Sing It Into Existence [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Lately I am awake for the sunrise. I know it is coming because, very slowly, the birds begin to sing. At first there is one voice, then a few more and then more. By the time the light through the window glows soft purple and gray, the full bird chorus is in session. They sing the sun into rising.

Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, these lawn-art-birds would come to represent to me threshold guardians. Harbingers of the test that my move to Wisconsin would bring. In story terms, threshold guardians are not friendly; they serve as the test of readiness: are you willing and able to greet the challenges that come with change. Or will you run away? Sometimes they are monsters. Sometimes they require the answer to a riddle or solving a puzzle. The new world will open after the obstacle is met. In facing and overcoming the challenge, the guardians often become allies. In truth, they are allies all along. They help you find your self by testing every idea that you have of your self.

Driving the Budget truck on my move from Seattle, filled with the artifacts of my life, Kerri and I stopped in a little village, Stockholm, just as we crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. We wandered down the street and into a gallery. We were drawn to these simple bird-sculptures. They are the first thing we bought together. They represented our step into relationship. Us. They would stand together in our yard.

My first few years in Kenosha were akin to being lost in the woods. My livelihood disappeared. My networks disappeared. Art opportunities vanished. Many of my friendships faded. Every project I tried to pitch or create stalled, every path I attempted to plow broke the plow. I felt stripped. Of little or no value. Even in arenas where I was once appreciated, I was invisible. I’ve done extraordinary consulting work in organizations but learned in my new life that my experience and observations were not welcome. So, silent as well as invisible.

More than once I went out back and sat with the sculptures. They remained silent when I asked of them my questions. Who am I now that I have no useful purpose? What do I do now? In the absence of an answer, the sculptures and I listened to the birdsong.

Often the test brought by the threshold guardians is one of letting go. You cannot become a butterfly if you insist on remaining a caterpillar. The armor must fall. The known shape must go to mush. The what-the-hell-is-happening-to-me necessarily falls unanswered into the void. What’s happening is not complex: you are changing. The old stuff isn’t working because it is too small for the new shape. Let go.

It is not complex but it is uncomfortable. Dark night is cold when you’ve shed your skin. The sun will rise. The birds will sing it into existence. Warmth will return in the moments beyond the soft purples and greys.

We recently moved the bird sculptures from their spot by the pond to a new home by the fence. I hadn’t realized how invisible they were when standing over the pond. By they fence, they are glorious! They are also a metaphor, standing tall, made more vibrant and dynamic by their incorporated shadows. They are transformed. They are present, standing together in the yard. They are signaling the path to the new world, singing into existence the new day.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE BIRDS

Smile In Secret

Taking the Sealy for a  test drive.

Taking the Sealy for a test drive.

I never had children so there are certain ritual passages that I’ve never experienced. In my life I’ve ushered a legion of other people’s children through various thresholds so it was surprising how Craig’s Facebook post today struck me. I saw him just last week. We had a late night dinner in Nashville, Indiana and I spent much of the evening secretly smiling. He was different. He’d made the passage and was standing firmly in his independence.

In his post today he wrote, “ And with that final, I’m officially a college senior.”

His passage, like all worthy passages, did not come easily. Nothing worthwhile ever does.

Last August, I helped him move to a new university. We packed the truck and drove out of state. Together, along with Josh, we carried his enormous couch and all the other stuff in the truck into Craig’s first-ever apartment. We helped him set things up and then he needed Kerri and me to go. He needed to be on his own. He needed to step into the unknown places and get lost.

Over the year I was witness to how he got lost, met a multitude of fears and frustrations head on, and how he stood in the fire with all of it. It shouldn’t have surprised me that it transformed him. I know how transformation works and yet this time I was somehow too close to fully see.

Over the year I’ve talked with Craig through the night and into the wee hours about socialism and the difference between a plan A and a plan B. We talked about sarcasm and life without having to push other people under water to feel powerful. We’ve talked about true power. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas. On a freezing cold day in December we tromped through a farm and picked out a Christmas tree that I dubbed Satan because the needles were like daggers. I’m still finding those needles in my socks. We smoked cigars and he made a mixed drink for me called something I can’t remember (a testament to the potency of the concoction); it was awful. We laughed and drank it anyway.

I learned to play Apples to Apples when he came home for a surprise visit. We sat around the table into the wee hours with Pierre and Kirsten and Josh and laughed about anything and everything.

He inspired a week of posts when he asked me a single question and I suspect it will not be the last time.

Last week when he met us for dinner at Uncle Bill and Aunt Linda’s house in the woods of Indiana, I couldn’t believe the chatty, funny, informed, strategic, considerate man sitting across the table was the same boy I drove to college in August.

Craig’s post came on the day after I lost one of my champions: Bob. He was a man who made his own destiny and I think Craig will do the same. I wished that the new college senior had met the man who ushered me through so many of my life’s passages. They are cut from the same cloth. I wanted to write Craig and tell him, “You have no idea how many people are cheering for you.” I wanted to welcome him to the other side.

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