It’s Your Turn to Live Now

This song came together quickly, and I didn’t feel very deliberate or in charge of its construction. Somehow I had this phrase “it’s your turn to live now” in my head, so I started there. I got the bones of the chorus down, and then felt compelled to look up the end of 1 Corinthians 13. The words in the NIV version flowed so well I used them mostly verbatim for the verses.

I think this is a bit of backlash to the trendy term and idea of “adulting.” Also to the longer-held romanticism with childhood and childlikeness – Peter Pan never wanting to grow up, because growing up means selling out, losing your imagination, diminishing. I’m sure I’ve used this idea in my own writing from time to time, because I can empathize with it.

*But* this song is exploring the beauty and power of a person fully grown and fully alive – and in that very reality, forever continually unfolding, becoming, changing. Because that’s what living is – a process, an active evolution, an ever-reaching-forward, a dance, a song, a story. Now that does sound a little childlike – and I guess that’s why Peter Pan didn’t want to grow up, not because he saw maturity at its best, but rather what happens to too many of us when we “finish” childhood – we settle, harden, start to die instead of continue to live.

Here’s my song for week 27 of #songaweek2018. Nathan played along so it’s a Cabin of Love song. With an exciting photobomb by a cute kid.

It’s your turn to live now
Your time to breathe free
Your moment to walk in the sun
And stand on your feet

On top of the mountain
Of all the fears you’ve outgrown
It’s your turn to live now
Inhabit your home

When I was a child
I talked like a child
I thought like a child
I reasoned like a child
But when I became a woman
I put childish ways behind me

It’s your turn to live now . . . creeds you’ve outgrown . . .

Now I know in part
Then I shall know fully
Even as I am fully known

It’s your turn to live now . . . dreams you’ve outgrown . . .

And now these three remain
Faith, hope and love
But the greatest of these is love

Thank You Me

Week 43 of #songaweek2016 had an added challenge to “write a song to your younger self.” It also happened to be the week of my birthday, so instead of the usual advice song I might have written (which is more like this one I wrote earlier in the year), I made myself a musical birthday card of sorts. There are plenty of things I may wish I had done differently in my younger days, but there are also things I can thank my younger self for, choices and actions that have helped bring me to this point of life in one relatively happy and healthy piece.

What would you thank your younger self for?

Thanks for having faith in me
thanks for believing I could grow up and be okay
thanks for still inspiring me
thanks for caring, growing, and learning

thanks for filling my head
with colorful memories
and propelling my will
with bold new dreams

thanks for saving me some money
thanks for choosing that man
thanks for holding on to me

I’m still alive and well
still have some miles to run
and though you’re only one of the many
people who I have to thank
you still count.

You Won’t Be Young Forever

My song for week 39 of #songaweek2016 was inspired by photos and videos from my Aunt Marti, taken on her regular outings with her mother, my beloved Grammy. I’m not really sure which of them has more fun when they get together!
You can also download the song for free here: https://soundcloud.com/julia-tindall-bloom/you-wont-be-young-forever

Someday you can take yourself less seriously
Someday you can look the world full in the face
and smile like you mean it
because you do
and take no notice of
meaningful glances
uncomfortable silence
and awkward questions

You won’t be young forever
won’t always be stuck in these ruts
won’t be always a slave to fashion
or scared of bad haircuts
so if you’re feeling like your life is getting dull and sick and tired
just remember that you won’t be young forever

We won’t be young forever
won’t always be stuck in these ruts
won’t be always slaves to fashion
or scared of bad haircuts
so when we’re feeling like our lives are getting dull and sick and tired
let’s be thankful that we won’t be young forever
we can be thankful that we won’t be young forever
hey aren’t we lucky that we won’t be young forever?

Fertile Soil, Brittle Seed

For most of my life I’ve lived hundreds of miles and multiple states away from my grandparents, and for most of my life I’ve gotten back to see them about once a year. A relationship kept like that, in one-year snapshots, has a different sense of time and life passing. One year I’m a mousy elementary-school kid watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons and eating Honey Nut Cheerios with my cousins at Grammy‘s coffee table. Three visits (years) later, I’m an awkward junior-higher playing Grammy a song on the baby grand piano in that same living room. Click ahead a few more frames, and I’m a newlywed bringing my new husband to see the one constant physical place I’ve had in my life, Grammy’s house.

Then there are children to show her, my tiny branches from the family tree. They snuggle on her lap, then toddle on the floor, and they begin their own year-by-year memories of their great-grandmother, the only great-grandparent on my side of the family who they will remember. The other three died before my children could know them.

