Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 4

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29 Oct 2015

I’ve been home for three days, hanging with the kids and realizing autumn somehow breezed in while I wasn’t looking and set up camp. Carolina is looking fine in gold & bronze, and even this cold-weather hater is smiling about it. And about the butternut squash soup I made last night and will eat again tonight.

I didn’t post a journal last week. Monday was an early travel day, which left me wanting only sleep & cuddles. Tuesday was prep for youngest daughter’s birthday. Wednesday, family day. We kept the kids home from school (unexcused! Gasp!) and headed to the state fair, which was EXACTLY the right call. So much fun. Thursday I was back to Nashville and climbing on the bus for our last weekend of the tour!

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Several bus mates were ill over the weekend, leaving everyone a bit wary of picking something up. Would have made a very interesting finale! Plumb was recovering from bronchitis, and I was amazed by how she powered through. When your body is your instrument and it breaks…it’s a pretty stressful predicament. It would be for any of us, but especially when you have larger audiences and a busload of musicians depending on you to not cancel.

Connecting with people at the Food for the Hungry table.

 

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Anyway, the show went on & we loved every minute. Apparently pranks are common on last days of tours, and the best prank of all was the fact that Geoff Duncan & Brad Dring had me prepared (as in, nervous wreck) to be pranked during my last set and then DIDN’T. Exhale.

What we did do is scavenge some costuming backstage and rush the Rapture Ruckus set during Mister Roboto for a (somewhat) impromptu dance party. I guess they knew we were coming, but they didn’t know we’d come in style. It was incredible.

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I soaked up every late night conversation and listening session, knowing this was a special moment in life. I felt ready to be at the end of this stretch and home again, but not ready to let go of the people I’ve come to love & admire. I mean, you can’t brush your teeth with a bottle of water next to someone for five weeks and not feel pretty tight. It’s a strange temporary reality that I think resulted in permanent relationships. They are good people, every one.

 

Tiffany and I have lives that have circled back together over the years, and I love that. So grateful she took a chance and invited me to be a part of this journey. And overwhelmingly thankful to my Raleigh family & friends who cared for me & my family in so many ways. I wouldn't have been able to be present on the road if you weren't present at home. Thank you.

Cheers to new adventures & new friends & each of us doing the work we were made to do.

Love,

christa

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 3

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PLUMB EXHALE TOUR JOURNAL: 3

October 14, 2015

Thursday. I’m writing from the top of a large rock in a wooded Raleigh park I’ve never explored til now. I decided this morning to pack my books, journal & laptop & spend some time at the library after getting the kids to school. Didn’t need to check out any more books, just needed a space to not risk interruption or distraction. The library chatter is impersonal to me, and I got so lost in the white noise and reflections of Christian Wiman’s My Great Abyss (still slowly, slowly meandering through this amazing book) that I lost track of time and almost dozed off at one point (or two).

Hunger eventually propelled me home but only long enough to pack a lunch and head back out.

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I don’t do this every day. Most days have too many appointments, tasks, errands. Always everything is in tiny windows, too small to follow a long train of thought to its outpost or complete work without watching the clock or being yanked out of the flow.

But tomorrow I’ll be flying back to Nashville and climbing onto the bus for another weekend of music with Plumb’s Exhale Tour & today I need this. Not a “break,” not time to “veg out.” Today I heed the call of my mind/soul/body to be fed well. To be more (or less) than a worker bee. I think we identify so strongly with our roles of responsibility to family, community and work that we forget our responsibility to tend our minds/souls (yes, I did write a whole album related to this).

After hours and days in the company of humans (beautiful, wondrous humans), something absolutely begs to get lost. If it’s weird to weep for happiness at the sight of a people-less wood, break into grin when you turn the corner onto a sun-filtered path, or greet the trees with an audible “hello, friends,” then okay, I’ll be weird.

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I watched the film Maleficent for the first time last night. Pretty great. In the moment when young Aurora first encounters the fairy swirling with color and light around her, she turns her face upward, beaming, and lifts her arms in delight, and that is exactly how I feel out here.

I’m getting weirder by the minute, I know, but I’ve always felt this way about the natural world. Not science-minded, not super curious about the way things work. I don’t want to know all about it; I just want to be IN it.

