Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Medley to My Father - 20th Anniversary Tribute

Tonight I stand by your grave. The grass grows up around you, but I hardly know you are here. If it wasn’t for the engraved name on this sandstone, orange marker, I wouldn’t know it was you, Dad.

No, you are not here, contained in the earth, suffocated beneath its entangled roots, buried forever. You are not hidden by the grass or caught beneath the stone. You have taken flight and alighted on the wings of dawn…

The lake across the road shimmers in the sun’s rays and reminds me how much you loved the water. You always wanted to be on the lake. Now as a white bird swoops down to the water’s surface, so you appear in my life when I most need you.

Your face is in the sun, shining warm upon me. Yes, when the day sings out its glory, I feel you. At evening’s wake, when the sun sets amidst a fire of purple and pink hues, you are looking out and watching the show with me – just as you used to do, twenty years ago. You used to stand with mom and bask in nature’s beauty around you.

No more tears. No more tears.

Every summer, on the car ride to Upper Michigan, where you grew up as a child, we’d listen to the songs of your favorite songwriter, Harry Chapin. Even today, your voice still speaks to me through the lyrics. You’re teaching me the song:

All my life’s a circle,
Sunrise and sundown,
The moon rose through the nighttime
Till the day break comes around. (Harry Chapin)

That’s why I owe this medley of love to you. You’ve rescued me a hundred times more than I know of.

I was at college my first year and so terribly homesick. It was then I realized that you were the closest family to me. And no matter where I would travel - to the heights of the Alps or to the island of Sicily – Dad, your spirit would find me there. Wherever I’d go in life, you’d be with me, closer to my aid than the nearest family. Thanks, Dad. You’ve been with me, though I can’t see you.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun rising
It’s alright.
(Here Comes the Sun, Beatles)

Dad left me with many songs to make sure I’d never feel forsaken. He reminds me how much he wants to be here for me, even as I explore my independence. Like a father watching his growing daughter push away, he sings:

I’m a tangled up puppet
All hanging in your strings
I’m a butterfly in a spider’s web
Fluttering my wings…

Young women need not leave their fathers behind as they adventure forward. Dad, I need you.

Now you write your secret poems
In a world just for your dreams
You don’t find time to talk to me
About the things you need.

You’ve provided for me in my schooling, guided me in relationships, pursued me with love, taken care of me financially. Though you are sorely missed, your heavenly intercession has carried me through. Look Dad, I want to make you proud.

I have watched you take shape
From a jumble of parts
And find the grace and form
Of a fine work of art.

Hey you, my brand new woman,
You may come into your own.
Don’t you know that you don’t need
To grow up all alone?

“You’re right,” murmured Grandma to my mother, as they stood beside the grave that April of 1990. “He’s not here. He’s with you.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Ever sat in a concert hall and been moved by the power of an orchestra? The stringed instruments express the flight of our hearts to somewhere out of this realm. The droning tones of the cello reach deeply down into our soul and draw out what is hidden there. We take to flight on the wings of melody. The squawking and squeaking of a single violin is transformed into song in symmetry with the whole orchestra. The flute flaps its wings and with airy flutterings dips, dives, and dances on the symphonic wind. And you… you sit in awed silence because it takes your breath away.

Then there are other forms of music. I dance to the enchanting lilt and rock of Indian music. The ring of tambourine, folk guitar and drum mingle into a frenzy of delight. The action and speed builds! It crescendos into a fury! Zing! Go the strings of my heart!

And then I’m caught up in another form. The Irish fiddle plays my legs like I’m a puppet on strings, until I fall into the modern sounds of the radio. Those wrenching tunes of a country-born lad who understands what it means to be human. It’s no glorious words or soul-raising orchestra, but it’s the song any one of us can sing to. Music is on the radio all the time, but have you stopped to listen?

Music is so diverse. How about the lilting, drifting, careless songs of jazzy pop? “Come away with me…” sings Norah Jones dreamily. The song nudges us and invites us on a train ride through the terrain of our thoughts, emotions, and dreamings. We stare out the windows of whimsy and fancy and sometimes foolishness. Come away with me are the words of every song, spoken or unspoken.

Yes, music speaks. It can tend, love, wound, and raise up. There is nothing music cannot stir up. We can also speak through music. In music we find a voice for the feeling that we buried so long ago we forgot it existed, or the feeling some of us have been longing to sing but been afraid to, or even the feeling we do not understand. The strings of music have the power to bind or to release those feelings. Are they strangling you? Or setting you free?

