Narrative Silver-Winged Messengers
But then there was something else-I began to see the hawks.
This was a new kind of interest. These birds were powerful, illusive; emblematic of feeling so large that I can't quite comprehend and poignant in a way that I can't explain. Though I will not cease in trying.
I began to have vague feelings that my sightings of these creatures coincided with something deeper within myself; it was always at times of introspective significance that a hawk would appear sailing above me, cry out through a thrilling, bleak voice, swoop down into my path while I walked in the fields at home, or appear in pairs, sometimes circling, sometimes perched at rest on a hay bale. My neighbor told me that I was seeing them because the Hawk is my totem; an auspicious messenger of power, clarity, and spiritual awakening. I figured that it was just a renewal of interest in my surroundings, a signal that I was healthy enough to once again find peace in the quiet goings on of the natural world. But at the same time, their movements matched so closely my mind's wanderings in such a way that made me question myself. Was I really just projecting myself into my surroundings; fabricating my own reality?
We tend to do that; environmental sociologists have noted this sort of social projection in a variety of constructs. Some assert that we both model our realities after our perceptions of the natural world and cater our interpretations of that which is not human to our own systems of understanding. It is a way that we make meaning and situate ourselves within the context of our state; as liminal beings that are both part of and separate from the natural world.
For now, I convince myself that this argument can come to no conclusive end, and continue in my walk.
When I first began to take interest in our family farm, I started to take routine walks along the Kentucky Coffeetree-lined stone fences and mused about my ancestors who farmed here before me. I can trace my family back seven generations on our land and now I read their story engraved in the limestone landscape. During each walk, my mind would meander through a rich tapestry of hypotheticals swelling with the nostalgia of things that I had never lived.
I think about my great, great, great, great grandmother Harriette, who raised her daughter and five boys in a two-and-a-half room cabin (the half counts the little attic bedroom that Gentry, Clarence, Cline, Floyd, and Charles shared). I think about her as she made the funeral arrangements for her 20-year-old Idalia, who died of typhoid. I imagine her bitter sense of familiarity in the walk that took her daughter's coffin across the creek and up the hill to the family cemetery where 30 years prior, she had buried her older brother Simeon, on his return home from Camp Douglas, in a rough-hewn casket lined with smudge pots; his pistol carefully situated on his chest. I think about her hardships as the female head-of-household on that rough farm; how bleak and grey the winters must have looked.
But then, I walk up to the highest point on the farm on a March afternoon, where limestone outcrops peek out from the loamy soil and grass that is just regaining its verdant rigor, and I feel her long-awaited exhale as spring renews its promise of another year of abundance. It has been on these walks that I have gained an acquaintance in a silver-winged hawk.
Almost every walk I took, the hawk would make an appearance with such regularity that it became a sort of game. Sometimes she sat in the taller branches of the old, giant Ash trees that are scattered in the rich Maury Bluegrass soil lining the creek-bed at the front of the farm; a patchwork section that bears a semblance of the ancient Blue Ash Savannas that used to characterize the Kentucky landscape. Most of the time, I saw a flash of silver wings and tawny belly as she flew from East to West across the farm (likely in her return to her Ash tree roost). I began to see her as an omen, take or leave the uneasy implication of social projection, of acceptance. I saw her flight as validation of my homecoming-as a powerful indicator that what I was doing in my return was right, was good, was whole. I wondered if Harriette had watched the hawks.
I walked the farm one day with my father, checking the cattle mineral feeders as we made our way to a karst spring on the back of the farm, that my grandfather had allowed to grow up and remain forested. I caught a glimpse of silver above me to my left and muttered, without thinking, "there she is."
... "So you've seen her too?" he inflected.
I don't know if I was more startled that I had inadvertently verbalized my thoughts or that my dad knew exactly who I was talking about.
