What Lies Ahead
Growing Up African: A Review of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller (2001), and Rainbow’s End, by Lauren St. John (2007)

Spirit So Big

dream "There is no other day. All days are present now. . . . This moment contains all moments."  (C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce)

Fall has come to my home, and it's welcome.  A couple days ago the 90 degree heat finally gave way to chill 50-something mornings and 78 degree days, with sharply blue skies and radiant sunlight.  I opened the windows, and the sounds of the neighborhood returned to the interior of my home after the hermetically-sealed air conditioned silence of the hot and humid Summer --- the morning birds waking, the squirrels fussing about whose tree this is anyway and where oh where did I hide that nut, the slap of the newspaper on the driveway, the garage doors opening for the first over-achieving employees on their way to work, the thud of a pine cone (or sleepy bird) on my roof, the waking creak-stretching of my settling home.  I know I've been here before, last year, for sure, and the one before, but even, I remember, as a child --- waking in the morning before anyone else, listening.  I roll over, locate myself in time: 6:38 a.m.

Last night I took a drive in this air, the windows down and moonroof open to a nearly full moon, drinking up the blackness of the night and just-so-cool air, listening to one voice, that of Jan Krist, singing "And the spirit gets so big/ and the body gets so small/ The spirit clutters all life's corners/ and it spills into life's halls/ And the spirit gets so big" ("Spirit So Big," from Love Big, Us Small).  The heat came on.  Headlights probed the darkness.  At that late hour, the blacktop seemed noticeably relieved, restful even.  I've been here before, driving, dreaming,

I cannot now remember how many years ago it was that I first heard the music of Jan Krist, but it was unlike anything I had ever heard before, a revelation to me.  It was lyrically deliberative music, fresh out of life-experience, with a sound like the gentle encouragement of a friend.  Right now, I can hear these songs --- "Spirit So Big," "Put Her to the Test," "Wing and a Prayer," "Can't Close My Eyes" --- and a dozen times and places rush in, all present now, in this moment.  There's a first performance, unsure of herself, and yet painfully honest and gifted; more than a dozen concerts, showcases, and radio interviews in a places from Albuquerque to Cleveland to Peoria; difficult conversations and laughter among friends; the business of the business, and the music, always the music.  Ten or fifteen years later it's all here, all real, every day present now.

I'm not being nostalgic.  I'm not being mystical.  I'm not suggesting I want to return to some past moment that I've made larger than life by selective memory, or that there is some mysterious thing going on here that we can never, never understand.  It's just that it's my common experience that these images and remembrances of past events, people, and places are palpable.  The distance between them and me is paper thin.  They're here.  There's truth in what the aged mean when they say "It seems like just yesterday that. . .", and I know now what they mean.  In a real sense, It was just yesterday.  We've been there before.

6:40.  Was it just last night I was listening to those songs?  It seems I was tunneling back through the years in those moments and I'm still connected, always connected.  I roll over, close my eyes, and those places are still there, and I feel that if I put my hand out in the early morning air I might just touch them.  Almost.

It didn't have to be this way.  We need memories, for sure, so we don't repeat all our mistakes, forget our own faces, forget where we left our keys and even what the keys are for.  Memories could have been just the practical stuff, the stuff we need to get by, two-dimensional black and white text messages or soundbytes of "just the facts," and not the rich four dimensional realities they are.  And if everything matters, then this matters.  We're made this way for a reason.

I think it's because we're made for eternity.  Cast a line back to the deep pool of those opening chapters of Genesis where God fingerpaints the panoramic drama of Creation in great broad strokes, and I land here, on Chapter  1, verse 26, where the self-existent, Eternal One says "Let us make man in our image. . . ."  Reel that verse in and try to take hold of its slippery existence and you'll realize how difficult it is to grasp.  Certainly it means we image God in some clear ways.  Dorothy Sayers, for example, said we image Him as creators, and  we do.  Jan Krist does.  Everyone does.  But it's much more than that.  Marred as we are by sin, and fallen from the grand place we were intended to occupy, we still image God --- in his timelessness, his eternality.  When we sense the almost tangible presence of memories, we experience a fleeting and pale imitation of what He knows all the time, or all the not-time, that this moment contains all moments, that all days are present now.  Time drops away.  Everything's present now.

Driving, driving.  I've been here before.  In a '72 Camaro, my just sixteen -year-old self slicing through the darkness of four counties, after midnight, liberated at last from the confines of the walking/biking life, the eight-track playing The James Gang, Traffic, or Led Zeppelin, stopping late night in a foreign county for a Coke, and  laughing with my best friend John.  The air is the same, the same feeling of freedom and pure joy, driving with the music on.

6:45.  The alarm sounds.  I've been here before.  I put my feet on the floor, rise again, making memories, imaging God, surrounded by a crowd of witnesses, all the places I've been, the people I've known, the things I've done, all with me now.  And I'm thankful: I've lost nothing.  Time has passed, I've moved on, people have left, I'm older.  But they're all here, all with me.  I'm timeless.  I'm built for eternity.  The body gets smaller, but the spirit's so big. 

Thank you, Jan.