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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Eleven years ago, I started a blog by this title. I thought it might be fun to go back and revisit what started the journey of processing life through writing. This was my first ever written, a work that continues today in Epiloger.

My friend, singer-songwriter Jimmy Yessian, now gone too soon, had a song called “Someday” that examined all of the reasons we give ourselves to not do that “thing” that should be a priority, whatever that thing is. I was reminded of that yesterday when a visiting pastor spoke on embracing life’s difficulties. He stated that most of us live by what I call, “If/Then” rules. If I get skinnier/fatter/taller/ thinner/ younger/older (to use his examples) then I can do this “thing” that I should be doing.

Of course, his examples of what we should be doing were far more spiritual than mine, but I think the rule applies, nonetheless. For I believe that most of us are living in that “cause/effect” world, which is very logical, by the way. If I DO this thing, then I will get some reward, like the mice in a cage who learn to press a lever and get food. The problem is, most of us are reaching for a lever that is placed beyond our reach. Or we are reaching for a lever that doesn’t exist. Or we are reaching for a lever that everyone around us tells us is there and crucial to a joyful life except that we are wired to never see it.

What if, and here’s that cause/effect thing again, what if we simply reversed the variables? What if we simply put the goal first and the steps second ? It might look something like this: If I go to Hawaii, then I will get skinnier. If I start a program to help the food banks, then I will find a way to get the money to fund it. If I… then… you get the point.

I was reminded of this principle when my husband and I went to see a financial advisor, which, if you knew us, would cause you to explode into hysterical laughter. Our total interest earned on investments last year was about $2.21. That should give you some idea of what incredible savers we are. As we were looking at a pitiful list of assets, the advisor asked why, after 25 years, we owed so much money on our home.

Feeling a bit like a guilty school aged child, I explained as rationally as I could that we refinanced the house throughout the years to fund important business in our family. “Like what?” he asked suspiciously. So again I explained, in as rational a voice as I could, that our daughters needed college educations, and there were two weddings, and then we had to take the whole family to Hawaii.

I cannot begin to describe the look of distain on his face or the tone in his voice when he addressed us. It was, in his opinion, a terrible mistake to have wasted our money that way. In his world, if you refinanced your house for frivolous reasons, then you would have no money on which to retire (and we are, by the way, not spring chickens).

But here’s what it looked like in the reverse: Because we refinanced our house and took my in-laws and my mother to Hawaii, we now have memories of a trip that we will take to our grave. We have stamped into our minds my dear mother-in-law rising exhausted each morning for just one more snorkeling trip. We have her picture in our minds as she flopped around on a hard seat on the back of a speeding raft over what seemed to be mountainous waves announcing, “I have always wanted to do this!” We have memories of her husband, not up to activity, sitting on the porch drinking coffee and doing crosswords as he waved us off each morning to our adventures. And we have the knowledge that had we not refinanced the house, none of those memories would be there, for his father died a few months later.

So today was another someday for me. Someday when I have time, I will start a blog. Inspired by a fellow writer, Ty, I went to set one up and found out I had done so over a year ago, but never written the first word. Today, I switched the formula. If I start the blog, then I will have time to write.

Someday is today.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

During the night, I was awakened, as I often am, by dream images. Somewhere in the reaches of my brain, I think I try to work out the proverbial “meaning of life“in these pre-dawn interruptions. At the forefront was a memory of Shostakovich that would not let me go.

Shostakovich holds a special place in my heart after first being introduced to his symphonies in orchestra. After years of the regularity of Souza marches in fall band and beautiful, soulful but predictable symphonic pieces the rest of the year, one day our orchestra tackled our first Shostakovich piece.

There were collective groans as we struggled through the cacophony and odd rhythms of his work. It was difficult and unsettling and, honestly, not very appealing to my young ears. And yet I loved it. I loved its wildness and unpredictability.

Fast forward to playing bass in a Colorado country rock band where most of my nights were spent inside a drummer’s country two step beat. The songs had a cadence designed to get your feet moving, and the dancers swirled and dipped as one entity around the dance floor. The songs were in happy keys that invited you to the party and encouraged you to ask for one more drink. The music was rhythmic and predictable.

As I think back on those extremes, I have always felt like the world around me is engaged in a continuous two step.

And I feel like I live in the middle of a Shostakovich symphony.