So I’ve taken this great rabbit trail, but the reason I’ve chased it down is because touring these past weeks has helped me see it more clearly…

Last weekend was our longest ride, with four shows (three in NC, one in TN). We met beautiful people and found the folks in Kill Devil Hills and Lexington, NC, especially enthusiastic about live music coming to town, and that energy was contagious. We shook a lot of hands and made new friends and heard a lot of stories at the merch table. All of this I love.

There were a few mishaps along the way, including losing the tires on the trailer, which was not a small deal for the hard-working production guys. They had to drive a U-Haul behind the bus the rest of the weekend and still managed to keep smiling. But it was stressful.

By the time we were loaded and back on the bus Sunday night, I found myself suddenly teary-eyed and couldn’t articulate why. Too many feelings connected to too many thoughts plus fatigue. I took a few minutes in the back of the bus alone and then returned to the front for the comic relief of nine guys playing air guitar and singing to Toto and Celine Dionne (a highlight of the tour).

I arrived home Monday morning only wanting sleep & solitude, and so the dots began to connect. How you can thrive on deep human connection, but find the fuel to connect by being alone in the natural world. Recognizing this consciously will be useful going forward.

There is also the issue of transition for all of us, and I have newfound sympathy for people who travel regularly (more than my normal) like this. It takes a couple of days to fully settle back in to life at home, and if your turnaround time is not much more than that, it can be pretty tough (for the traveler & the family).

None of this is complaint. Hope it doesn’t sound that way. It’s just a process of discovery, and I’m enjoying the journey so much that I imagine there will be grief at being done in a couple of weeks.

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Before I embarked on this walk, I texted Toby and said, "In case I go missing, here's where I am."

"Love it. But why?" he asked.

"Because I can. And I must."

And that's the truth.

christa

Hamster update: Tufts of fur making reappearance. Hope in sight.

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 2

PHOTO CREDIT: Edwin & Joyce Ormeo 7 October 2015

Late Monday night, I arrived home and was greeted by my Mom, who had been with the children since I left last Thursday. She loves being with her grand babies & holds up amazingly well, considering how much she gives on so little sleep. All were alive and well & seemed to have had plenty of fun in my absence.

Going into the second weekend of tour was a whole lot less stressful & I enjoyed feeling more established, sliding back into the rhythms & routine of sleeping, unloading, setting up, sound checking, playing, etc.  The people I'm sharing space with are really, really enjoyable humans - funny, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, sincere - which makes it very hard to force myself to go to bed at the end of the day. I keep asking them to please stop having fun so I can get some rest, but they don't listen.

People at all three shows (Indiana & Ohio) were gracious & as always, I loved seeing the unique personality of each one. Sunday night we played in the Gloria Theater, an old movie theater in the small town of Urbana, OH. The vibe was special there & the sound felt really great, for the solo opener especially. :)

Got off the bus Monday morning, used Uber for the first time ever (easy, successful), and spent the afternoon writing with Nicole Witt & Ellie Holcomb, two of my favorite soul-sisters, before heading home.

Reading...

On the flight home, I finally finished The Alchemist, which was such a provocative read that I wish I had read it in a less interrupted way. Also, it was a library book, so I refrained from highlighting, but there was so much I'd like to hold onto and ponder regarding the way we perceive God and our purpose in the world and how we journey.  It's deep and is a good companion to another book I was handed recently, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (Barbara Brown Taylor). Still wading through that one. May have to purchase The Alchemist and go through it again.

But yesterday I stumbled on The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles at the library & am already sucked in. I say "stumbled," but in truth I lean heavily on staff recommendations (at libraries and restaurants) and found that someone named "Emil" and I have very similar tastes.

Another book that has consumed my thoughts lately is The Enneagram Made Easy by Elizabeth Wagele. I brought it on tour to loan to Tiff (Plumb) and now she's hooked, too. You might roll your eyes and think, like my husband, that people should simply BE the way they are and not worry with WHY they are the way they are. Maybe you're right. But I am finding it immensely helpful in a. connecting better with my loved ones and b. connecting the dots of my own person and past.