For many of the years past, Grammy has felt like the unchanging one, solid, always there, happy to see me, excited about all of the changes happening in my life. And always, every time since I showed her the first poem I wrote in junior high, asking me, “are you still writing? Are you still singing?”

In more recent years, Grammy has changed more noticeably. She remembers less, confuses the generations (my son is my brother, her grandchildren are her children . . .), talks more about the farm she grew up on, wonders where her parents are, can’t walk so well, doesn’t feel like eating . . . is generally growing out of life, “not long for this world,” as the old books used to put it. And still, each year when I visit, nearly the first thing out of her mouth when she sees me is “are you still writing? Are you still singing?”

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And so I sing for her, and for my mother, for myself, for my children, because we are all not long for this world. We are all and each of us touched by every year, every age, but never held in its grasp. Always moving on . . .

Here’s my song for week 32 of #songaweek2016:

Fertile soil brittle seed
Tender shoot luscious fruit
Fading flower falling leaves
Grieving ground resting roots

This is happening
These seasons turning to years
These years laying down marks
Uneraseable
Furrows plowed in flesh
Memories scattered like stars on the night sky of my mind

Every age may touch me
None will keep its grasp on me
I go on I go on I go on and on
Till I lay me down at last
In the great one’s arms

 

Your Call

Every moment of your life is a gift. You can stack all those gifts on a shelf and save them for later, but the little gremlins of time and urgency will tear into them and do with them what they will, and then you will be left with cleanup duty. Or you can quit waiting on everyone else, everything else, and take each gift in your arms, each moment, as it arrives, open it up, live it with intention. You can answer the call with your own voice and actions – take full responsibility, full pleasure, full heartache, whatever it is – from each moment.

My song for Week 20 of #songaweek2016 reflects on the passivity I and many women learned by osmosis growing up in a fundamentalist environment, and the ongoing conversation I’ve had with my younger self to work through it. So that even those moments I passed on the first time have become precious to me, have shaped me, as I perform the aforementioned cleanup duty.

It’s all good. All shall be well. This I still believe.

Hey little girl with the starry eyes
falling in love for the very first time
you always keep your toes in line
you always keep your tongue so tied

don’t hold back the words you need to say

You should tell him
you should tell him ’cause the mystery haunts my dreams
or you should leave it
you should leave it ’cause the mystery inspires me
I just wish that you had known that it was all your call

You spend your afternoons in secret gardens
writing all your secret thoughts
waiting for the world to come and find you
waiting for permission to come alive

don’t hold back the moves you need to make

Get up and dance now
get up and dance because my memories could use more joy
or keep your quiet
keep your quiet ’cause my memories could hold more peace
I just wish that you had known that it was all your call

but i’d never go back
not for a minute
and I wouldn’t trade it
not for a million
’cause I’ve learned that every moment is my call
and that my life is ringing
off the hook

 

Child-Woman

I closed out another journal this morning. Here’s an entry from earlier this year, written after a particularly painful evening of parenting.

Oh ten-year-old girl with the rages and rolling eyes, the cry and play of a child, the body and mind leaning towards adulthood. You are loved, and lovely. You are unpredictable, awkward, unkind, collapsible. Headstrong, indecisive, brilliant and naive.

I, young one, am your mother. I am wise and baffled. Patient and irritated. I love you. I do not always like you. I am not old and wise enough to never feel pain at your unkindnesses. (No, that’s not where wisdom would be found. Love feels the pain. Wisdom – and love again – can reach beyond it, to embrace you, to envision you in truth, a child-woman writhing in growing pains.)

Sleep tonight, my small darling. Sleep and be refreshed. You are not in-between two realities. You are fully functioning, smack-dab in the center of one reality, this one, the reality of your living self at age ten-and-one-half. And I am honored to know you here and now.

I’m Not Interested in That Right Now

I was looking for something to publish on my blog this past week, sifting through years of my own unpublished essays and blog post drafts. But so much of that stuff is just . . . stuffy. It sounds suspiciously like my 16-year-old self’s idea of a wise old college professor. It uses big words and tosses around hefty ideas.

That’s okay. But I’m just not so interested in that right now.

I’m interested in the sugar snap peas growing in my mother’s garden, and the ensuing stir-fry I plan to cook for her tonight, while the kids and I are here visiting for a couple weeks. I’m interested in good beer, and good stories. In easygoing conversation, lively music, and running errands by bicycle. In relaxing with a good book, also in my mother’s garden. In the moments I spent last week with my aging Grammy, when I sang to her and she told us stories of her youth, and I saw tears in my aunt’s eyes, and the fireflies lit up the woods behind the house as we said goodnight, and I felt the strange strength and beauty of that fragile moment supporting all of us who were present there together.