I continue to watch the hawks. I continue to read into their flight, making note of the direction they go, their speed, the tone of each cry...I am hard-pressed to discount some semblance of significance when I see a hawk perched in the highest branches of a tree, sitting stoically as it is bombarded by three crows crying their outrage, or when I watch two Red-tails circle each other on updrafts and thermals visible only to them, or when a small Goshawk flutters wings against the wind, remaining suspended in place just long enough to mark a target, fold its wings and dive.
Maybe my interest in them is the same mystic pull that lent a sense of power to ancient diviners and oracles. Maybe it is my own personal desperation to find meaning in my experience. Maybe it is both. Or maybe playing the "Other" for a moment, it would be a mistake to categorize my fascination as dangerous practice or delusional pursuit, assuming we don't all want for the same kind of actualization, the same kind of meaning, the same kind of lift in our chests: that moment you feel like you have entered into something bigger that you. Regardless of the whimsy of my extrapolations, in these moments with the hawks, I am aware. I am present.
Anna McCauley # November 6, 2018 : COMMENTS ( 0 )
Narrative Discovering An Ice House Oddity
Tippie Doodle Dandy
True, I do not "get out much" these days, but I do know an interesting conversation when I enter one!
Having two kids and one on the way it is not often that my wife and I get an afternoon away to entertain new ideas or even have the opportunity to cross paths with new people. Ironic we should have met a new person in an antique store, but less and less strange as we discovered that this gentleman belonged in there.
It had been a spontaneous decision to stop off at the store for a minute... as Aunt Kimmie had offered to watch the kids for a few hours and we were only driving through town to drop off the water bill and return some library books. Parking behind the city park, like so many times before, this time I did not offer up lip-service saying "I would like to go in there sometime." Instead there was no reason keeping us from stopping in: no busy hands to break things, no little tummies that were hungry, and no promises of ice cream treats to stain little cheeks. So... when my wife said "Oh look, the antique store. Do you want to go in a bit?" I stood there strangely pondering and found it bizarre that I actually had a choice in the matter on this particular morning!! It took me a while to answer, but finally "Yes...yes I think I do!" was my reply.
I loved absolutely everything about our visit. The old brick that welcomed us was more than facade, it led on among four walls of times forgotten with thick, heavy rafters running overhead. Each beam appeared to be a single cut log, tree trunks really, that had noticeably been shored-up with hand tools; tool marks and lines of imperfection gave each beam a certain individuality and they stole my attention for some time. We walked down the right side of the store admiring aged cherry and mahogany desks, looking in all their secret compartments and asking questions about little knick-knacks that were displayed on each and every shelf and surface.
The kind lady that worked the right half of the store, explained that she ran the "furniture-part" of the store and that this building was an old ice house. Today the building held in its' frame antique furniture (some from roughly the same time period as the building itself) and the other half of the store was a custom framing operation for portraits and prints. For a minute I sat, reclined, in an old Quaker rocking chair that I was afraid was going to drop me, but it sure enough did not. Just after poking my head around the wall that divided the two sides of the store, I saw that the other half had only fabrics and framing materials... and its' few employees, I presumed, standing up toward the front.
I sat for a moment in a replica of a corner chair before my wife Mel and I scooted-off up the thick, timber plank stairs that curled up the back wall to the loft of the ice house. We could feel how old the wood was beneath our feet as the darkness of the stair well opened to the brightness of the upper floor. There were not many things up-top, so I walked toward a front window and was pleased to discover some old soda bottles, I am glad I did but not solely because I am a collector.
When I made my way back down the stairs, with an arm full of glass treasures, another lady working the desk on the framing-side of the store began wrapping each bottle and nestling it down into a brown paper bag branded "Ice House Oddities". About that time I heard a raspy but, exuberant voice ask me "Ya ever go bottle digg'in?!" I informed him that I would not know where to look.
So we began in what I thought would be a two phrase exchange. Again, I am glad that it was not.
A gray haired man in a pair of bi-focal glasses and with a button-up, pocket shirt continued in his advice, that if I were to locate an old outhouse that I could dig up plenty of bottles. Fifty years ago, I suppose, that would have been a pretty grotesque endeavor but, now-a-days I would only be digging through fertile soil... that did much to change my image of the scene. The man further explained that back when indoor plumbing was introduced that folks began using the outhouses as garbage dumps and how those times were long before concerns of "The Environment" were so very prolific.