Oh, and I'm also continuing to work on Peter Enns' The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. It's another provocative book and I'm trying to take it in thoughtfully and weight it all out in my own mind, form my own opinions. (If you have opinions about him & his perspective, I'd prefer not to have them in the comments here. Thanks!)

Listening...

One thing I have found interesting on the road the past couple weekends is how great a divide there is between the world of mainstream Christian music and the world of independent music by Christian artists. I'd like to see more consumers and artists aware of the great work being made outside of CCM/radio.  It goes both ways, of course. I have an unusual vantage point, being involved with both communities. Many in my  indie tribe are unfamiliar with CCM's artists, just as many of those artists have never heard of Josh Garrels.

Anyway, I'm enjoying getting acquainted with new work being released by Sara Groves (Floodplain), Giants & Pilgrims (Becoming), Elle Michelle (Coming of Age), & Nick Flora (Futureboy), friends who have either just released or are preparing to release albums.

Alright, better get to laundry and repacking. Heading out to Kill Devil Hills in the morning. This weekend's shows are close to home in NC!

christa

p.s. Update on Charlie the Hairless Hamster: a bad case of mites. Getting his second treatment tomorrow...hopefully returning to a state of hamster normalcy soon. Apparently, while I was away, he did have a minor setback when he took a tumble down the stairs in his hamster ball. It's not easy being a small rodent. Thanks for your prayers. ;)

 

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 1

Photo Credit: Edwin & Joyce Ormeo 29 sept 2015

I arrived home Sunday late afternoon after my first weekend out with Plumb's Exhale Tour. For these five weekends, I am the first (and smaller) of two openers, the other being a band from New Zealand called Rapture Ruckus.It's an eclectic line-up, with RR's high energy pop/rap and Plumb's gorgeously massive vocals set against lights and electric guitar. And there's me with my keyboard. I joke, but in truth I humbly and gratefully embrace my role filling the quieter, singer-songwriter space at the front.

"Come Close Now" especially resonated with people this week, and they often came to the table asking for "the fire song." It makes me so happy to see again and again that music mystically enters the most sacred spaces of a stranger's life, where I myself cannot go.

Our family has been in such an unusual state of upheaval over the past several months that I was unaware of the full extent of my stress level until it began showing up as headaches and sick stomach, which resolved itself once I was settled onto the tour bus.

Here is where I interrupt this journal to send out a public thank you - from the bottom of my heart - to the people in our church & family & community (local and far-0ff) who have taken care of us in SO many ways recently. We have been so humbled in a very good way to depend on you & so aware of how real your love is - for us and for God. And how real His love for us is.

So, for the curious...the highs & lows of the first weekend on a tour bus?

Lows...

...initial anxiety of being completely clueless regarding absolutely everything. Here's something true: If you say "yes" to things beyond your comfort zone, you're gonna be uncomfortable. Deep, huh?

...and...that's about it, unless you count the fact that I never read more than one paragraph of the book I brought along for bedtime (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho)

Highs...

...overcoming said anxieties with experience. The great thing about the first time is there is only one first time. You get over the hump pretty quickly.

...the food. Hello. I asked the bands: How do you do this all the time and not weigh twice as much as you do??? Eat, set up, eat, soundcheck, eat, perform, load out, eat, sleep, repeat.

...the black-out curtain on bus bunks. I slept well inside my little coffin.

...being parked in the Chautauqua State Park Saturday, which was beautiful and gave me the chance to escape for a quiet walk. I need nature like some people need Diet Coke.

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...NOT having to set up and run a portable PA. It's 1000x easier and more pleasurable to play & sing with a great sound system.

...by far, my favorite thing is meeting the people who volunteer at the events and the people who stop by the table afterwards to connect. I have zero interest in being on any kind of pedestal and find the best antidote is to stay busy working alongside other people, swapping stories.

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After four nights on the bus, I was greeted by my brother-in-law & enjoyed several hours with him & my sister, Mandy (of COVERS art fame), sipping coffee and eating donuts & pasta (health).

I arrived home to cool, gray Carolina skies (tropical storm off the coast), a 6th grade science project, and a delicious rice & chicken dish prepared by friends from church.