I mean to say, I’m interested in things that don’t accommodate big words and hefty ideas very well. I’m interested in the everyday things that are happening now, while they’re happening. In the people who are living now, while they’re living.

In the actual stuff of life, at the very heart of all the stuffy things I have to say about it.

“That Dreadful Question ‘What For?'”

This right here. After 38.5 years of living and on my 16th wedding anniversary (happy day, Lover!), I deeply resonate with Seth Godin’s post about the infinite game.

What is the meaning of life? Godin answers it – “To play.” In Christian religious speak (and archaic sexist language), the question and the answer go like this – “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

In Tolstoy’s War and Peace (which took me the past year to read!), Pierre – a Russian aristocrat taken captive by the French – discovered the same thing after being freed.

(Aw, go ahead, sit down and read this little passage! I’ve highlighted my favorite parts for you skimmers, and added a couple explanatory notes in brackets. And I acknowledge that this passage also uses sexist language.)

A joyous feeling of freedom- that complete inalienable freedom natural to man which he had first experienced at the first halt outside Moscow- filled Pierre’s soul during his convalescence. He was surprised to find that this inner freedom, which was independent of external conditions, now had as it were an additional setting of external liberty. He was alone in a strange town, without acquaintances. No one demanded anything of him or sent him anywhere. He had all he wanted: the thought of his wife which had been a continual torment to him was no longer there, since she was no more [it hadn’t been a happy marriage, and his wife had died while he was in captivity].

“Oh, how good! How splendid!” said he to himself when a cleanly laid table was moved up to him with savory beef tea, or when he lay down for the night on a soft clean bed, or when he remembered that the French had gone and that his wife was no more. “Oh, how good, how splendid!”

And by old habit he asked himself the question: “Well, and what then? What am I going to do?” And he immediately gave himself the answer: “Well, I shall live. Ah, how splendid!”

The very question that had formerly tormented him, the thing he had continually sought to find- the aim of life- no longer existed for him now. That search for the aim of life had not merely disappeared temporarily- he felt that it no longer existed for him and could not present itself again. And this very absence of an aim gave him the complete, joyous sense of freedom which constituted his happiness at this time.

He could not see an aim, for he now had faith- not faith in any kind of rule, or words, or ideas, but faith in an ever-living, ever-manifest God. Formerly he had sought Him in aims he set himself. That search for an aim had been simply a search for God, and suddenly in his captivity he had learned not by words or reasoning but by direct feeling what his nurse had told him long ago: that God is here and everywhere. In his captivity he had learned that in Karataev [a peasant who had befriended Pierre in his captivity] God was greater, more infinite and unfathomable than in the Architect of the Universe recognized by the Freemasons. He felt like a man who after straining his eyes to see into the far distance finds what he sought at his very feet. All his life he had looked over the heads of the men around him, when he should have merely looked in front of him without straining his eyes.

In the past he had never been able to find that great inscrutable infinite something. He had only felt that it must exist somewhere and had looked for it. In everything near and comprehensible he had only what was limited, petty, commonplace, and senseless. He had equipped himself with a mental telescope and looked into remote space, where petty worldliness hiding itself in misty distance had seemed to him great and infinite merely because it was not clearly seen. And such had European life, politics, Freemasonry, philosophy, and philanthropy seemed to him. But even then, at moments of weakness as he had accounted them, his mind had penetrated to those distances and he had there seen the same pettiness, worldliness, and senselessness. Now, however, he had learned to see the great, eternal, and infinite in everything, and therefore- to see it and enjoy its contemplation- he naturally threw away the telescope through which he had till now gazed over men’s heads, and gladly regarded the ever-changing, eternally great, unfathomable, and infinite life around him. And the closer he looked the more tranquil and happy he became. That dreadful question, “What for?” which had formerly destroyed all his mental edifices, no longer existed for him. To that question, “What for?” a simple answer was now always ready in his soul: “Because there is a God, that God without whose will not one hair falls from a man’s head.”

One Year in a Minnesota Prairie Town

This is a cycle of poems I wrote while living in my hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota, a few years ago. Today, a snowy gray day in February (my least favorite month, even here in my new town in Colorado), I found myself thinking of the winter poems here, and hoping in the spring and summer – thankful for the continuing growth and change of seasons.

One Year in a Minnesota Prairie Town

Early Winter

George MacDonald said

“Winter is only a spring too weak and feeble for us to see that it is living.”

So where is the end of the year?

The seasons, like space,

Appear to have no boundaries

But, turning and turning,

Move all life along some invisible thread.

Mid Winter

I almost forgot

And nearly remembered

In between sleeps

Late Winter

Hoary white

Frozen forgetting

Pewter-skied afternoon.

