Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Diamond In The Darkness

Stars, angels, voices, bumper stickers, accidents--an unending chorus of signs surrounds us all the time. Even a simple word can be the signpost that opens the door to a new world. Or someone’s eyes looking straight through you, not seeing you, can be the sign that a door is closing.

I know myself well enough now to realize that when I am smiling on the outside and screaming on the inside, it’s a sign that I need to go home, rest, and shut out the world for a while.

I find many of my signs in nature. For me, rain means “write.” Sun means “walk.” Clouds mean “surrender and let go.” Storms mean “candles.” Rainbows mean “there’s more.”

Sometimes signs come in the form of flying objects. My old black Ford Probe had no air conditioning and a black interior. I fondly referred to it as the “Ford Antichrist.” The last repair bill came to exactly $666. One day, while I was on the highway, a huge rock came flying and cracked my windshield. I took it as a sign that God was laughing at me, and the rock was His way of saying  “get a new car!”

One of the biggest signs of my life came from a folk DJ on Minnesota Public Radio. I was in the second year of my “lost years” when I heard this stunning acoustic guitar being played.  I dropped everything, called the station, and the DJ told me it was William Ackerman whose records could be found at the Homestead Pickin’ Parlor. That Saturday, I walked into the store and was suddenly surrounded by banjos, fiddles, mandolins, upright basses and bluegrass music. My lost years were over.

When falling in love, I really need certain words to be said and certain things to be done. Only then will I feel that it’s okay to proceed. I have learned the hard way to keep my eyes open to see things for what they are, not for how I wish them to be. When I can easily fall asleep next to someone it’s a sign that it’s safe to be me.

A lighthouse in Minnesota that stands in a place called Artist Point became a big sign for me this year. I was performing in Grand Marais, feeling completely free, but also at a crossroad. Life had sprung some changes on me. My time as a staff writer in Nashville on Music Row was ending. The music industry was changing, my world was changing, and the ground was shifting beneath my feet.

I had been a full-time songwriter for a publishing company for 16 years, I had a handful of songs covered by country artists, and I even had a Grammy nomination. However, It had become clearer and clearer to me that the industry and I were going in two different directions. I was starting to feel like I no longer fit in. I was tired of playing my songs for someone sitting behind a desk looking for the next big thing. What I really wanted to do was find my voice again and connect with a real audience. The idea of doing so both excited and terrified me. I just needed a green light--I needed a sign.

As a spiritual and artistic person, I am no stranger to the importance of signs.

I think about the day my brother-in-law told me I was looking for a diamond under the light but I would never find it there.  I needed to look for my diamond in the darkness where I was afraid to go.

I remember my college history class. It was the end of the semester, and the teacher called me up after our last class. I walked up preparing myself for a big huge F. Much to my surprise she wanted to tell me that I had a gift with words and that I should keep writing.

I think about the hit-and-run accident I had a few years ago in Memphis when my car was totaled by a drunk driver.  I was doing 60 miles an hour when my car was spun around 3 times and crashed against a guard rail. I sat there shaking uncontrollably. A student nurse happened to be there; she took my hand and didn’t let go.

I think about driving to Nashville 18 years ago after my soul got “the call.”

Psalms 139 says that the Lord Almighty charts the path ahead of us. How amazing it is to know that our path is charted and lit with signs from the beginning all the way to the end and beyond. Signs don’t abandon us in the middle of our journey. I have to believe the same voice I heard when I was 5 years old, that told me to sing, is speaking to me now and has a plan--a clear road map complete with markings and arrows.

Back in Nashville, we are having a real winter and snow is falling.  All I want to do is cozy up with a Jane Austen book. Instead, I am sitting on the edge of my bed trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. That’s when I get my sign.

Something deep in my body seems to take over. Even though my mind is racing, my spirit finds a calm. I walk back into the music room and pick up the guitar. That other world that lives in another space and time softly knocks. A song wants to come out.
Before I know it, I am singing. My dad always used to remark after I was getting over a cold or flu, “She must be feeling better, she is singing.”

Yes, I am feeling better. I still don’t know how, what, who or when, but I am singing.
I think it’s a very good sign.

1 comment:

  1. Sally, This is a gorgeous and inspired piece of writing. Damn, you're good...Thanks! Gary