Daily chores & cuddles & quiet hours of solitude are welcome on these days between travel. Mom arrives to help tomorrow & I'm looking forward to a day with her before I leave.

Getting to do this work is a gift. Obviously. I know that well & will remind myself of that on the days when I don't really feel like getting on a plane.

Today, I'm home and practicing the art of being present.

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Also, I will practice hiding my disgust as a take my little girl & her hamster who murdered his partner and has now scratched all his hair off to the vet.  #reallife

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digging for Roots

I flew up to Indiana on Tuesday to be with Wilma Dean when her little brother passed away.  Grandma is almost 88-years-old, and old Uncle Pete...he is still her “little brother.”

Pete was the tan-skinned, puppy-eyed boy--one of Ralph & Alma’s nine kids - who grew up to be an Indiana farmer like his dad before him, and was known as the one who chased  you down to plant big, wet kisses on your cheek no matter your age or gender.

When my dad and I drove into the town that seems barely a town, and walked into the humble funeral home whose door opens into the street, I didn’t expect to feel so much really.  I was there to support Grandma...and maybe also because some small part of me is awakening to the fact that something is being lost.

Something I was never certain about until now.

Roots were a vague idea to me, as we moved from army post to post while cousins and great aunts and uncles shared life together in the Midwestern fields.

These people who climb the branches of our family tree were part of the landscape of my childhood, but I wasn’t convinced we had much in common.  I could never keep the names or lineage straight when we visited, and as much fun as those annual family reunions with the long folding tables in Uncle Bob’s garage were, it was just one day each year or two...and I felt my siblings and I were sort of the odd ones out.  Welcomed...loved, but…visitors.

Often when we  can’t have something, we decide we never really wanted/needed it anyway.

But when I stepped into the funeral home and felt the hot grief in my chest and behind my eyes and I couldn’t stop the relentless flood, I knew it wasn’t only for Uncle Pete, or for kind Aunt Frankie, now widowed, or for young Brandon and Kinnea, who have shared daily life with their Grandpa Pete. 

It was for all of these faces gathered together, these hearts that knew my Dad when he was a boy and watched my parents fall in love...the only people left in this world who knew and loved my great-grandma, whom I also loved.

These who have followed our life journeys across states and seas and have cared for my grandparents in our absence.  Our roots really are entwined, and they are beautiful, interesting humans, and there is something good between us.

But the nine are now two.  Those kids grew up and started something, and now just two remain - Grandma and her baby sister, and what did we make of the time?  Why didn’t I know all their names?  What stories were left untold?  What will happen to the tree when the last of the nine have gone?

I am not afraid.  But I am struck that the connection, however fragile, does actually matter.  To ME.  I did want it, afterall.

Roots. 

I have looked for them in a spiritual sense, allowing the warm body of believers around me to be my extended family since I left home.  There is that.  The Church.  Good roots.  Faithful branches that hold.

And maybe that’s all you’ve got.

Or do you feel you have nothing but parched roots and broken branches, because your family is gone or they are here but torn in some way worse than absence, and you don’t realize there might just be a way to find siblings, parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents yet...

Be encouraged…

It’s really never too late to start a family.

It’s not too late to start digging for roots.

The Line

The Line

Who’s to say why a modern girl

Should be so moved

By socks on a line,

Bath towels damp and clothespinned,

Dancing like old friends on a parquet floor

Swinging like children on rusty monkey bars

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Who will unfold the reasons

She opens inside out

At the sight of a white polyester fitted sheet

Billowing and blowing full of Costa Rican breeze –

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Why she inhales more deeply,

Or stands more quietly,

In the presence of the mundane,

Fabric doing what fabric must do,

Under the midday sun.

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Who can explain

The rushing river of abundance

In stretching out a task

One

------Shirt

--------------At

---------------------A

--------------------------Time

About the pleasure of being spun clean

And sundried slow.

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About the joy of hanging by a thread,

Old underwear flung against the clouds

For all the world to see.

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And! the crisp harmonic contrast:

What our hands have made

Alongside

What His hands have made.