A filmy burning eye

Distant low

Blurs unfeelingly

To darkness.

Underground

Embryos stir

Ever so slightly

Unfolding.

Early Spring

Before departure

The snow expands

To jagged chunks of salt and sand.

When it recedes

Instead of seashells

We find

Trash and lost things.

Mid Spring

There’s an afternoon time and a garden place

Where the sun warms me well

Well,

The sun,

And you –

Peeking up at me

Poking through soil

Perennial but new.

Late Spring

Might be the last morning this yellow-haired girl

Pushes this primary-blue baby doll stroller

Might be the last day she calls this woman mommy

Buds and branches

Are opening to flowers.

Blossoms and baby fat

Are ripening to fruit.

Early Summer

Now the serpent was subtle

The woman was stupid

The man was absent

And that’s how the world went to hell

They told me.

Here

In the sunlight

All the colors weave a mothering warmth

I believe I’m being born again

Don’t tell them.

Mid Summer

Barefoot

Pregnant

In the garden

She is not holy,

She is living.

Late Summer

Late summer is ragtime

The ragweed is a woody-stemmed shrub

The flowers sprawl in their raggedy gardens

The air is ragged with rasping cicadas

What was delight in spring

Sweet satisfaction at mid-summer

Now is overkill

A glaring beauty with too much makeup

Overpowering perfume

Gaudy clothes

And weary eyes.

If it didn’t all fall down

And sleep a while

Life would never last.

Early Autumn

Come in, come in.

Time to wash

And undress

Time to fire up the stove

Simmer down slow

Time for your bath.

All summer

You’ve been out in the sun

And the rain and the wind

Now it’s time to come in

Time to snuggle down

In your jar in the pantry.

Mid Autumn

Breathe

Remember

Hope.

Let fading leaves fade

Let dying light die

Embrace this moment

Though it chills and darkens everything.

If you hold the fire of summer’s sun

In the pit of your soul

You’ll survive

Till it warms your face again.

Late Autumn

This is where we have trouble with names.

Beyond the harvest holiday

We sing of jingle bells

Demand snowflakes.

Autumn shrugs, sighs

And leaves the room.

Other People’s Work

Read any good books lately (besides your own)?

Frederick Buechner said, “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It is exhilarating to discover this place and then get to work in it, pay or no pay, day job or not, published book or engaging tweet.

But without a healthy sense of self, a grown-up level of security in our personhood, we creative-types* can begin to identify ourselves with our work. We become the work we make. And then, instead of celebrating the good work that other people do in our same field or genre, we start to compare our work (ourselves) with theirs, become annoyed and critical, and sometimes just stop listening to, looking at, or reading other people’s work altogether.

Nobody can tell it, write it, sing it, film it, or whatever your thing is – like you can. But you are one voice among hundreds or thousands, maybe even millions, depending on your particular medium – and each of those voices is also unique. Some of those creators are better at using their voices than others, some are still working to find their own voice at all. You are in there too, somewhere on that continuum.

There will always be people who make better work than you do. “Better” is wildly subjective and depends on all sorts of things like budget, public opinion, connections, aesthetic, age, experience . . .

But as I’ve listened to and learned from creators I consider to be “better,” I’ve seen a common thread. These are people who pay attention to other people’s work. Musicians who rave about other musicians, poets who immerse themselves in other people’s poetry, filmmakers who go into great detail describing how other people’s films have inspired them. And they tend to seek out work they consider better than their own.

That takes a healthy sense of self, a realistic perspective on one’s own work and calling. It’s humbling to remember that other people picked up guitars and made up songs before I could tie my shoes – that I was not the one to discover music. Sounds crazy-obvious and astonishingly arrogant when I say it like that, but these are the sorts of unvoiced exaggerations self-delusion sneaks into our minds if we don’t acquaint those minds with the voices and work of other people (I know, because I’ve been there).

And so, I think that one significant mark of maturity in a creative life is when you can be moved, inspired, and challenged by the work of another (especially a peer, someone living and working in your field, even in your particular circle of influence), without feeling threatened, jealous, hyper-critical, or compelled to copy.

I’m not saying that these feelings shouldn’t surface as we interact with other people’s work. In fact, they almost certainly will and should as we mature, but if we recognize them for what they are and continue to create in spite of them, they will prove to be very helpful teachers and teach themselves right out of a job.

So hit the library and grab a book of poems, subscribe to somebody else’s blog, go out and hear another singer/songwriter at your local coffee shop, go to somebody else’s gallery opening. And feel your mind broaden, and say a little word of thanks for all the brilliant voices in the world.

* In this post I’m writing specifically from my perspective as someone who tries to create on a regular basis, but these ideas could probably apply in other fields of work as well, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that.