Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Peace Came And Stayed Track 3: I'll Fly Away by Allison Krause/ Gillian Welch

I am reflecting on The Glenmary Farm through the lens of a playlist of songs that have a strong connection to my time there.  The playlist is called Peace Came And Stayed and can be found in its entirety on Spotify:

3) I'll Fly Away - Allison Krauss/ Gillian Welch off O Brother Where Art Thou (Soundtrack)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Peace Came And Stayed Track 2: Furr by Blitzen Trapper

I am reflecting on The Glenmary Farm through the lens of a playlist of songs that have a strong connection to my time there.  The playlist is called Peace Came And Stayed and can be found in its entirety on Spotify:

2) Furr- Blitzen Trapper off Furr

So if you're gonna' get made,
Don't be afraid of what you've learned

I think I may have played this one a few times during reflection.  Aside from being a great song, I'd like to think it's a nice parallel to the journey that volunteers going to The Farm often take.  The song chronicles the story of a man who is lured into the woods by the sound of Angels and slowly becomes fused with the woodlands around him.  His skin turns to fur and he becomes almost wild.  But he is eventually brought out of his reverie and his forest home.  His fur once again turns to skin and he enters into this world he no longer knows, still dreaming of running through the forest again.

I think there is something a little primal about the Farm experience.  The charism of Simplicity that's so pervasive is literally a stripping away of all the worldly trappings and distractions to get to the heart of the human experience.  Some of my favorite experiences at The Farm revolve around God's Time Room.  Some simple couches, a couple chairs, and a bevy of board games were all that comprised that place, but there was something a little magical about the way that room encouraged true human connection.  The absence of clocks and the need or even the knowledge of having somewhere to be was, at first, a disorienting experience.  The Farm throws into stark relief just how beholden we are to our schedules.  We start counting our experience in minutes that only gain meaning because they signal when we should move on to whatever it is we are doing next- ery Prufrockian.  Given the chance to hang out with friends, we so often (intentionally or not) choose to keep intact the roadblocks that prevent a truly deep and meaningful connection.  Whether it's our choice of venue (crowded bar), our choice of activity (playing video games, seeing a movie) or just that fact that we all-too-often give into the temptation of having a small computer in our front pocket, its often hard to focus on the people around us.

Now, those previously mentioned places, and activities, and even the cell phones aren't inherently evil.  But it can be a struggle to remained actively engaged among all the activity of our lives.  So even during times where we may want to connect with others, we can be our own worst enemy.

But  at The Farm, given the chance to live with those we are serving and serving with, this beautiful, collective slow-down happens.  Without that pressure of where to be next, we start appreciating where we ARE, and that's where the transformation begins.  Now every moment, every interaction, becomes infused with presence.  Where you would be side-glanced to all hell if you suggested a night of playing Canasta to your friends, here it becomes a wonderful opportunity to laugh, share, and connect.  And through this, every moment becomes one of service.  There is not distinction between construction work where you put up insulation in the Kentucky heat and the UNO game you share at the end of the day.  The skin turns to fur and you begin to feel a little more of the moment, than merely experiencing it.

Unfortunately, for all of us, that can only be temporary.  Something has to interrupt our reverie, bringing us out of the wilderness.  Now we are ushered into this world we do not know but our time in the woods was real.  We've been in this world of deep connection and presence that clashes mightily with the fast paced reality of life beyond the Farm.  It's a jarring experience, and an unpleasant one to return to a life that now feels harsh and confused, like trying to speak a foreign language.  And so I think a lot of us end up dreaming of running careless through the snow.  But I think the last line of the song is one to remember.  So if you're gonna get made/ Don't be afraid of what you learned.  The lessons of the Farm are meant to be taken out of the physical place.  It may be difficult to carry them out, but we can't shy away from the gifts bestowed upon us there.  We're called to take a little of that wild back with us.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Peace Came And Stayed Track 1: Wildflowers by Tom Petty

Music has always been a source of comfort for me and an outlet of expression when I often don't have one.  Now, I should clarify by saying that I cannot actually PLAY music.  That takes actual hard work and effort.  But I CAN listen the heck out of music.  I like to think I have a decent ear for it and can sometimes strike the right mood or convey the right sentiment cribbing the hard work and self expression of those much more talented than I.

