top of page

Subscribe to Epiloguer • Don’t miss out!

Thanks for subscribing!

  • 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.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

The death by suicide of Stephen “tWitch” Boss has been one of the most difficult celebrity deaths for me to process. Having encountered his work and his spirit on his first season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” he seemed a beacon of talent, humility, positivity, and honor.

One encounter he had with a young dancer backstage on a subsequent season of the dance show inspired a song called, “Best Days of My Life,” and I loved telling his story anytime we performed the song in concert. I fantasized about one day being able to share that story and song with him.

But it will never be. He is gone.

In the wake of his death, people have wondered what deep, dark, painful place he must have entered to have ended his life in spite of what appeared to be everything in the world at his feet. The world who mourns talked about his joy, his smile, his ability to make everyone around him feel comfortable. They wonder what warning signs were missed.

And I say, it is all those qualities that were so admired that perhaps were the warning signs.

In my family, I was the one who answered the phone call at 2 am from the hospital where they took my dad after he was hit head on by a drunk driver. When they called to inform us of his death an hour or so later, my mom took my brother and I to her bed and we listened as she wept aloud and cried over and over, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” My mother, the German immigrant who had not shown much emotion my whole life, who always had an answer, was at sea.

The next morning, when sitting at the table bleary eyed and shocked as a family, I remember seeing the Sunday comics and aching for the laughter that always accompanied their reading. I decided at that point that no matter how I felt, it was my job now to keep others from their tears.

Shoving my own depression under the surface of a dark sea, I honed the skill of keeping things light and fun. Over the years, especially in professional settings, whenever I tried to expose tiny pieces of depression, I was usually met with comments that denied how anyone like me could ever be depressed.

So I mastered the art of keeping my own underground river at bay so that someone else could feel more comfortable, or laugh, or feel free of some burden. I fooled pretty much everyone except my own husband Tim, who himself came from a family who probably suffered from clinical depression. Only in his presence could I be my real self, it seemed. And in the therapist’s office, which I frequented for over a decade.

You see, in our culture, depression has been confined to stereotypes. The suffering artist…the kid dressed all in black…the one on medication …the person with the long, sad face.

But I say from my own experience that the ones we need to check in on are probably precisely the ones we go to for their optimism, their caring hearts, their listening ears, and their joyful smiles. I would say that perhaps those who seem to give and give are actually signaling the depth of their own need for support.

And I would say that perhaps, some of us have clung to optimism as a life raft as we are tossed in our own internal sea.

This season, and for all the days that follow, perhaps we need to look beyond the surface of those who seem to “have it all”…whose hearts seem the most open…whose spirits seem the most joyful.

Not because those emotions are false, but because sometimes there is a deeper, darker journey there that births the qualities that are admired. And because sometimes, we need to turn our attention in their direction and simply say,

I see you. Tell me your story. All of it. Especially the dark places.

Who knows what that story for tWitch might have been. I only know mine. And that story contains chapters when the razor was at my wrist, and the tears were so overwhelming and the pain so jagged that in moments I, too, would have given up.

I weep for him today, and my heart breaks. I could have been him.

So when you hear the admonitions on social media to check in on your friends, go to the ones you are least worried about and ask the hard questions.

Because they just might be the very ones sitting by the sea trying to find reason to take another breath.

Subscribe to the blog• Don’t miss out!

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page