New Website at www.TheStrangerSong.com

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New Website!

Hello faithful readers and sock-monkeys of my imagination,

Just to let you know, my site has put on her big girl shoes and is taking her first steps in them over at this new beauty of a website (that I only spent a few sleepless nights on…):

www.TheStrangerSong.com


I Saw Sinners Making Music

As a student of the Bible, it is hard for me to miss biblical references and religious themes in music. Such language carries a certain amount of weight for me as I listen. If I am unfamiliar with the artist’s story, I might wonder if he too is a Christian. I normally know better, though, and find myself wondering what he was thinking while referencing these stories and what other listeners might find in the meaning.

It seems that biblical stories have become a kind of folklore for our generation–a common language to reference for impact in art and conversation. I suspect that the decline of reading and family time with fairy tales and classic novels have led to a more compact set of language, thus driving some to what they can recall from childhood Sunday school lessons and Bible-thumping friends. The artist knows that the overall meaning might be open to interpretation, but the basic meaning or background story he wants to get across can be said quickly and poetically with one quick reference.

In an NPR interview, Sam Beam of Iron & Wine said, “I could say, ‘Joe and Bob, where one is jealous and cruel and one is innocent and everything we want to be, they represent the duality that lives in each of us.’ Or you could say ‘Cain and Abel went to McDonald’s and smoked a bag of weed.’ It creates an economy of language.”   You can see his latest use of Christian language in the narratives throughout Iron & Wine’s Kiss Each Other Clean.  It is most blatantly weaved through “Me and Lazarus,” Godless Brother in Love,” “Your Fake Name” and definitely in “Walking Far From Home.”

In an interview with Drowned in Sound, Beam says that he would not call himself a religious person: “..but I’m definitely fascinated by religion, and the way it works and the approach it takes. Christianity’s a big deal here, but mostly I like to use aspects of it just because it’s such a big part of our culture.” How incredibly ironic that churches are fighting to be more culturally relevant by avoiding Christian language while agnostics are naturally relevant by embracing such language!

In an interview following their 2010 album The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Scottish band Frightened Rabbit explains some of the themes found in their music. Frontman Scott Hutchison said, “Religious imagery is a very easy way to express ideas because it’s kind of universal, whether you are Christian or not. I just enjoy using the imagery; it’s there to be messed with.” In a radio interview about their 2008 The Midnight Organ Flight, Hutchison said that he uses the “quasi-resurrection” themes because ” there is something powerful in that imagery for things other than praising.” In working through the dark circumstances that humans face in life, such a theme, “helps make sense of the world,” he says.

What should I think when I am reminded that what I know to be absolutely true is being treated as a common fairy tale by the culture around me–by musicians that I dearly appreciate? Do I burn my CD’s and run for the hills? Goodness, no. Do I ignore those parts that I know may be skewed? Nope.

When it comes to my favorite artists, I listen to all of the lyrics with sensitivity, taking in the intended and the open meaning  of the words (these artists write with both in mind). I think about it more, sometimes even reading or watching interviews for background stories (oh, how I love people stories!!).  I might end up appreciating the biblical themes according to my Christian theology, which gives their music even more weight as I listen and experience it.  Or I might conclude that their use of the languages is so flippant and skewed that I would rather skip the song instead of grit my teeth through it, as unfortunate as that might be. No matter what, though, I am hearing what they are saying and listening as they process life and write poems about the simplicity of love as they imagine it should be. And it all tells me about the human heart and the music that accompanies it–in the most beautiful and hideous ways.

 

 

 

 


Consistent-trees

My favorite climbing tree looked like a prisoner, stripped naked and hunching over in the corner of our front lawn. I wanted so badly to take my shoes off and climb up to let its branches cradle me while I tore at deep green leaves and twisted soft twigs into halos. But Ohio winters would never allow for something so reviving in Ohio’s February. Every winter it’s the same; I despise the cold for putting all of my trees to sleep! And now in the glory of springtime, I adore walking down a sidewalk painted in their shadows.