This Lent I fasted from listening to music. As I did I came to realize how much I LOVE music. I love music! I don’t know how I should live being deaf to music! So I gave up music this Lent precisely to meet its companion Silence and to listen to and attune my heart to God’s whispers.

It was hard, I admit. Often I seek music as an escape from the present reality or simply to entertain myself. But if we are constantly trying to lose ourselves in music, we have to ask ourselves “Why?” Why is my heart restless? Why do I seek a tune and a rhythm in my life?

Because you were born with one. Yes, from the thud of our first heartbeat, we have been created to join a beat and a melody, a song and a symphony, that has been going on for ages. We were created with the Song embedded in our very hearts. What song is this?

It is the song of eternity. It beats in our hearts to remind us of our destiny. It pounds in our bodies to shout out “This is what I’m living for!” It is a dance of life that continues on and we each have a part in it to play, to sing, to dance, to live.

My last blog entry left one reader in tears. I had not expected this. I was simply writing from the vulnerability of my heart, yet my writing had struck into song what she hardly knew how to sing herself. That’s music! That’s harmony with humanity.

The Easter season finds me rejoicing in the beauty and language of music. I sought the Lord in silence, who answered me in song. The Silence has taught me to listen. You see, when we are surrounded by noise all day every day, we stop listening. How far we’ve gone to classify some things as music that are only noises of dissonance, not harmony! What we need is to quite ourselves and to hear the music of heaven once more.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stopping by a House on a Sunny Afternoon

There stands a little green house on Pheasant Run Road. It’s a quaint and cozy home with a decent patch of lawn out in the country, where houses and subdivisions are rising up in what used to be fields. It nestles into the neighborhood down a ways from my own. Nestles there, smiling out at the road.

It is an honest house, its face unhidden from view. Its garage doors are off on the side, not visible from the front. It is not like these other houses. They suppose that putting their best foot forward is putting their garage in front of the house. From their big, white doors, they say to other self-righteous garages, “My garage is bigger than yours! I can fit more boats, more cars, more vehicles than you!”

Not so with this home. Not so. Its front door gleams with the sun caught in its sparkling prism-ed, chiseled window. Its light catches the eye of passer byes like me. It does not shout but whispers. A narrow walkway meanders its way to that welcoming doorway, without pretense from any fat, white-bellied driveway. Instead, the driveway quietly finds its way to the side of the house and one wouldn’t immediately notice it. I myself had to stop and peer at the yard to see where its path trod.

Tread softly as you find your way into my heart.

Rather than boasting of luxury size garages and wide buxom drives, this house offers all the perks of a new home while whispering the truth “I have no pretenses. Come here to find rest. In me is a home.” Its pale green siding blends softly and naturally with the earth. I had to pause in my walk and think, “How lovely.”

We shall know a home by its beauty.

I had walked to find this very house, this one that has intrigued me since the day I first discovered it on a bike ride through the new subdivision. That was several years ago. It has always been my favorite.

To know a place of home when we find it – is it so hard? A place of home beckons a person to come nearer. A place of home summons us to stop and take a look around. For what is a home if not a haven? And what is a haven if not restful, undemanding, sheltering?

A home like this is intriguing. Perhaps what has called my attention to this lovely green house in the last couple months is a sign on the lawn, “Adashun Jones Real Estate.” The house is up for sale. Somebody doesn’t want it. Somebody else is looking for it, but hasn’t found it. And so it sits there, nestled into the mound of a hill behind it, quietly waiting. Its open, empty rooms have much to give, but I cannot tell. I only guess from my spot on the road, where I stand, still looking on, shading my eyes from the bright sun overhead. I am certain those rooms have much to give, though now they swell with emptiness.

I know the feeling. Perhaps that’s why I’ve stopped this way, to stare at my dreams. I see a future day opening up where my hand touches my brow. I see myself building a family. I see a writer in her own place with dreams come true to write about. I see a man to love. I see a home to care for, a garden to plant, a yard where dreams spring up and grow, not far from Grandma’s house.

And then I see a little green house with a red and white for-sale sign. An empty feeling hugs my heart. It’s silly to dream where no seeds are planted, I tell myself. Yet, I linger for just one more glance before I turn away.