Morning’s Little Choices

Morning

Each morning I make a choice.

If I get out of bed at 6 I will have the house to myself. I will tiptoe around the bedroom, stumble my way toward the bathroom, and eventually find my running clothes. Once everything has been strapped on or laced up I will step out into a cold and still morning and have not just the house but the whole world to myself, or so it seems. The trail will be empty, just me and the deer who reflect me in their black-globe eyes, standing still as stones as I run by. Silent except my breath, and the fall of my feet on the crushed gravel. The morning will be the magic of mist hanging low somewhere between the dew-covered grass and the sunrise.

If I get out of bed at 7, or a little after really, I’ll hear the shuffle of pajama-clad feet padding down the hallway and the near-silent scuffle of a little boy climbing up on the side of the bed. He’ll crawl in beside me, and I’ll hear the tiny ticks of static as he slides close as close can be under the covers. I’ll feel the tender weight of his tiny hand as he sets it on my shoulder. I’ll turn my face toward him, eyes still closed, and my hand will find his chest to feel the beat of his heart and the rise and fall of his breath under my palm all at once.

This is a hard little choice, though either outcome makes the day a little easier.

Reading Poetry

Two weeks of
turning the pages
and turning down corners of
Billy Collins, and Wendell Berry, and Mary Oliver.

Sitting with three old souls,
who speak in soft tones,
murmuring and mulling over the things most true.

Just us four.
Each one, in turn, looks at me square
and sees my soul and
tells me who I am,
that I’m peculiar in all the right ways and
quite right in celebrating the world the way I do.

“Be not bridled by the
unromantic ritual of daily life,”
says Mary, with a conspiratorial lean.

“Yes,” nods Billy. “The Devil is in the doldrums,
so romanticize the hell out of them.”

“Right out,” smiles Wendell
between puffs of his pipe.
“Right out.”

These three and me
with tea between us.
Talking about little things
that are the biggest things in the world.

Just Play

I hadn’t written much of anything in months other than pithy captions on Instagram photos, nor was I in a hurry to do more. My actual writing had grown stagnant, but my desire to have written was still gushing. Starting seemed insurmountable, ideas and lines flying here and there and the task of organizing all those birds in flight into the single-file lines of rational sentence structure wore me thin before I could even begin.

I was explaining this wearying paralysis to a friend (read: complaining), and she looked at me with only a marginal amount of sympathy and said, “Just play.”

Take the pressure out of it. Stop trying to be brilliant. Make some nonsense. Write whatever comes to mind. Just write.

A couple months ago, with her words ringing in the back of my mind, I made a commitment to start writing every day.

Failure commenced the very next day when I wrote a sum total of nothing.

But the experiment hasn’t been an all-out disaster. Most days I do write. Some days I don’t. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, trying to extend myself a little grace. And trying to play, to have fun, but also finding that I might have forgotten how.

I started small. I would try to write a paragraph at the very least, and I was doing okay. Then Anne Lamott and her lovely little bird book conspired with my inner-Achiever, and I found myself whispering to myself, saying thing like, “If you were really serious about this writing-everyday-thing you’d be writing at least three hundred words a day.”

Cue the musical montage depicting my five days of discipline and self-satisfaction. Smash cut to me brooding in the mirror as I brush my teeth at the end of another day in a long line of not typing a word.

What this experiment continues to reveal is that I’m all for discipline, but I also need to allow for a natural ebb and flow. Without that little bit of give, healthy discipline quickly erodes into resentment, stress, and other downward-spiraling nonsense.

I’ve been in a bit of a busy stretch the last week or so that’s kept me from writing for any regular block of time, so I’ve been trying something new. I just finished the book Accidental Creative (highly recommended), and it talks about doing a better job of noticing the fly-away thoughts we have throughout the day, those momentary flashes of insight or pangs of emotion that rise up in the course of ordinary conversations, commutes, and correspondence. Todd Henry (he’s the author) recommends carrying a few index cards at all times to capture these thoughts before they disappear into the ether.

(In her book Bird by Bird Anne Lamott suggests the same technique, but I’m already feeling a bit abused by her genius so I’m giving credit to Todd.)

Well, I emphatically will not carry note cards. They remind me of homework and flash cards and public speaking, and I’ll have none of that. But I will carry my phone, and for the last week or so I’ve been capturing these fragments of thought every time I can remember to do so.

And it feels like play.

Out of necessity these rapid-fire snippets are often captured without a filter, a result of needing to get them down as quick as I can in the bitty breaks between meetings or stoplights. No filter means they’re rife with misspellings and non-sequiturs, but they’re also full of reality and raw originality. I look back and I see moments that would have passed by with a half-smile only to be forever forgotten. A single rhyme or instance of alliteration will materialize in my head, and in the course of writing it down it will suddenly bloom into a whole stanza (a whole stanza of really awful poetry, mind you, but a memento of a beautiful moment nonetheless, written in ugly sentence structure… like this).

I’m easily topping three hundred words a day now (take that Anne!) and having a lot of fun. I feel as if I’m casting seeds, little insignificant fragments of things that just might become something really beautiful when I have the chance to coax more out of them with a little care.

I’m playing.

Sometimes making things can start to feel like a burden rather than a privilege. Or the immensity of touching the untouchable can suddenly seem too much. Or as our eyes cross with the complexity of it, the masterpiece at hand can begin to look like a paint-by-numbers. And maybe, sometimes, it is. When I’m in these dark, confining rooms called fear, worry, and complacency I sometimes need to burst out the front door. I need to feel my feet running down the street. I need to start ringing the doorbells of every neighbor with the surnames of Wonder, Laughter, and Discovery painted on their mailbox to ask if any of them might come out and play with me. We each need a place where we can experiment, and try, and fail, and withhold judgment, and maybe find a way out of these very dark rooms. We all need a way to just play.

Shadows: A Spoken Word

ShadowsWe all have questions, dangling thoughts that are unanswered, things we wonder but sometimes only in whispers. One of the tasks and responsibilities of artists is to poke at these kinds of questions and raise the decibels of those whispers. The team and I recently had the opportunity to develop a new piece that asks the questions and dives headfirst into the misconceptions many of us have about who God is… who he really is. This is that.

Editing and motion graphics: Andrew Schuurmann
Additional motion graphics: Charles Booth
Producer: Sherri Meyer
Executive Producer: Paul Johnson

“I cannot talk about God or sin or grace, for example, without at the same time talking about those parts of my own experience where these ideas became compelling and real.”
-Frederick Buechner

Wide Open Spaces

WideSpacesWhen we moved back to the midwest eight months ago we’d hardly dragged our stuff in the door before the whole world disappeared into a blanket of snow, and the temperatures plummeted to double-digits below zero. Friends from our former home in California began texting and calling with questions like: Are you okay? Are you snowed in? Is -30° actually survivable?

No question, it has been an adjustment, but the midwest has been good for my soul. Continue reading