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Who’s to say, really,

That she shouldn’t just stay

A few minutes more --

Arms long and loose –

In a

------

standing still moment

-------

Old-fashioned awe

Of laundry on a line.

--

la iglesia

...writing in Costa Rica, a poem...

The plaza surrounds the cathedral

With concrete pavers

Boys on skateboards sliding across space and time

Brown-skinned mamas, babies in slings

Trucks and vegetable vendors, holding out dirty nails and strands of garlic

Laughing exchanges between old men

These towns are built from the inside out

Beginning with la iglesia.

Someone told us all pueblos have these three:

Iglesia, Futbol, Cantina

Not sure of the order.

I haven’t yet stepped inside one of these monuments, but I imagine:

Exquisite attention to detail,

Arches and stained glass,

Artfully constructed altars,

Firm pews with straight backs.

Quiet.

Dim light.

Gorgeous fortress.

Humanity is a throng in the plaza on a Sunday afternoon.

What if we open those ancient walls and bring her inside?

Stack the stones out in the sun

Encircle park and babies, chile peppers and people

Until the heavens become an ocean overhead, and the floor a soccer field...

And we are within, and the whole thing in the light,

The only altar a flame,

The gospel of Christ.

And everywhere chairs and basins and towels.

What if we lean against the urge to merely deconstruct

And instead remember -

How to build a family?

How to center a life,

around something you cannot buy

or build

or earn

or find within yourself?

What if we discover there is ample room for skating and singing and spontaneity

Because the church is a living thing with lungs

And not a well-decorated tradition?

What if the church is a throng  in the plaza on a Sunday afternoon,

Moving like a flash mob

Around the center of our hallelujah?

far-from-home Christmas...

I’ll admit I wondered.

Can it be Christmas if there is no bread pudding?  Will we feel the awesome joy & delight & anticipation if we have few decorations and no family and neighbor-friends.  If we don’t attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service? If I have no piano?

Without parties and shopping and glowing fireplace, will the “coming” be glorious?

When we decided to arrive in Costa Rica before Christmas, I was up for the adventure, but definitely uncertain what it would mean for the kids and for me as far as our emotions related to this great season of celebration.

Last night we were invited to attend a special Christmas worship service at a small church in Cartago, a city about 20 minutes from where we are staying.  Our new friends, Tony and Anna Grace, graciously drove out of their way to transport us and watched over us the whole night.

They meet in a large, windowed room on the corner of a city block and when we arrived, the folding chairs were quickly filling with people, the tables with dishes of yellow rice & chicken & black beans, and the air with recorded music as the worship team got situated on the stage.

We sat toward the back and waited eagerly.  It’s a very strange experience to be enveloped in words and conversation and music and yet be completely unable to understand any of it.  To be wholly dependent on the kindness and ability of others to translate or attempt your language.

(We haven’t run into many fluent English speakers, which is very good and challenging for us!)

The team of musicians, men and women with shakers and electric keyboard and guitars, led a medley of Christmas songs, almost all familiar tunes, from Silent Night to Grown-Up Christmas List and we listened and swayed and joined an occasional line of harmony.

When the pastor, a tall and gracious gentleman who had come out to greet us at the street, stood to preach, I was all ears, straining hard to understand some little bit.

What I recognized and understood were not the sentences he spoke, but the power of the gospel in his voice.

The Name. Jesus… Jesus… Jesus.  Regalo…

And I listened to the singing and the preaching and thought:

These are His people, too.  I have family here.  And some day there will be no language barrier between us.  One day the only thing that really matters will be the only thing.

Long ago God crossed invisible borders and entered our country speaking a new language called Hope and Rescue, made this language accessible to every human in every land through the power of His Spirit.

It was a glorious coming, and will always be so, whatever country we inhabit and regardless of décor or tradition.

It doesn’t need to be contrived or conjured because it really, truly, actually IS.

There is no fear that Christmas won’t find us when we are far from home (as we all are), because Christmas is not a feeling but a Person, and He found us years ago.

May your last week of waiting be full with the joy and gladness of being found, wherever you are...

love,

christa

FINDING the rest...