Not yet finished in our exchange over the subject of outhouses, he had mentioned that every so often the outhouses would have to be dug-out (i.e. cleaned out) and this old timer went on to educate me on a few new terms. A gully he said was just a valley where two good sized hills settled into a ditch (being a country boy myself, I was savvy on this term) and a washer he said was when a torrent of rain would come through and send a "Gully Washer" down through the trench. The washer term was one that I had never before heard of being applied to a down-pouring of rain.
Now, a clever friend of his had positioned his outhouse just at the mouth of a gully and so every few months when a Gully Washer would come through, the cleaning of his friend's outhouse was naturally automatic. Sending me into a wry smile and a few chuckles I had commented that this brought on a whole new meaning to the term "Gully WASHER" and danged if this old man didn't miss a single beat and exclaim, "Yeah, how about a Gully FLUSHER!"
We all three broke into a fit of laughter and I could not help but offer up my hand to congratulate my new friend on his comic success!!
After shaking my hand he began to ready himself to leave. He had been standing at a hind counter, pen in hand, over an index card. A black and white pattern had caught my eye and now I had the comfortable grounds to intrude. "What do you have there?" I asked, thinking that he was scribbling some words on a pre-printed card stock, the design was so bold and intricate that I thought for sure he couldn't possibly have drawn it; the design being so very fine.
"Just doodling." he had said in an un-presuming tone. "It's yours if want it." That is when I realized I was talking to an artist. The card held an imaginative work of art, how could I possibly? "Well, I don't want to take this, if it could be used as inspiration for another piece someday." For a moment the paper switched back to his hand and I am sure he had thought maybe I did not want the clutter. Snatching a pen off the counter I said, "Well... you will have to at least sign it!" His eyes lit up a bit as he could tell how much I liked the design he had been laboring over. "Let me use my good pen" he retorted as he pulled it from his shirt pocket. 'Wm. Tippie' was the name that he had signed.
He seemed pleased that I liked it so much and he proceeded to show me a few more of his "doodles", that he had captured as images, on his phone. We flipped through three or four doodles as I could tell that the one I held in my hand was not his best or even a finished work, though I liked it the same. "Here is my card, if you wish to come see some of my other art. A few of my pieces used to be displayed in some galleries around town but they have all recently been closed."
I am sure many people consider themselves to be artists and it is a shame that they cannot vouch for their own work matter-of-factly in a commonplace conversation, but I have the feeling that a true artist would not do so even if they could. Perhaps the best artists, just as the best people, do not know just how good they are.
Our last words we shared were those concerning his health, he explained to me about how his blood pressure had been all "out-of-whack" until he began doodling; how he had tried five different medications and how none of them had seemed to work. But, when he had begun "doodling" his blood pressure had magically normalized! In this context, "A doodle a day keeps the doctor away" it seems. This did amaze me... but not quite so much as the beautiful abstract that I glanced down at on card-stock. How it did change my day!!
Pointing to the branding on my paper bag, Mr. Tippie inquired "You know why they let me hang out in here don't you? It's that last word in there." I laughed, thinking to myself that was about right, though he was not what I would call "odd" as the word odd has a stigma attached to it, he was indeed an "oddity"! And an oddity that my wife and I had thoroughly enjoyed that morning!!!
As I swung my bag by the handles exiting the store I heard someone say "Later, Bill." Not to me though, but to Bill Tippie as he thanked them for letting him camp-out for a few hours on a Saturday morning. From one Bill to another I could have told him right then that I would definitely be calling him later, but perhaps he had already figured that much.
