I was a stranger here yet better known
Away from all I thought myself to be—
Away from all routines that made me, me,
I found myself in being severed grown.
Away from all the people I loved best
I found myself in newer company—
I found my soul in this older country
Away from where in strivings I would rest.
I came in laughter ready to enjoy
Yet leave a somewhat sadder, wiser heart—
Yet leave more whole for being torn apart,
I return dyed a deeper shade of joy.
Away I went to see the world’s wide wealth,
I return now, a world within myself.
Walking through Cambridge, inspiration is difficult to avoid. My apologies to those on the sidewalk who had to go around me as I stopped to give this poor bird a proper elegy.
“His eye is on the sparrow,” so ’tis sung
But ‘neath some foot or wheel its feathers flung-
Poor claws curled up in pain all that remain
Of this, the least of these, abandoned-slain.
The serpent struck, his head then doomed to crush,
Yet somehow just this little life- this thrush-
Drops down, his sun-stripe yellow turned to grey,
And he who flew now falls into decay.
Though sorrowful surrender stills his wings,
Another takes his tune and still he sings.
*(Poetic disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of AABBCC… but this the rhyme scheme that happened and it somehow seems fitting.)
Method acting is a key point in my novel. One of the characters is an actor who has become “stuck” in the role that he last performed. He has lost himself into the character he was contracted to play. There are obviously a MANY problems that arise from this (many dark moments for this poor guy), but there is one lesson to learn for our benefit:
First of all, to create art, you cannot always consider yourself an “aspiring artist.” If I had stayed in the mindset of “I’ll someday be a pianist” I would not have gone far as a musician. Instead, I learned, over many years of self-doubt that if you want to achieve something, you have to live into that dream now as if it is already reality. In much better words:
You have to live as if you already are what/who you want to be. If you want to be a great pianist, you have to live as if you already are one by practicing hard, humbly listening to both praise and criticism, and making original (even if not at first brilliant) artistic decisions. For too many years I worked my tail off and studied like mad, but was crippled by the thought that I had not yet achieved, that I was not yet the musician I wanted to be. In one sense this is true. I had and still do have far to go and we should NEVER stop pushing ourselves to be better or else our art (and, worse, our very selves as human beings) will stagnate.
However, you have to live and press forward with the conviction that you already are that musician (or artist) that you want to be, letting this motivate you to live up to your future vocation/goal in the present practice.
Oddly enough, I have never had a problem claiming to be a writer. To be fair, I probably should have more qualms about my claims to being a writer, for I am soooooooooo far from where I want to be. I don’t have a doctorate, haven’t published a novel, have not been invited to give guest lectures, etc.
But I am confident that one day I can reach these levels because I have already adopted “writer” as my current role. By living as a “writer” in the present, I am more motivated to actually pursue this goal than I would be had I remained an “aspiring writer” or “someday writer.”
So, I have adopted a sort of role even if it is not brought to total fruition yet, and my approach to my art is made the better for it.
What else can my poor method acting character teach us?
Surround yourself with relics.
My novel includes, to name a few, a Venetian mask, a violin, a huge volume of Sherlock Holmes, Italian postcards, red wine, a portrait, and about a million cappuccinos.
And I have all but the wine sitting beside me as I write. I can feel the characters speaking to me from their favorite curios. I hold in my hand the mask that the actor dons in a pivotal scene. I sniff the pages of the book another character read as a child. I drink the espresso one character conjures.
Through the little souvenirs I have gathered since the conception of this novel idea, I am able to enter into the realm of my story. I have adopted the role of writer, of creator, and, using tokens I have gathered from this world, am able to enter into another of my own making.
Give it a shot, maybe. What title/role would help you pursue excellence and dreams? And what little things can you surround yourself with to foster creativity and insight? Comment and let me know! I’d love to hear how your artistic life, dear reader, is thriving.
Slight disclaimer: When I say to live into the role of what you want to be, I do not mean to adopt this as your identity. The character I used as the original example suffers this exact downfall and, let me tell you, it does not go well. Our full identity cannot be found in any temporal or merely-human characteristic and any “roles” must be held subject and united to the enduring identity promised in faith. (Indeed, though, this identity too is already given and, at the same time, yet to come, informing our lives in the present by assuring us of the future!)
Final note: The novel featured in the photo at the top is AMAZING. Yet another reason to be excited about being a writer. 😉
Let me premise this by saying that this is not intentionally about death and I am not dying (except to get out of school).
Once again, this was inspired by my favorite little running route and the feathered friends who live there. (Speaking of birds, there is a little snippet at the end of this dedicated to one of my favorites.)
To leave this bit of earth,
This valley dear
Is something all must do
And yet do fear.
To leave for homely hearth
This little place
Is to be fin’ly through
With oft-run race.
To leave the many birds
I’ve come to know
Makes all their soothing songs
A lost echo.
To leave- I have not words
That truly say!
Where my sore heart belongs
I listen to the crow
And cricket as he bows
The bluebird I like best
Now takes to sky;
Returns he to his nest
And so must I.
As promised, here is the poetry snippet dedicated to the little bluebird:
Blue is the light
of his feathers and my eyes:
Deep and bright
With ancient youth
And oceans turned to skies.
Thank you to https://www.inaturalist.org/guide_taxa/304206 for the bird information/photo. I am incredibly comforted to know the blue bird was in fact a bluebird.
We are mariners, mariners we,
made for the land, parted from sea
from that second day and still –
striving as on the earth to fill-
drawn by its alluring, billowy waves-
we drink down the depths
to find watery graves.
We hear the call, that age-old call,
a whisper first, a breeze enthralls,
that grows and storms, restless ocean
which floods within the hearts of men.
And from our own mouths, it ever rails:
“Depart, depart, and set your sails!”
And so headlong into the deep
we crash from quick-eroding beach.
Toeing the sand was never enough;
we ached to ride the riptides rough.
Water there upon land gives life
but here the salt-foam drains it dry.
But never we stop to ponder: why?
Why to the sea, which roars, “Stay back!”
Why tempt a beast, that is bound to attack?
But the sea is within us; we ate of its fruit
it drowns from inside ’til shore zephyrs fall mute.
We fashion our ships, believing them arks
to keep us safe from the ghostly white sharks.
But up on their decks as we voyage across
we all yet shoot down heaven’s albatross.
Best stay inland, best anchor your soul.
Our bodies might swim, but this old sailor knows:
there is no raft or vessel that might
bear us when the steady dock’s out of sight.
Cast out the life-sucking salt in your heart!
Rebuff its waves with its own cry: “Depart!”
Awhirl before my eyes did swirl the sparks
As one by one the candles turned to smoke
And sitting there in silent, stillest dark,
A flicker burned within and I awoke.
I felt a pang for that dear body broke
That bled betwixt time and eternity.
It seemed I saw His image in the smoke
And felt my heart, too, fixed upon that tree.
Oh how I ached to join this agony!
Yet I, near sleeping, safely sat below.
I closed my eyes the better then to see
And hear the ever-present, past echo.
To wait in darkness was my only wish;
Now hidden, I wanted no light but His.
There is a story to be found in anything and, I am finding, that there is also a theology to be found in any story. I feel this poem is an apt example of enjoying the beauty of an old tale reimagined while contemplating a truth that shimmered in the retelling.
Mirror, Mirror Had Great Fall
“Mirror, mirror upon the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?”
I once was asked from day to day
And in reply I’d always say
“My lady, it is surely true;
The brightest, fairest one is you.”
It was my joy, your face to see,
Peering in and out of me.
And mine was whitest complexion
For it was rightest reflection;
To revel was no vanity
For I shone back your own beauty.
“Mirror, mirror upon the wall.”
I’d thrill to hear my mistress call
And sing to her worshipful words
That beauty best was only hers,
That there could be another one
Would be to think the moon the sun.
Yet still a subtle crack did creep
Out from some secret, smeary deep
And when her face would turn aside,
A self-whisper would soft confide.
The dream I dared not dream when she
Would smile, singing, before me.
“Mirror, mirror upon the wall-”
Her song my heart did yet enthrall
For ’tis my nature to reflect
That which I love as first object.
In her dawn’s light, all else soon fades,
Sly secrets flee as shyest shades.
But then again as she’d depart
(Though I know she yet saw mine heart)
I’d ponder those sly smudgélings
That obscure honest imagings
And I could not but speculate
What once I’d simply contemplate.
I, the Mirror on the wall,
Dreamt I was fairest of them all!
And as I answered, said aloud
Those words, so false and yet so proud:
“I cannot say, my dearest queen,
For you’re the only one I’ve seen.”
“Perhaps,” I pressed, not to give in,
Enthused by this first spoken sin,
“There is another one dearer
Kept hid within this magic mirror
And if I only can break free,
I’ll find the fairest one is me.”
O! Mirror hung upon the wall,
You must have known that you would fall;
To try and see your own self rule
Was to prove only princely fool.
A mirror looking in its glass
Will find nothing but emptiness.
In turning to a blank portrait
I chose the broken mirror’s fate;
Bad fortune was my prideful gain,
For nihil gleamed the shattered pane.
I thought not e’er to see again
but, of a sudden-
“Mirror mine, though you did fall,”
Spoke she, most loved and feared of all,
“Your shattered face was made for mine
And I have power to refine,
To smooth and polish, good as new,
Though with a somehow richer hue.
“You, shaped to be an image of
The Beauty that shines forth above,
Are raised once more to this high wall,
To see the more-than-fair of all
And hence reflect and emulate
That Beauty ever true and great.”