Dear Friends, I haven't really found a clever way to share this bit of news.  Something will probably occur to me right after I click "Post."  :)

In just over two weeks - 24 hours after returning home from our last Christmas concert- Toby and I are taking the kids and heading down to Central America for several months this winter.  That’s right…several months!  Various factors and desires and circumstances converged to lead us to the decision to just do it.  Recent exhaustion and a battle with anxiety have caused us to look forward to this "hard stop" even more.

And to realize that God does indeed lead us in particular directions for reasons we can’t foresee.

We have long hoped to give our children an experience life outside of our American culture, to allow ourselves the chance to do some studying that will enrich our respective works, and to learn the Spanish language (one of our children being from Guatemala makes this extra important to us)

And simply... time to be undivided, reading, praying and seeking wisdom and direction for our life and work.

So when people ask: What will you DO while you're there?...

The answer is NOTHING…and EVERYTHING.  Trading hurriedness and multi-tasking and constant preparing, for a time of exploring and listening, studying and cooking, praying and resting.

And if you're wondering: Are you doing mission work down there?

The answer is No...and...YES.

We're taking a break, but not a vacation in the traditional sense.  It's not a "mission trip," per se, and yet ministry will happen, with us on both the giving and receiving ends.

We are eager and uncertain.  I expect I’ll weep and sleep on the flight - from fatigue and relief from all the hurdles we'll only finish crossing the minute we take our seats.  We may get sick when we get there, simply because we haven't the time to be sick here.  :)

Life is gorgeous and full, and we are so grateful and have no complaints, other than our own failure to manage our time well.  Changes have come without us taking the time to re-sort our priorities.  For the past year we've moved at an unsustainable pace, and a "hard stop" (a phrase I learned from Ann Voskamp) is needed.

So what does this mean for the music?

We are releasing a new album, How Emptiness Sings, in the spring, and will hopefully return from our travels with a clearer picture of how we can continue to share the music while still balancing the other parts of our life well, and not be reduced to panic attacks. :)

While we're away, things will be happening to gear us up for the album release and to allow me to stay in touch with you.  We will be online, and I’ll keep you posted here on the blog.  Should have some amusing stories to pass on!

As Nicole and I prepare to go on the road for a couple of weeks, I realize the next time I post here may be after we get off the plane!

THANK YOU for your encouragement and support and for sharing the music.  Knowing that God uses this flawed work from my seriously flawed hands is what makes it all worthwhile.  He is faithful.

with Love and Joy and Gratitude,

christa

p.s.  I got to participate in a live recording of some unique Advent music with local NC musicians...you can find it here!

Sea

I realize I’ve been away from this writing place several weeks, and I’m tempted to feel guilty for not following my own weekly regimen.  Especially since watching Julie & Julia last night.  But then I remind myself that I am, afterall, a songwriter who does some blogging and not the other way around.  So…thanks for sticking around when you don’t have to and when nothing new is showing up for weeks…

Sea

We don’t live near the sea. In the three years since our last visit I’ve thought of it little, Content with grass and pines, gardens and topsoil.

Afterall, it’s good to be home.

Now that we’ve returned, I’m humbled to know: Neither my absence nor lack of remembrance Affect the life of the sea.

She exists without us; Her magnitude is not even slightly diminished. Waves roll in From places under the sun we’ll never lay eyes on. Her roar continually fills our ears-- A “white noise” that surrounds us all and depends on no electrical outlet.

She has no need of me.

But watch those children slice and kick the foam, Squeal as she slams their shins in play and We turn backs to the crash, try to keep upright, Even as we laugh at the fall.

I was pleased for a while simply to feel sand sink underfoot Stand guard at the shore and count heads.

It’s easy to stay put.

But when the time came, I grabbed board, and friend, And we waded against the push Leaned hard Into the current Got ourselves deep and Removed. We felt privileged, Small and strong. I thought we might stay out there forever.

It’s heavenly to float.

And a momentary pleasure. The sea doesn’t ask approval But swells and swallows according to her own purpose And when she lifted and catapulted our bodies We could not but submit We could only lay down and close our eyes As we rode galloping water steeds all the way Back to the shallows.

Transported by the tide.

Wild wet-haired creatures rose up laughing, whooping, exhilarated-- Dripping, sand-scuffed, ecstatic.