After two weeks had passed I had serendipitously been finishing up a piece of writing that had not been written regarding the object of a soda bottle, but that had included a soda bottle from my youth as a supporting image which I remembered seeing in my grandparents' garage. My grandparents had given me an old six-pack of special addition RC Cola bottles with faded orange and blue paint from the seventies (old for me but not for my new friend). The subject matter of my writing piece was the coincidental thing though... the title was "Digging Down", and in it I was surmising that we should all cut busyness and agenda in order to share time with the important individuals of our lives. And so with the overwhelming feeling that an important person had entered my life I called up Mr. Tippie and told him "This is the other Bill speaking." I was pleased that he did remember our conversation and I caught a chuckle from him as I assumed he was remembering our Gully Flusher exchange.
So, when I showed up to his home not knowing what to expect, he led me up the stairs in his two bedroom home, to his gallery.
As two of the three galleries containing his art had been closed, he confessed that he did not know just how much art he had accumulated until he was forced to consolidate it. His main "gallery" now doubling as his guest bedroom, was impressively covered surface-upon-surface with art. His word "accumulation" I thought very odd though, as that is a word that suggests glancing out the window on a winter's day and being surprised at the white blanket that wraps all the greens and browns in a unified coloring of white. That could not have been what this was.
As I perused the collection, I found it quite baffling how ANY of this had happened! The collection was astounding and diverse. Another of his comments had been that he had never been able to settle into any form "of style" for his art. I now truly knew this man, not as a self-proclaimed artist, but I began to see the art that this man had brought to each day he had lived. Surely, he had lived in a world of imagination as if each day was a blank canvas; suddenly I could not have been more aware of how ALL this had happened.
Our visit ended by him gifting me a pen and ink, an image he had shown me on his mobile phone at the Ice House and a piece that I had been mesmerized by. Upon my arrival I had given him one of the six soda bottles from my grandparents' garage, along with the words I had written and wished he would enjoy reading. Tippie had said, "Now we are even." but, in my chest I knew how unbalanced the deal was that had been struck.
I had looked through a few easels loaded with art and Bill and I ended up in his art studio where he showed me a few pages of a scrap book that he had complied, cataloging some of his earlier work. It was all impressive. The most impressive thing to me, however, was sitting atop the corner of a short dresser, against the wall of the guest room just beside a padded, wicker chair covered in art. A half-inch thick notebook of what Tippie called his "doodles"... I had hoped, through his word choice, that he was not suggesting them as a "lesser" art, because to me they are the most artful of all; brilliant works of imagination that adorn the pages of a priceless book of masterful visions.
Quite a day this was for me.
The name of one of his "pen and ink doodles" stuck in the corner of my mind:
What a day - a Tippie Doodle Dandy!!!
*William Tippie's art may be viewed by making a personal appointment. He asks that you please email him at: email@example.com
Bill Hudson # April 27, 2015 : COMMENTS ( 0 )
Narrative The Mystery of Eden
The Garden Within
Sitting behind the house of a dear friend of mine, having a cup of coffee, I am graced by the soft morning light that makes its way through gray clouds. Gentle gusts of wind move through the leaves of a locust tree and make their way to where we are seated. The breeze is refreshing. My hands embrace a cup of freshly brewed coffee that has both milk and honey (a mixture my friend says is "The Promised Land in a Cup"). On this particular morning my friend reminds me that "perspective is everything"; I could not agree more. In contrast to the surrounding yards... I am immersed in a garden. Tall trees of all kinds and floral colors create a perimeter where thought can soar. Blush roses and blood-orange lilies enter my contemplative gaze and make audible the inaudible voices of nature. At this moment I become consciously aware that if I were to glance over my left shoulder all of this perception would be over-shadowed by a gigantic water tower that looms above the roof of the house. I choose not to look over my shoulder. In a few minutes when I walk through the house on my way back into the world, off to work, I will see glimpses of the city's industrial park where the tree line is thin. The urban elements that surround my friend's home only serve to enhance my appreciation for the refuge and peace this place offers me.
