Let the River Run

by Elizabeth

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Only two songs have ever won all three major awards (Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy) while being composed, written, and performed by a single artist. Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” the theme from the 1988 film “Working Girl,” was the first to do so.

Now, a few others have received all three awards but were co-written. One of those songs was Howard Shore’s, Fran Walsh’s, and Annie Lennox’s “Into the West,” the final song of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and an absolute family favorite. “Into the West” speaks to something so deep and true, so simultaneously melancholic and hopeful, that it’s no wonder it won all three awards.

But anyway, back to “Let the River Run.” I first heard the song not from the movie, but from my junior high choir director Mrs. Chaney (whom you may remember from last week’s musical contemplations). Simon described her song as an “anthem with a jungle beat.” And indeed it was the sound that first drew me in, not the density of the lyrics — lyrics I could not possibly have comprehended fully at the time.

Even so, something in those words was stretching out and reaching for me. And I think it’s safe to say that, having won all those awards, the song spoke to deep, cracking places inside a lot of people. Of course there are layers of meaning here — some more material, some more spiritual.

And I’m still not sure I understand the song in its entirety, but I understand bits of it. I know it’s about dreams and desires. I know it’s about longing and risk. I know it’s about waking up and about waking up others. I don’t think you have to understand every part of the song anyway. It’s not necessarily for understanding but — like all art — for feeling.

Speaking of art, you all know I am no artist; I cannot even draw stick figures. But this semester I found myself teaching an art class in our home school coop. (In actuality, I’m substituting for the real art teacher until she gets back into town.) I love numbers, patterns, and designs, so I figured we could explore the intersection of math and art together.

In preparing for this class I used some old material but also sought out new material. One of the new art projects I stumbled upon was the Pi Sky Line. While the New York City skyline (complete with Twin Towers) is the setting for the song “Let the River Run,” the Pi Sky Line is a city skyline whose building heights are based on the first 30 digits of pi.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. And it’s an irrational number, which means its decimals go on and on forever, never terminating and never repeating. There are no patterns to its digits, and there is no end either: it is infinity captured in a single number.

After you create your sky line, you paint or draw a background for it. And bringing this conversation full circle here, I knew I could not draw any background but Van Gogh’s night sky: “The Starry Night.” It was a painting I first encountered in Mrs. Chaney’s class. And this photo is the finished product. For me it is the intersection of art, music, math, literature and, most importantly, my soul in motion.

Educational thinker Charlotte Mason said, “Education is the science of relations,” and each week Mrs. Chaney assigned us a “Connection” paper. We had to connect something in her class to something in the rest of our lives. Every week we did this. She may not have known of Charlotte Mason’s century-old philosophy, but she knew that brain science supported the idea of interdisciplinary studies. Maybe that’s why, all these years later, the soundtrack of her class is still playing in my life.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We’re coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark’ning dawn.

It’s asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
The sky is the color of blue
You’ve never even seen
In the eyes of your lover.

A poem and an announcement

by Elizabeth

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I’ve decided to take the month of October off from writing. This might sound strange, coming at a time when many people try to write or blog every day. But I desperately need this break. It’s not that I’m out of ideas or inspiration; I have lots of both tucked away for later. I’m just tired of my internal expectation of trying to keep up in the blogging world, and I want to spend more time with my children and with my husband.

So with this blog post, I’m signing off, and you won’t be seeing me around the blog till the end of October. Not that it matters too much to anyone else; there are so many voices on the internet clamoring to be heard. However, it matters deeply to me to take this blogging break. (I’ll still be in contact through Facebook and email.)

For what it’s worth, here’s a poem — it’s a prayer, really — that I wrote in my journal before deciding to take this break. And I have to say, the decision itself has brought me a lot of peace, freedom, and excitement. I’ll see you on the other side!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Unhook me
disconnect me
from amorphous
winter lands.

My soul gets lost
cannot get out
suspended in
the air above
the wires below,

My body buried
in a mountain
of forget
and regret.

I cannot cry
I cannot laugh
I only know
I’m overwhelmed

You are:
before, behind,
beneath, beyond
but not within
not now,
not yet.

The joy of love is
elsewhere to be found:
peace and longsuffering too.

Reconnect my life
my soul
my body
to Your people,
to Your earth,
and to You.

A Letter for the One Who’s Waiting {Velvet Ashes}

by Elizabeth

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You in the waiting,
Yes, you
And yes, me too —
For we are all waiting for something —
Dear sister,
Beloved one,
You in the waiting,
This much I know:
There are no shortcuts to healing.
There are no shortcuts to wholeness.
For we can’t know God as Healer without first being wounded.
And we can’t know God as guide without first being lost.
We can’t know Him as counselor without first being confused.
And we can’t know Him as comforter without first sustaining pain.
We can’t know Him as intimate companion without first feeling abandoned.
And we can’t find our identity in Christ alone without first losing it elsewhere.

You in the waiting,
Dear One,
This much I know:
There is no way around the ache of the human soul.
There is no detour through the pain.
When we walk through the valley —
And we will all walk through the valley —
None of us gets to skirt around the edges.
We are completely baptized in sorrow,
Fully immersed in its grief.
For there are no shortcuts to healing,
No shortcuts to joy.
There is only Jesus.
If anything, He is the short cut:
He is, after all, our Way home
Even if that way be long and broken.

So you in the waiting,
Keep waiting.
Keep seeking,
And keep asking,
Even in the silence —
For there may be silence —
And even in the darkness —
For there may be darkness —
But don’t you give up Hope.
Hold on to Hope.
Hold on to the name of our Jesus.
This waiting, it takes time.
It takes space.
And, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but —
It takes hard work too:
The hard work of shedding the lies we believe about God,
The hard work of shedding the lies we believe about ourselves,
The hard work of being honest with Him about the injuries,
And the hard, Spirit-assisted work of letting go of our entangling sins.

So you in the waiting,
Yes you —
And yes, me too —
For we are all waiting for something —
Dearest sister,
Beloved One,
You in the waiting,
This much I know:
There are no shortcuts to healing,
But in Jesus there is healing.
And there are no shortcuts to wholeness,
But in Jesus there is wholeness.
So we hold on to Him,
We hold on to Hope,
And together, we wait.

Originally published here, reprinted with permission.

One Leaf {a poem}

by Jonathan

One leaf,
Silently, without pretention,
Opens up, exposed.

Catching ancient photons. Absorbing. Converting. Transporting.

Along canals of chlorophyll.
Spine and artery.
Silently.

One leaf,
Provides shade for a picnic,
Or a weary traveler.
But not alone.

The fruit gets all the glory, filled up with sunlight and sugar.

One leaf,
Jealous, perhaps?
Or content to be,
Angling for the sun.

One leaf,
Most beautiful in death.

In a final gasp of color,
Sends its lifeblood
To a safer place.

And dies.

And one leaf,
Having done its task,
Falls.

To the ground, where it is
Absorbed. Converted. Transported.

Silently.

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