And I realize— It’s home to be alive.

You know someone who needs this camp...

Masterpiece Project...two camp sessions offered in summer 2010...a uniquely intimate setting for young artists to explore issues of art and faith and build mentoring and peer relationships. Last year's theme: Flow. This year: Frame the Clouds. (hmmm, where have we heard that before?) Check it out!

masterpiece promo from David Vosburg on Vimeo.

Encountering Truth at Encounter 10

NYC
 

I left my camera and my Flip in my suitcase when we left thehotel on Saturday and again on Sunday.  Can you believe that?  New York City and no pictures or film to recall the occasion.  Boo hoo.

I left home in the Saturday morning dark and met Mom at LGA, because she had flown from Tennessee to join me. The first hour we spent weeping in the food court over shared stories of horror and grief in places like Haiti and Rwanda.  Over other people’s stories and work and writings.  Despite the differences in our appearances, we have always had this in common.

We felt like country bumpkins navigating the subway, but safely arrived at the International Arts Movement’s annual Encounter conference at Cooper Union's Great Hall.  The Hall lives up to its name—someone told me 11 presidents, including Abe Lincoln, have spoken in that room.   It was my honor to perform two songs as accompaniment to Sgt. Ron Kelsey’s release of his book Reflections of Generosity: Toward Restoration and Peace, published by International Arts Movement. 

One of the songs, simply titled “Song of Blessing,” is pretty special to me, as I wrote for the opening of the ROG exhibit at Fort Drum in special honor of the 10th Mountain Division.  This division is specially trained to fight in harsh terrain and weather conditions and is one of the most deployed divisions.

Lyrics were inspired by the Soldier’s Creed and the motto of the 10th Mountain Division: Climb to glory. 

Song of Blessing (for the 10th Mountain Division)

by Christa Wells


May your feet find the road that’s narrow and sure

May they carry you home, when you’ve finished your work

May the light shine upon you,

All around you, in the moments

When the darkness would like to take you in

May the quiet voice inside you

Keep the truth alive and guide you as you run,

It’s gonna be a hard run

 

Take care of your heart

Take the long way,

If that’s where peace is born

Take beauty from the ashes

Let the beauty rise up

That’s where hope comes from

 

May you hold your head up, and shoulder the sky

May your chorus be sung as you follow the fight:

That you will go into the hills and

Face the fearsome bitter cold

You are a guardian of freedom in this place

That you will stand until it’s over

You will make the climb to glory, you will climb

So high

 

Sgt Kelsey is graciously sending me 50 copies of his book, and given me permission to give them away.  First dibs will go to active-duty military—please send your  service member friends (from any country) here to request a copy!  It will be encourage and inspire.

Because we arrived Saturday afternoon, we only sat in on one session, but the three other speaker/artists we had the privilege of hearing from in that session were remarkable.

David Sacks is a photographer who absolutely blew my mind.  The exquisite beauty and insight of his work and his humility of spirit were both inspiring as he discussed the idea of giving away your art in his talk: Philanthropy and the Arts.

Etsuru Sotoo is a Japanese sculptor working on Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece the basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Listening to him speak about the freedom he enjoys as an artist by choosing to “look in the direction in which Gaudi looked” and which can be experienced, as in marriage, “precisely because of the boundaries,” was very provocative. 

Jeffrey Overstreet is a novelist and award-winning film reviewer, who was an absolutely riveting speaker (and dinner companion).  The title of his talk was something like: "How then shall we tell the story?"  

As he turned the slides and quoted stories that had carried him through childhood, it was obvious how they move him still—he became choked up as he spoke of them—and how passionate he is about his work. He focused a great deal on film, and while it’s likely that not everyone in the room agreed with him on every point (he pointed out numerous contradictions in the way people of faith often respond to certain films and books), I’m confident each of us was provoked to consider more thoughtfully the concept of truth-telling in film and books. Fascinating.  I will be consulting his film reviews in the future.


The earth is filled with such talent, such intelligence, wit and originality. 

I encountered human beings this weekend who bear witness to this, and I revel in yet more evidence of a talented, intelligent, witty and original Designer.