below is a revised version.)

*****

"Clean Air"

Nuclear winter only lasts for a season. After watching the meltdown, we tried on lead sweaters hoping they would shield us from each others’ radiation. No matter how much you layer, though, a little skin is always left exposed. Skin has to breathe.

I left for Mozambique to find clean air. There was a boy there like the one Samuel Gray sketched in charcoal. He spoke to me, said “you can wipe a canvas clean if you rub hard enough, but you’ll lose the life in the eyes.” Then he smiled, picked up his soccer ball from the weeds, and ran back to the goal slung with bed nets.

I stood on the hill and watched him. He kicked the ball time and again into that net, the one some missionary gave him so he wouldn’t die of malaria. Following the leader, I shed my lead sweater (boy was it heavy) and stood as tall as the Portuguese pines that lined the village.

Epiphany, You promised a miracle. That day, on that Holy Hill, I knew You’d un-spin her sweater too, knew You’d sum us up proper.

 

Omnipresent

I've been thinking a great deal lately about the ways in which we divide ourselves (technologically speaking). I stumbled across this piece I wrote a couple of years back. I thought I'd share it today as much for me as for you.

*****

Where the denizens of the delayed  dine, God-only-knows.  God and me. Five hundred and seventy two miles from my baggage claim, there is a bar.  The waitress there  is cardable, flaunting too flimsy a skirt.  If I were her father, I’d tell her to quit with this self-exploitation bit, but I’m not.  I look her only in the eyes and order beer from Texas.  She says that it drinks drier than Lubbock; I nod and laugh knowingly, as if i know anything about Lubbock. My uncle was once a paper salesmen in Lubbock.  There’s that, at least.

Ignoring the assemblage of Flight 54 passengers, I find free wifi. On Facebook, Cassie shares photos of the world’s largest Amaco sign.  It is red.  Kevin’s sermon notes, or as much as will fit into one hundred and forty characters, are posted precariously above Ashely’s galvanized slide of pipe dreams on Twitter. Ashley's daughter is smiling and I find myself hoping that she’ll never don the dress of self-exploitation.  If she does, there’ll still be grace because Ashley’s good at second chances.  Lord willing, little girls make good on first chances, though.

A woman approaches the manager. She’s been delayed and, for the love of God could she get some service? She’s neither invoking love nor God with that kind of venom, and when the manager offers her an apology for the delay, she leans in, tells him in whisper loud enough for us all to hear that she is civil rights officer as if that is supposed to make him set some queso on fire.  He apologizes as much for being white as anything, and gives her a complimentary breaded onion.  This appeases her for the moment, but moments fly fast.

A congregant in the church of the delayed, I sit in South Texas. I am here, with them. I am there with Kevin and Cassie. I text my wife, and am there with her. For now, I am omnipresent.

The Girl With The Peony Tattoo

Ownership of cyber real estate has its privileges, among which is affording the owner the right to scrawl about that which he likes most. Granted, if one is attempting to build a steady flow of high-volume internet traffic, it's best to write about provocative things, or things for which one might not care so much, or things that are tricky, or witty, or snarky and such. This inevitably brings the people back for more, so I am told, and I confess that there is a grand and high art to the practice. My artistry in this manner lacks, however.

This being the case, I'm opting for something a bit different, at least for today. Today, I'm stretching into beauty--only beauty.

One thing I know: when you're exploring beauty, it's best to start with the most beautiful thing you know, the measuring stick, if you will. For me, that's an easy call.

amber-tattoo-300x214Yes, that's my wife. I've written about her a lot here. Some may get tired of it, but, again, I'm here to write about that which I like. Among all people, places, and things, I like her best. (Note, I say "like" which is intentional. Anyone can love his wife, but like? Now, that's a gift.)

Today, visit me at Tweetspeak Poetry where I write about Amber's peony tattoo, the way it is a metaphor for her, the way she is a walking poem.

And, as always, thanks for following along with me in this space.

The Wind, The Borders, The Cardinals, and Bob Marley

1. This morning is the first firing of spring's azaleas. It's the first morning they've all opened their kimonos, exposed pistil and stamen. "Come hither," they call to the yellow and black darts, the excited bumble bees. Even nature's exhibitionists are constrained by certain laws, though, the azaleas kept within their flowerbed prisons, weed killed flowerbeds where things are mostly planned. One bed is covered with pea-pebbles, another with glass beads, another with succulent ground cover. Each is ordered.

The roads cut our county into towns, towns into school districts, school districts into neighborhoods, neighborhoods into lots. On some lots, the dandelion tufts fluff up and sway like albino afros. Their better halves, the flowering dandelions, cower beneath their male counterparts. The dandelion heads respect the wind, lift and loose where led, that is, if they are blown before being constrained by the lawnmower or a hard dose of Rroundup.

This morning I saw Cardinal in my neighbor's tree. He was like one of those Azalea, a cherry red Corvette of a bird. He and Robin mocked each other, Robin taking breaks to look for worms under the dandelion skirt. Robin was no respecter of privacy, or of nut-crunching either. He told Cardinal so, whistled a harsh, "buzz off." There are worms to catch this early in the morning, he said.

Cardinal relocated on the breeze.

2.

On the way to work, I pulled behind a man driving a Toyota 4Runner. Winn Collier once told me he saw me as a 4Runner kind of guy. I took that to mean that he saw me as more of a kayaker than as a visionary, a thought-leader, someone full of "trending energy." (What is "trending energy," anyway?) I have had a soft spot in my heart for 4Runners ever since.

This particular vehicle wore a magnetic decal of Bob Marley, left foot rising in a reggae stomp. It is for freedom that Bob dances, I reckoned, and the machine wore him as an alternate metaphor, a small picket-sign against sitting in a parking lot from 8:30 to 6:00. The 4Runner pulled into the parking lot on the left. It was an analytics office, a place where men constrain themselves to numbers, formulas, and computer-generated models. The 4Runner coughed, sputtered from its black lung as it entered the parking lot.

The smell of spent exhaust came through my air conditioner vents. "Time for an oil change," I thought.

3.

The church office was filling with cars this morning. The staff pulled past the twin pink tulip trees, past the lone redbud. They didn't stop, curtsy, or tip hats to the better parts of God's beauty. Instead, they plowed on into the fields. The fields, after all, are white with harvest.

4.

The wind is no respecter of our counties, towns, school districts, neighborhoods, or lots. Unconstrained, it waits only for us to catch it.

If only we would.

*Photo by Vvillamon, Creative Commons, via Flickr.