Nothing rests easy on the ears with Shostakovich. No matter how carefully anyone listens, anticipating where the next chord will be is impossible because the chord structures often seem strident and unfamiliar. The time signatures seem arbitrary and capricious. The keys fluctuate like the tides though without predictability. It is hard to breathe in the middle of that cacophony.

And yet, it is where I am most drawn and most comfortable.

Chaos, uncertainty, discomfort, brokenness, jagged edges, irregularity, unpredictability… peace…home. Those words to not seem to go together very well. And yet, like the kaleidoscopes of our youth, all those irregular pieces with their random riot of color trapped within a small lens does create an odd beauty.

This world IS like that Shostakovich symphony these days, and maybe since the dawn of man. All these jagged pieces…all this brokenness, all these strident notes fighting for attention.

But here’s the deal. Those notes are still confined to a musical staff. No matter how chaotic they may sound to me, or anyone for that matter, there is a time signature that determines its pace, and sharps and flats that dictate its direction.

Perhaps the chaos and uncertainty hold no sway anymore because in this desert landscape I have become trained to see the Staff that grounds the notes. Regardless of the capriciousness of human behavior, in the early dawn, the sunrise that takes my breath away becomes the clef, and the awakening birds become the notes that fill the measures at the direction of the ultimate Composer. I am not needed in the creation of this symphony. I am simply along for the ride.

And this brings great freedom.

So the notes swirl and change, moments come and go, humans do what humans do, and there are no surprises. The changing patterns, like those in a kaleidoscope, are beautiful but transitory.

,And Shostakovich is only one of thousands of lenses through which to view the world.

Today, and every day, I just watch from the outside of the chaos as the dark disappears and new light announces itself over the shadows of the mountains. No matter what this day will hold, I listen for the direction of the Composer as the new score is written in this moment.

And I am at peace,

and I am at home.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

My faith, it is an oaken staff, o let me on it lean! Thomas Lynch

Last week’s blog was a cautionary tale about taking the time to really see people and to ask for their story. And, as often happens, in the middle of the night after posting, God whispers into my heart, “What a great growth opportunity for you as well, Char.” And the work begins.

For you see, writing the blog often sheds a light on my own inconsistencies. A shining goal sits out there somewhere on the horizon, and though I long to get there, I am often left trying to untie my knotted shoe laces or searching for my house keys, reluctant to actually commit to the journey.

On this day after posting, the growth opportunity began, as it so often does, with a long walk on the DeAnza trail near Canoa. As Tim and I completed the desert walk, replete with coyote sightings, he went ahead, as I stopped to take yet another picture of reflections on the lake. A full slate of activities awaited us at home, and as I turned to catch up with Tim, the “to to list” was forming in my head.

I saw my husband ahead of me talking to someone dressed for a nature walk, leaning on what appeared to be a walking stick. As I approached, I could hear their friendly conversation centered around our dog, who had cautiously and uncharacteristically stretched out her neck for a scratch.

I joined in the conversation and noted the beauty of the walking stick (a scrub oak I later found out), with insect trails and an unusual whorl pattern carved along its upper reaches. I could not restrain my curiosity.

“That is a beautiful walking stick. I would love to hear its story if you wouldn’t mind sharing.”

He replied in a soft, southern accent. “Ma’am, I would love to tell it to you if you have the time.”

I have all the time in the world, I said.

It was a beautiful, involved story. And it was about the stick and not about the stick. It began as a love story. And then it was a love lost story. And then it was about generational love. And then it was about how God provides small miracles to focus our vision and bring us hope. And then it was about the stick again.

It had helped him walk his daughter down the aisle, and it steadied him still.

When he finished, and after my tears had settled down, I said to him, “I am a songwriter, and I am apologizing in advance that your story may end up as a song someday.”

Ma’am, I would be honored, he said.

Before we left, he turned the strap of a bag he was carrying to show it to us. It was filled with his creative work, and he explained that he was a poet who came here often to walk around this lake.

But he was so much more than a poet to me.

He was a Divine interruption who appeared at start of my “busy”day when I was eager to be home. He was an angel who stopped time in its tracks so that a lifetime of memory could unfold before me in all its beauty and in all its struggles.

And he was a Light shining on my path to remind me of my own admonition to others to take the time to ask the questions and to listen deeply to another’s story.

Here’s the paradox. My time on this earth is but a breath in a major symphony. And even my next breath is not promised. That can create a sense of urgency to “get things done before my time is done.”

But in reality, I need to walk through this life like I have all the time in the world. Because when it comes to matters of the human heart, I do.

I have all the time in the world.

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