God has brought me to live in four different states, moving around twenty times (I lost count of the little ones), and each time I have always found a tree or two to be glad for. Texas was a decent place to live because I never had to go without my trees. Even when I lived in subdivisions there, I knew I could at least drive to a park and find a tree to lie beneath. The Northwest has some sturdy evergreens to climb (if you can reach the first branch) and the Oregon coast (okay, I didn’t live there, but one week of road trip was plenty to make an impression) has those majestic white oak trees all through the country side. As I was relaxing in my summer apartment this weekend, I noticed all of the trees whispering in the afternoon breeze. That sound is so relaxing to me. I can close my eyes anywhere and imagine myself on our back porch in Ohio, watching storms crawl across the cornfield while the nearby trees braced their leaves against it. Mmm the sound of home.

I remember once even last semester being so overwhelmed by a couple of family-related decisions to be made and felt alone in making the decision. So I used a class cut and took a walk to a nearby park in search of a good tree. I climbed right up into that God-made cradle and cried and prayed and cried some more. Today I ate my lunch in Moody’s plaza and looked adoringly at the good climbing tree while it beamed in the sunshine. And I just have to say that I am thankful for trees. I can see God’s grace to me in the feeling of home that he lets me find in them.

No matter where God leads me to live next, I am pretty sure that I will be just fine as long there is at least one tree within driving distance. = )

While visiting the farm in Ohio, I was so sad to find the ancient swingin' tree ripped out of the hill!!!


hometown glory

Home. Glory.

Those two words belong together. I long for them deeply, yet must continue to wait and hope for both. In my longing for home and eternity with God, I always think of Hebrews 11…But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them …and remember that I am a stranger, a wandering exile here. I don’t even have a home to call my own on this earth (ah, the vagabond years of our youth). So while I greatly anticipate home in the kingdom of Heaven and remember home in between family moves, I like to listen to music. It makes me feel like I can quit wandering and rest for a little while.

Last week I was really feelin’ that musical-induced rest with City & Colour’s cover of Adele’s “Hometown Glory”for all kinds of obvious reasons. (I may or may not have murdered the replay button on this video ). So I wanted to post of that hometown goodness (and lovely study music) for you.

I’ve been walking in the same way as I did
Missing out the cracks in the pavement
And tutting my heel and strutting my feet
“Is there anything I can do for you dear? Is there anyone I can call?”
“No and thank you, please Madam. I ain’t lost, just wandering”

Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met
Are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of my world

I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque
I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades
I like it in the city when two worlds collide
You get the people and the government
Everybody taking different sides

Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit
Shows that we are united
Shows that we ain’t gonna take it
Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit
Shows that we are united

Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met

Are the wonders of my world


off my knees and in the trees

Last summer was the summer from hell–emotionally, at least. And as I look ahead to my plans for the coming months, I am noticing a resurgence of last year’s feelings seeping into my writing. The following poem is definitely still rough, but I have found that all my writing is always rough and never finished, which is why I rarely publish anything.

Maybe you can help me smooth some of it out? That’s what the comment box is for anyway.

Summer 2010

The Cunning

Summer allure rolled through spring grass in a sprint for the forest
I chased after through the field toward the promise of a sweet and holy fruit
You enticed me toward the lifted cradle and made for me a dainty halo
And I made my home tucked into your trees,
Wooed by your lullabies of things Greater Than These

But the Greater never came
And you hushed away the These
Until the day my mouth was open and the wind rushed out of me
“Will you climb up or should I jump down?” I sang from a teetering cradle on a dying branch
With an eyebrow raised and a plastic grin you called up through the limbs
“Young girl, stay put in this tree, there’s nothing down here to taste or to see
sing if you wish, but know that I have the fruit abundantly”

So I sang with parched mouth from a vine not my own
Pretending that some how this might feel like home
“Sir, this tree bears no life and these branches lack water.
It shows who you are, not a lord or a father”

With a jester’s response, you smiled and smiled
and bellowed and bellowed from a heart turned mild
“Then let thy mouth be dry and speak no more! For this is my tree and I am its lord”

White petals shriveled to chalk and fell from my hair,
To a ground far below where nothing could grow
And cries of protest rattled through the trees
While the wind sang of things Greater that These

Then that wind shooed at my halo turned ash
Swirling into black leaves with a hiss
In time for your axe to cut through the mist

[part two: The Running soon to come]


What happened?

