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
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.