As Rob Gordon, in one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies, High Fidelity, says, "You're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel.  This is a delicate thing".  While my current emotions and thoughts about The Farm's imminent closure are varied and vacillate, I thought it best to try and direct my thoughts and reflections through the making of a mixtape of sorts.  I'm going to go through each track one by one on the blog but if you want to listen to the whole list, it is on Spotify:

1) Wildflowers- Tom Petty off Wildflowers

Far away from your trouble and worry,
You belong somewhere you feel free

Those volunteers that came down to The Farm during my time will likely recognize this one.  It was played as the entrance song as groups entered the chapel on the first night of reflection and so I think it's only appropriate that it starts this playlist.  It was Jamie's suggestion during our first planning session.  I don't know if Colleen had ever heard the song before, but I had not, only being familiar with Petty's more anthemic offerings.  But much like the rest of our year would unfold, the three of us came to a quick agreement (perhaps relieved to have made a choice so quickly).  McNicholas seemed pretty receptive to it.  Looking back, I have to laugh because I don't think we could have picked a better match of song for chaperones than this one with Hutch and Sara.  The next time during our planning meeting it seemed so natural once again to use the song...and a tradition of sorts was born.

It's a little weird to think of this titular song on a divorce  album as the welcome song to The Farm but I guess context makes all the difference.  Everything about this song reminds me about the peace of The Farm.  The folky guitars and the jangling of the piano keys meander their way about, and I can almost hear the crickets singing us up to the chapel.  And the central sentiment of this retreat to a very natural and peaceful freedom is just so perfect for what The Farm represents.  It's this incredible oasis of peace in a hectic world.  Turning down Lower Kinney Road did at times seem a little like time travel.  It's like you were going back to a time where human connection and interaction were paramount and things like busy schedules and glowing screens only got in the way.  It's pretty incredible what would happen during those weeks when we removed those self-imposed shackles.  No longer worried about what was to come, we became enamoured with what was happening at that moment.  It afforded us the opportunity to truly and deeply connect with those we encountered and made it so that people we knew for a week became fast friends.  This incredible Presence is something I cherish and something I strive toward (often unsuccessfully) as often as I can.  I think that for me, the idea and image of Wildflowers is forever linked to those intense and energizing feelings of true connection.  

There's another important aspect to the song and that's the feeling of belonging.  It's the confirmation that you, yes YOU, belong in this place.  You deserve to be among the beauty, the quiet, and the peace.  I think in a society built on schedules and achievement, we becomes so hard on ourselves.  Shortcomings become condemnation rather than constructive learning experiences and we work so hard to scrub out any sign of them.  I think there is certainly value in learning and growing and moving onward and upward but I think we're so anxious to get past those moments that we often don't fully heal and don't fully forgive ourselves for them.  But this song speaks to the idea that we do indeed deserve to be happy and at peace and we have a place we can do so.

I think The Farm functions as that place for many.  It's a place to belong, regardless of who you may think you are or what you may think you deserve, The Farm, with its commitment to valuing connections with each person it encounters, affirms again and again that you belong in this place.  I experienced it myself and saw it happen to countless other volunteers.  The Farm is a pretty foreign concept to most.  The rural setting, the pace of life, and the sometimes head scratching rules are unfamiliar on their face.  But somehow you get this sense of rightness when you're there.  I can still remember driving back from Construction when I was a volunteer in college, trying to decide what I was doing post graduation.  And the more I thought about it, the more I could picture myself there, at The Farm.  I found a place I belonged.

To this day, this song still has a centering quality for me.  It's a reminder of days spent laughing, working, sharing, and being with others in the most intense way possible.  It's a call to always be present, to always have fun, and to always love.  It was such a blessing to be able to live in that for 14 months, 14 months where I got to be far away from trouble and worry and somewhere I felt free.