Many of us recognize the Garden of Eden as a physical location that existed for a period of time in Earth's distant past, a place where man was able to walk with God. As the story goes, immediately following mankind's exile from Eden, our earliest ancestors were forbidden to return there. The scriptures record that the Garden and the Tree of Life within were thereafter guarded by a mystical sword that flashed back-and-forth ensuring that man would no longer be allowed to possess both knowledge (the knowledge of good and evil) and life eternal. Today, either our eyes deceive us or this Garden has vanished from the face of the planet. Eden today seems to be more a symbol of purity and innocence than an actual place we could visit to encounter grace.
As I drive to work I begin to think deeply about the mystery of Eden and the Cup of the Promised Land. Whether these places are in fact geographical locations or are purely spiritual refuges... my perception of them as either "origin" or "destination" suddenly seems of importance to me. The popular opinion held by most seems to be that ever since mankind was banished from the Garden at "The Fall of Man", the Earth and particularly the people that dwell in it have been moving along paths toward destruction. "Times are getting worse." I often hear, "A good man is hard to find!" Others remain hopeful that a new Eden awaits us.
Personally, I wonder if there may be an alternative perspective.
I have recently begun to think of the Garden of Eden as the place where our temporal universe and the realm of the eternal converge. Thinking of the descriptions from the Bible that tell of Eden, a place where four rivers come together, lush and green, and thriving with life. I like to imagine that two of these rivers (the Pishon and Gihon) were spiritual springs that have since quelled and that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (the two that remain today) brought in the earthly waters. I imagine that perhaps the Garden once provided man with a place in which to encounter the heavenly realms, a middle-ground with rich soil cultivated by spiritual waters, a ground upon which the true experience of God was in full bloom.
I believe our own spiritual cultivations, if they are true, can produce eternal gardens in which our friends, families, and loved ones may experience the goodness of God. Isn't this exactly how we have been taught to pray "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ..."?
I often love to sit and reflect on the times and the places that have represented "Eden" for me. Most of these memories involve elements of the natural world and also being in community with those whom I love most. Both nature and our loved ones are good at hiding us from the world and creating a "space" for us; they create for us places that time cannot touch, where the eternal is welcome and may become known. These spaces are heavenly gardens that are accessible from earth.
Mankind is far removed from the Garden. From the Garden to the village, from the village to the town, from the town to the city. States and nations; we have become part of established societies. But, have the urban bricks of our society built up a high wall around us... a high wall that blocks our view of the distant horizon and stifles our wonder of what is beyond?
Is the countryside now just a place that is barely visible and that can only be seen by those who dare to climb the heights of the city-wall and bravely peer into the distant unknown. How might a person shout back down the wall, how might a person describe to their friends and begin to put into words the sights they have seen? What language can dare to touch the true experience of the Divine?
Only memories perhaps...
Three young boys, just filled up on garden-fresh vegetables, country ham, and fried okra. Three young boys with smiles that reach their eyes. Fishing poles held overhead as short legs whip through tall grass. Over creek and under branch. Up this trail or down that trail? Only one worry in their minds. Only one worry in their worlds. Shall they go to the upper pond or the lower pond? Mystery will await them at either. How many fish will they bring back? Fresh, fried fish for dinner... a true country delight.
Memories such as these bring the warmth of country summers to dreary days in winter cities. Harvesting the fruits of our memory is the best way to beautify our gaze. Only when we begin to look through beautiful eyes will our perspectives begin to be transfigured.
The gravel road to Granny's house. A cedar plank fence affront a long ranch house. Here, you are veiled from the outside world. At Granny's house you are special. Everyone lines up at the door, each sibling does not dare enter before receiving a tight hug and more than one kiss. At Granny's a greeting hug may span three minutes, but the effects are lasting and eternal. Many cats gather at the back door to be fed at dusk, the tall cedars become a softening canvas as the night approaches, for stories of "Barron", the not-so-best dog they ever owned, and then Taffy, the best dog ever! Taffy, the dog that befriended the multitude of cats. In the distance is Barren's old, rickety, cedar plank dog house still visible, just visible, outside the darkening tree line. The birds perch on this branch and flutter to that branch. From maple to walnut, and then from oak to cedar. The branches twitch until we can no longer see them and the trees become a subtle silhouette etched into the night sky. Pa Daryl stokes the wood burning stove. The smell of burnt wood and the comforting scent of hand-knitted afghans cover us; they keep us warm long after we have left the hearth of their warmth. There will be goody-bags and ginger ales for the trip home; a peaceful trip back home, to the city, not beyond the reach of a Granny's love.
