This week took to a lot of different head spaces, but I felt sorta in a cloud for most of it. I’ve been working feverishly trying to get things prepped for summer, knowing I’m about to go out of town for a week. I’ve been working full days, going home, having dinner, then spending several more hours a night planning schedules, creating spreadsheets, and organizing counselors in hopes my work this summer can be more hands on and less administrative. The sky has been in constant flux during this time, going from sunny to cloudy to misty to rainy to sunny again. Rinse and repeat.
I’ve had this song by Jenny Lewis in my head all week called “The Voyager.” It’s a song about a lot of stuff: living, dying, space shuttles, how we react to all that stuff. After hearing about Prince’s death, it’s been even more on my mind, mixed in with Prince’s catalog. There are these stretches of time in my life where a set of songs get entrenched as the soundtrack, and really influence how I’m feeling. Or maybe the way I’m feeling really influences what soundtrack gets chosen in my mind.
Allyson left early in the week to spend a few weeks back in Murray, KY. In the 12 months, we’ve spent more time apart than probably any other year of our marriage. We are solid enough this doesn’t worry me at all, but it creates this shift. We shift our routines a bit, we shift the times and ways we talk, the subject matter changes. I drove Allyson into PDX early Tuesday morning. We watched the sky go from dark to light as we made our way to this familiar friend where we so often see loved ones off or pick them up. Digby rode shotgun in Allyson’s lap and served as a napping copilot for the trip home. My brain was already exhausted at this point in the week, so I pulled off at a parking spot along the Wilson River, just to take in some air from the mountains and hear the water. My eyes have been staring too exclusively at screens and windshields. Digby and I both needed to walk barefoot on some river rocks, smell the Douglas Fir, feel the cool air coming off the rushing stream.
On Thursday night I found myself in my kitchen, beer in hand, cranking out some of my favorite’s from Prince. My boy Randall shared one of my favorite posts in memory, simply first part of the opening monologue of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and it seemed the most fitting.
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world…
It sounds like a church sermon. There’s an organ in the background. This is meant to be a revival of sorts. The music comes alive and takes off. I remember as a kid when I heard this, it got me excited. I would play it in my head when I wanted to be pumped up.
I got home fairly late Thursday evening and checked in on the Cubs game. They were winning when I left it to help in the dinning hall, and I figured they had the game in hand. They were still ahead and in the 8th inning, but I noticed a little red box above the box score of my mlb app that said “No-hitter.” I got frantic and started fumbling with remotes to get the game on so I could watch Jake Arrieta finish out the second no-hitter of his career. Even though I picked up with only 6 outs left, I instantly got nervous-excited like I had watched the whole thing. Not only did Jake complete the no hitter, the offense went insane and scored 16 runs. There was a grand slam. What an amazing game all the way around.
Watching the postgame, Jake talked about so calmly about his bullpen session, how it didn’t feel very good. They asked him about his catcher for the game, David Ross, who is
retiring later this year. Ross had never caught a no-hitter before. Jake said the moment the last out was caught and they ran together and hugged, all Ross could say was, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you…” Oh, and David Ross also hit a homerun that night. I felt a bit like I was jumping around on the field with them. I thought, “if they don’t win the World Series, if they don’t make it there, that will be alright.” I just love watching this team, how well they approach the game, how they seem to really care about each other. It’s weird to say, but this team makes me want to be better in my own work.
Another song I played Thursday night is “7,” a song heavily influenced by the book of Revelation.
All 7 and we’ll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all
With an intellect and a savior-faire
No one in the whole universe will ever compare
I am yours now and you are mine
And together we’ll love through
All space and time, so don’t cry
One day all 7 will die
The tone of the music is full of hope, and it looks forward to this moment when everyone is guided by love and the utopia that that will bring. I loved this song as a teenager, and as I’ve gotten older and see God in so many secular voices, it’s grown on me more. At first, it was more about the sound and the brave resistance in the words. Now I also see this optimism about love and how love can be wise and magnetic and will outlast all other things.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week near Smith Lake at camp. We had a school group that did boating on two different mornings. I had lunch one day on a bench facing the blue waters and green mountain behind it. Each day, the sky has been different. The day Allyson left, there was a marine layer that covered the air just above us with this eerie looking mist. It was there the first morning of boating. The next day there was crisp sunshine amidst white clouds. Each day I was amazed by the beauty of both days in their stark differences. How beautiful the mysterious days are in their way, and how the same can be said for the clear one. We need helpings of both mystery and clarity.
Thursday at sunset, I went down to the beach for my regular ritual. I stood next to the surf as normal and the words of that Jenny Lewis song again:
If you want to get to heaven, get out of this world.
There are lines in that song that mean about 5 different things at once to me. I had feelings about traveling through time, about tragic ends, about guiding your own destiny, about being unique, about sorrow and carrying on adventurously. It seemed pretty prescient standing next to the enormous ocean as the sun disappeared, thinking about all the musicians whose light has gone out: David Bowie, Merle Haggard, now Prince. The song kept playing in my mind, watching these things seeing the mystery and the clarity mix together into something different but still very powerful. Then, it slowly started to rain. I knew what I should do next.
I walked home, cranked up the songs I’ve been recalling in this post. I had to end with “Purple Rain.” I didn’t really like this song too much when I was young. It didn’t like its 8 minutes, the repetitiveness of the music as it fades out. Now, it’s grown on me a lot. To me it’s this lament about something that’s long since been over with. It didn’t go the way the singer wanted it to, but the he’s recalling a time when it was simpler and how beautiful that was. That moment just seeing this person in the rain. I don’t know what exactly he means by purple rain, but it puts an image in my head. I think about those moments we just let everything go like going out into the rain with someone. Those moments that remain iconic to you, where nothing else in the moment mattered. Remember that?
I thought about that, turning the music up louder, popping the top of a beer, toasting this voice that has gone quiet, swaying on my kitchen floor trying to honor Prince, but also this feeling of wanting to savor this life, to avoid letting the elevator bring us down. Prince talked frequently in his music about running out of time, but also about living it up until the moment it ended. It kept raining that night into the morning. I would get up early and work late, repeating the cycle the next day. But I try to make sure that work is interspersed with nights like this, nights that step out of the ordinary, that get out of this world a little bit.
As the guitar in “Purple Rain,” carried out and Prince’s voice wailed, the music faded, and I was left wishing it would go on longer but holding that hope that there’s something else. The after world. A world of never ending happiness. You can always see the sun, day or night. So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, you know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright. Instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby.