Monday, July 29, 2013

Will Work for Profit

Our life - that is, my and Jeff's life together - hasn't exactly been traditional, normal.

We've shared our home with other people for most of our married years, left "full-time" work for "part-time" work (though our lives are still full of work) and we pack up our music gear several times a month to play instruments and sing our songs for little-to-no pay.

We do a lot of other things, too: grow vegetables (tend the garden), drink good coffee (roast it ourselves), have people over for dinner (cook a lot of meals), and make sure there are clean bath towels for our overnight guests (do lots of laundry with our homemade laundry detergent). Those things take a lot of work.

But there is no longer much value in good work. There is value in "good" profit. People are valuable insomuch as the profit (in the form of dollars) they bring in, not necessarily how good their work is (though we cannot argue that good work should bring in good profit).**

What about good work - farming, art, home-making - that doesn't have "good" profit, the kind that changes hands at the register? Is it still valuable? Does it still provide for a family, at least in some way? Is it necessary in order for people to live whole, healthy lives? If the laundry wasn't done and the vegetables weren't harvested and mother was never home and songs were never written (and, consequently, never heard), I think we would ourselves less human, less full.

I won't write about the importance or doing work that makes money to feed your family: we all know it is important. I am not silly enough to argue it has no value. But I am silly enough to model with my own life that good work matters whether or not it makes money. And I'll keep doing that work - songwriting, gardening, letter-writing - no matter how much time it takes and no matter how little value it has in the eyes of others (though the recipients of this work can attest to its value).

Perhaps we have a big problem: people work hard for money. But what happens when you reduce the money or take it away? People often stop working hard.

Must there be more reasons to work besides money alone?

(**Inspired by the reading of Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday Poem: Lyrics

I could make my home in the palm trees
spend my days in the sea breeze
but I'm just looking for a place to soothe my soul

Drive me east to the mountains
wake up in the morning on the Blue Ridge
I just want a place I can call home

Monday, July 8, 2013

Songwriting Retreat: Day 3 (The Songs)

Day 3 has arrived. And the most welcomed routine of the day comes first: breakfast.

By now, I've written a few songs, and I played those songs again and again for myself - I always do this. I want to hear them, make sure I like them, I guess. Really, I just like playing them. When the song is new, you can never hear it too much.

And here are some snippets of those songs...

...about a month, a season, a grace-full God:

We need the Spring
to help us dream
when the winter was so long
those short, gray days
pushed our hope away
but you finally bring it back

...a very creepy fish who I still found myself envious of:

Jumpin' off the dock was a scary thought
with you down there below
snout like a gator, I said, I'll see you later...

...and hard things.

I could reach my hands toward you
but we both know there's no going back.

Thankful for the time, the writing, the breeze, the wheat harvest, the quiet, the lonely.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Songwriting Retreat: Day 2 (To Be Lonely)

Where I have become cold, 
give me warmth to offer people.
Where I have lost compassion,
help me have it again.
Where I am confronted with brokenness
by those who meet me on the street,
the sidewalk,
in the checkout line,
give me wisdom, give me love.
Show me my place.
Show me my purpose.
(a prayer while on retreat)


I've only been here about 30 hours - a little over one full day - and the loneliness is intense. I even feel bored. I don't want to write anymore. Perhaps I should go watch the sun set, be outside at my favorite time of day, the dusk hours. But that, too, feels lonely.

There's a feeling a disappointment in myself today that I haven't written anything that goes deeper in terms of getting at the heart of faith, truth, whatever might seem more "spiritual" that the songs I've written since I've been here. I know I need to let the writing be what it is.


The lonely times were good, too. I held my breath and watched a turtle hovering at the surfacebout all the life teeming underneath the lake's surface. Dreamed of future plans. Thought through past hurts. Saw myself in lights I don't usually allow to shine on me, lights that expose a colder and tired heart than one, two, three years ago.

Well... did I write? Yes. And it was good. But the good wasn't just the writing; I needed some loneliness, too.

There's something important about having more silence than is comfortable, more space then you're used to, more time to learn how to use well instead of with the numbing of social media. Aside from writing, I was able to look inside myself and see places I had become lost, hardened, caught up in a flurry of busyness, prone to look past people whose lives need my love.

Lonely has a purpose.

How am I ever going to make it to Day 3?