I once asked my Granny what her fondest memories were. Turns out they were with her Granny (her mother's mother). Grandma Beal. Perhaps it was her kindness that my Granny has passed on to me. Here are my Granny's words regarding Grandma Beal:
"Every summer we would go spend a week or two with Grandma, each one of us children (away from the rest) would have a week alone with Grandma. And she loved us all and she loved us to death. And we couldn't do any wrong when we were down there, except that when we did something wrong we got our butt whipped ha ha ha, and we got sat in the chair... but, we didn't do any wrong ha ha ha.
She didn't have any running water, we had to pump the water out back. She had a cow when I first went there, in the city! She tried to teach me how to milk the cow. And she had chickens... a whole big chicken yard. I would go and get the eggs every day, she taught me how to do that. She had a garden, and she had a plum tree that was delicious (delicious prunes), and aaah, peaches!! She had peach trees all-in-one-lot, every kind of peach you can imagine, and when they were hot from the sun and ready to eat she always knew. By helping Grandma we learned country life early."
Through our memories... I think we can bring country-life to the city, as spiritual waters to urban stone. I have heard it said that "prayer is the art of presence." A person's presence can without a doubt soften hearts of the hardest stone. It is indeed people like my grandparents that teach us the art of presence, and where did they learn it?! My Pa Daryl has one of the most peaceful presences such as this. I had often wondered how he was so able to nourish his spiritual "Garden" (that is: his presence). Here is a memory he shared, that has continued to shape him, and that now shapes me:
"I was raised on a farm. We had a ninety-six acre farm that was an extension of my grandfather's (my father's father's) four-hundred acre farm. For me, I was the youngest of nine children, and what I remember was that when my mom and dad first started they lived in the bottom of what we call a hollow; they lived in a log cabin. At the hollow's base it was no wider than two-hundred feet and opened-up beyond the hill into our family farm. Later on, my parents moved up to the hill. If I remember correctly the house was 12-by-24 feet, with an attic up there, and then later-on they finally cut wood off of our own property and made three little rooms on the back.
I think the one thing that I really enjoyed was... in that hollow where my mother and dad had that log cabin, I went back over there, and there was a spring that ran down beside it. And I went down there when I was young, maybe in the sixth-seventh grade, and I wanted to camp out. So what I did is... I cut some trees, small trees, and I made like, a lean-to. And I made a bed. I used grass-string for the mattress and I had a dog, a Collie-dog, and we would go over there. I draped some cloth for the front of it, and we would lay inside, and you could hear the water going by... and it was just real peaceful."
Later Pa Daryl would give me more details of how at that time the log cabin was no longer there but, that there was only the reminisce of an old, small barn down there. "The roof of my lean-to," he said, "was made from a scrap of tin. Me and Collie-dog would lay down there most nights and even if it started to rain we would stay down in the hollow until the morning."
In my mind, I imagine what the rain may have sounded like on the roof of Pa Daryl's lean-to. Storing away such memories in our hearts, I believe, will allow us access to a stillness and peace even when we find ourselves among unsettling times.
Eden exists within us, if we remain in exile it is because we have banished ourselves.
Dr. Lauerence Kant had this to say: "Lost we wander in the wilderness trying to find an oasis, not realizing that both the wilderness and the oasis are inside us." So, if we continue to wander in the wilderness it is of our own choosing. But, once we enter into the Promised Land, the water flowing in that land will become a Cup that we can offer to others. When will we allow the eternal waters of memory to soften and reshape the grounds of our hearts? Because only then will we discover how our hearts and homes may become an eternal Garden that offers protection and belonging to all those we encounter.
Eden can be found within us, if we allow the Divine to come near to us.
Bill Hudson # July 25, 2014 : COMMENTS ( 0 )
Narrative Music that echoes in the hearts of others
It was a typical Monday morning for me. There is nothing better than starting the week off with a run through the city streets. It seems to get my blood flowing and make my mind more alert. I usually use this time to think and reflect, a little time for introspection to tame my wandering mind and ready me for the week ahead. As I breathed in the brisk morning air my eyes were drawn to the city above. The sun began to peek shyfully over and through the tall sky scrapers towering about, a deep silhouette of building after building with a Monet-like sky painted behind them. The air still smelled of the night's dew, and in spite of a little car exhaust lingering about, each breath was quite refreshing.
I jogged on, past the school bus stop where two kids were playing tug-of-war over a piece of candy. Behind them the old man was sweeping off the entrance to his bakery. There was a slight feeling of normalcy in the air followed by the fresh scent of cinnamon rolls. The sweet smell tempted me to stop for a snack, but I decided to push on. Several blocks later, when I approached the corner of Rosemary and Bloomingdale Avenues, my tired feet finally persuaded me to take a rest. The city bus station was just ahead, and one of the benches was looking awfully inviting. I sat down and hesitantly leaned back against the cold planks of the bench. The bench warmed up quickly to me and I to the bench. Slouching down, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I was startled by the sound of a bus preparing to stop.
When I raised my head, a grayish silver bus was coming to a halt. The brakes gave off their last hiss of air, and the doors squeaked open. The bus driver was the first to step off. He proceeded to open the luggage compartment at the lower end of the bus. Travelers poured out and were greeted by their friends and family. After trading hugs and smiles with their loved ones, the people began to gather their luggage. In the midst of all the commotion something unusual caught my eye. A man stepped off the bus after the rest of the travelers. My focus was drawn to him, and the noise of the crowd behind him seemed to fade away. The man was about six-feet tall, late twenties, possibly early thirties. His hair was long, dark brown, and greasy. His complection followed that of his hair, and from the looks of his tattered clothes I assumed he had no home. The denim of his jeans was faded, and his ash colored shirt was worn thin.
He peered up and around at the city that encompassed him, as if he was seeing it for the first time. I honestly couldn't tell whether he was admiring the sky scrapers or just trying to make sense of his surroundings. He had a leather strap around his chest, and as he turned to walk away a guitar followed his lead. From the looks of things the two had been through a lot together. The dark mahogany finish was overtaken with scratches and nicks. The old guitar was worn and weathered as I expected the rest of his luggage would be, but to my surprise he had no other belongings to collect. On he walked with only his guitar to accompany him.
It was good the man didn't have a lot to carry; his distressed walk told me his burdens were weight enough. He dragged his feet slightly as he walked, almost as if he was dragging something behind him. Yet there was an unmistakable strength to his strides. The man was undoubtedly bound to his past in some way. Maybe recent tragedy or perhaps a splinter that had been tormenting him for the longest time... I don't know.
My thoughts consumed me. It was a lot to take in. I looked away but only for a brief second. My interest overwhelmed me. Some force I can't explain peeled me off that bench and persuaded me to follow the stranger's footsteps. The man walked with his chin up, occasionally glancing side to side but never behind. I trailed the man by only a couple blocks now, and I watched as he disappeared around the corner. Curiosity pulled me around that same corner; I was eager to see what the man would do next. I didn't have to wait long. When I rounded the corner I immediately noticed the man pulling the six-string off his shoulder. His back fell gently against the red brick building behind him and he slid down the wall until his faded jeans were resting comfortably against the faded sidewalk.
I continued to walk towards him as he strummed a few chords, carefully tweaking the tarnished knobs at the end of the neck. The man tilted his head back and closed his eyes. As I walked by he took a deep breath followed by a deep sigh. It seemed as if all his feelings, problems, and worries were beginning to escape him. Every note resounded through his head and heart; the great void within him was filled. I know this because at that very instant the distant look in the strangers eyes faded away and I could feel the completeness in each and every strum. It was not an option to keep walking. The man's music moved through me and I couldn't take another step.