It seems that some people-not just imaginary friends and sock monkeys-read this blog and they are wondering why I haven’t written in a while.

So for those of you who wonder, a brief explanation: work 25 hours per week between alumni and teacher’s assistant, 22 credit hours (including Greek, which is kicking my butt), church/community group, editing and writing for friends, trying to exercise regularly, personal reading, writing and meditating, etc. In addition, I made three blogs for other people and contribute to two others and now I’ve been very concerned with http://www.themoodystandard.com and making that a treasure to my classmates. So. get off my case??

I promise I will write to you soon. Three of my poems are almost ready for other eyes and I (this is embarrassing) have 15 unpublished drafts that will definitely need to see the light of your screen in the near future. Is that agreeable?

In the meantime, what do you think of my site? Is it Alexis-ish enough, but still somewhat understandable to the ‘normal’ population? Suggestions are welcome. = )

peace to you, loves.


V is for visceral

yay OhioAt thirteen years old, I was stopped by my own breath. To see it leave my lips and spread forward into the air was fascinating to me. I tuned out the winter war and stood still by the silo, filling my lungs with cold air and watching it twirl outward, suspended in front of the frozen cornfield just beyond our snow fort. A wad of snow and ice whistled past my head…Scrunching my lips together, I snorted air out of my nose, feeling the warmth smooth down my chin and seep between the folds of my scarf. Shaping my mouth into a rounded tunnel, I pushed more air out, trying to manipulate the shape and direction of my breath. I moved my head from side to side in quick motions, watching the stream stop in tiny clouds in front of me. Then, I waved my face around in circles, watching the waves slide and shift and…”Alexis, what are you even doing? The boys stole our snowballs! We need more ammo!” Right…

——————————————————————–
A few people have asked me about how my New Year’s resolutions are coming along. Well, I have yet to floss, this is my second blog entry and this morning is the first time I have made my bed all year. But I sure do like this new year so far. Somehow, by what has to be some miracle from heaven, I have been able to continue in my reading along with the Book of Common Prayer and learning about the Christian liturgical calendar and seasons. And I have been immensely more intentional with my studying, meditating praying.

Thinking about what’s inside me and watching it move outside and away from my body, the intensity of reflection and action–it’s thrilling to me. I revel in introspection and the motivation that accompanies it. I can entertain all of the new year hooplah bandwagon stuff because of this. If nothing else to you, it gives me more of an excuse to retreat into my own world and think and think and overthink and dream and plan and conjure up ideas and then I actually get to talk about it because everyone else is doing it (kind of).

One night during winter break in Chicago, as I was running errands on bicycle, I stopped at a red light and decided not to jump ahead of traffic, but take a breather instead.

I slouched for a second and rolled my head around to loosen my neck and let out a deep sigh. My breathe rolled in front of me, in an almost-startling billow. I watched it leave my body and spread toward the traffic lights, suspended in red and yellow, before disappearing. My stomach expanded as I filled my diaphragm with chilly air and…Green light, Alexis.

I kept thinking as I peddled up the incline on Roosevelt. What is inside of me? What is lurking? What is waiting? What is stirring? What it sleeping? What is lovely? What is evil? Whatever it is, none of it was meant to remain just inside me. I want to see it spread outward and either dissipate–defeated at the break of light–or twirl into thoughts and dreams of genuine Love and selfless creativity. Still trying to decide on thoughtful New Year’s resolutions at that point, I decided to just chill and pray and let go of my action 2011 action plan and let the Holy Spirit, ruach, the eternal breath within me, show me where to inhale and exhale.

The last few weeks have been especially redemptive for me. My breathing has been labored or hesitant at some points. At others it has been deep and reviving. My new year so far has caused me to just stop–amidst the battles, amidst the traffic–and just watch the breath that God Himself sighed into me. And I am adoring it.

happy V day.


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