I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in my cousin Liz Conces Spencer's exhibition The Drift of Stars last weekend. Several of her works were based on T. S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton," which speaks to the insistent tugging of time on our hearts:
"Footfalls echo in the memoryMy colleague commented on how she would have liked to have known in her 20s what she knows now--in effect, imagining the echoes of another path she might well be on today, had she had that knowledge then, and the rose garden (whatever that looks like for her) behind that imaginary door.
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden."
|Okay, I do regret that perm from 1981.|
Even the dog is questioning my life choices.
One of my favorite songs at the moment is Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill." He wrote it to explain how a spiritual experience led him to reevaluate his life and ultimately leave Genesis. The song doesn't have a chorus so much as a refrain: the idea of going home. Home is the final word in each stanza, the place where the forward momentum of the 7/4 time signature comes to a rest. Home here is more than a zip code; it's T. S. Eliot's garden, the place of beauty where our real path has already brought us.
To me, the song is really about agency. There is magic all around us, whether it's the voice of God speaking through an eagle on Solsbury Hill, or that inner knowing that something is or isn't right, or the miracle of meeting the right person at the right time. Yet, all of that magic doesn't transform our lives without our own agency...we can't live off the echoes of imaginary footsteps. Ultimately, we have to take steps in the present without knowing where they will lead us. In the first two stanzas, Gabriel ends with someone else (God) sending the message that he's not yet ready to hear. At the end of the third stanza, he's heard the message and moves from "he said" to "I said," taking action that resonates with his truest self, his deepest sense of home. Pretty powerful stuff.
At the gallery, I had an interesting discussion with one of the artists. She asked me if writing was my profession, and I explained that, no, I had a job with the state and explained what that was, and that writing was my hobby. She corrected me, insisting that writing was my profession and work is just something else I do. I had to stop and think a moment, to try out that new perspective, to look at the garden from a new angle: what would my life be like if I looked at it like that? All my life, I've wanted to be a writer--what Eliot and Gabriel and the artist were all trying to tell me is that I already am.
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