As I leaned up against a lamp post just yards away the man began to sing. Each word was perfectly and poetically placed and they began to tell a story. After some time I realized he wasn't just playing any random song. He was telling his life story. He was singing his song. Verse after verse and mountain after valley the stranger poured his heart into his song and his song poured into me. I hoped that the music would never stop flowing... but it did. It stopped in mid-strum, and I knew the song was far from being complete. Peering out the corner of my eye I saw the mans' arms rested in his lap. He looked up to the sky above and once more at the city around him. He wasted no time standing up. After swinging his guitar around to his back, I heard him take another deep breath and he was off. I watched as the man vanished in the distance. .. he never once looked back.
If you are like me, there is a longing for more detail. Where is the man going? Where did the man come from? How many verses of His song would find commonplaces within the story of my own life? And perhaps you may even be contemplating, as I was: "How do I transform my own story into a song that will impact others in such a way as this song affected a perfect stranger?"
The beginnings of this tale were pieced together by a couple friends... over a few cups of tea... in the middle of an Americanized Chinese food restaurant. There at the Dragon Garden, my friend and I sat discussing his idea, an idea that I knew could be crafted in to a very captivating story. The original ending of this piece was an English 101 ending, really, the focus of this narrative was on the journey not the ending, and one short, concise, conclusion paragraph was all that was needed to secure a grade of 'A' for my friends' college English assignment. Mission accomplished! It was early morning as we had finished editing the rough draft, one paragraph to go... we just needed to jot something down at the end of the page about not dwelling on the past, good times tucked away, and making a brighter future. As I closed my tired eyes that night, I knew there was quite a bit more to "His Song" than had been recorded, than can be recorded.
As I remember it, my contribution to the creation of the story dealt with how to gently draw the reader into the story. My suggestion was adding a "runner", another character with which the main subject "the traveling musician" could be observed. This runner would offer a mobile, flowing perspective, a way of telling a truly kinetic tale. The main author of this narrative T. J. Taylor, one of my longtime friends, and one of the most gifted musicians I have ever known, seemed to have a connection to this fictional stranger, a stranger no doubt, that may have once have existed within himself. Some years later I had asked T. J. if he would mind me adapting this tale, to come to a different revelation. Before I share my own conclusion to this piece, I will tell you that this tale is a Zen Story at its' very heart. Each person, if they examine their own lives and thought, will awaken upon a unique shore of meaning. I want to encourage ALL READERS to post a comment below... life experiences are the influence of the narrative above and the conclusion below. It is your own personal life experiences that will discover the essence and meaning of His Song:
If we listen closely this man will begin to tell us a story; we will begin to realize and understand many things. This mans' song is a song that has been playing all along and a song that few stop and listen to.
This song is a gift from a man named Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life so that we wouldn't have to, because he knew we were and are incapable of doing so. But even still he gave his life so that we might live. Our life on earth is just a mist, a vapor and then it is gone. Jesus' life is a song that continues, and if we realize that we are not perfect and that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and if we ask him, Jesus will forgive and forget the past that haunts us. If we put our faith in Jesus and if we follow him, he will transform our lives into a song that will never end. This is one of the many promises that God gives us; that if we believe in His Son[g], Jesus, He will give us everlasting life. 
Each and every one of us can leave our sin and shame at the foot of the cross and begin to live a life pleasing to God. We can begin to sing songs of grace and forgiveness that will spread to the hearts of many. For it is not in how "perfect" we live our lives that others will learn to trust Jesus, but through watching us as we walk through the mountains and valleys of our lives trusting Jesus along the way. By building a relationship with Jesus Christ our lives can be transformed into a song of love and truth that will echo in the hearts of others. Life on this earth will soon come to an end, but if we put our trust and confidence in Jesus we will become part of His Song, that will never end...
Thank you T. J. to for permission to share this story. Josh and I look forward to reading what this song means to each and every reader, please comment!!
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16(NASB)
T. J. Taylor & Bill Hudson # October 30, 2012 : COMMENTS ( 1 )