Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Deep Night

After the evening birds drift into dreamland,
After the fireflies turn out their lights,
When the twilight turns to midnight
and the indigo sky becomes like pitch—
This is the Deep Night.

The hopes and fears of a million dreamers
hang in the thick air,
While I lay awake in bed.
Amid vain efforts to fall asleep,
I try to remember what it was like
before insomnia.
Nighttime sleep
plays hide-and-seek
as the rest of the world lies
deep in slumber.

“You are supposed to stay inside,”
they say.
“You shouldn’t be out at night.”
But God made me this way,
and He has a purpose;
Maybe I am to be
an ambassador
of the morning-bright people
to the nocturnal world.

I long to leap through
the overgrown grass—
The nighttime is wild and free.
I’d hunt with raccoons
and sing with the owls
and admire the moon
with some hedgehog pals—
This is what I would do
if I could shake off the constraints
of the well meaning world,
which is so blind
to the beauty
of that which it does not understand.

Someday I will dance
by the light of the stars,
But for now I settle
for waiting and checking
by the blue glow of the phone
Whose clock tells me
that I have been trying for too long
to march in file
to the tired song of day
When my spirit was made
to craft beautiful melodies
in the obsidian hours.

But every night
as I lay in bed,
waiting for the
sleep that does not come,
I grow a little closer
to throwing off the covers,
tiptoeing outside,
and exploring
the Deep Night.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inspired or The Anti Ars Poetica

The blank page is intimidating. There are so many stories that I want to tell, but I don’t always know how. Sometimes I have so many things that I want to say but I don’t know where to start, so I say nothing at all. Other times I stay quiet because the ideas in my head are so big that I can’t find words that are sufficient. I have vague senses, dreamy moods, and lyric images that float around in my head. Certain colors, and sunsets, and words in French. Pairs of alliterative words, and sometimes words that I want to make up. Colors and flavors and fragrances all swim around—a pot pourri of sensations. And it’s so much and so many that I don’t know what to do with it all, or how to organize it into different vignettes and poems and stories. So I grab my iPod and turn on some music and go outside. Being in nature and hearing my favorite melodies makes me feel even more inspired, but it doesn’t always make me find a direction in which to channel the images in my head. Sometimes I end up getting lost in the music or in symphonic fantasies and that’s okay, too. I let my mind wander and sometimes I come up with a new idea. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I see a sunset and its beauty makes it impossible to focus on anything else. And I can’t look away because a sunset changes every minute and I’m just so caught up in the awe and wonder of what marvelous things my God can create. And then I’m filled with praise and thanksgiving, and I ask Him what He would have me create. I believe that He gave me this gift for a reason and if I follow Him, He will use it for wonderful things, even if I don’t see the end result of them. He tells me that He has plans for me, and I find my purpose in Him.
            And so I go on singing and dreaming and praying and listening and trying to put my ideas down on paper. And I keep on being inspired. I’m inspired by lyrebirds and kites and fireflies and clouds and words like “phantasmagorical.” And I keep pondering and sometimes I write and I swing on swings et je plane. And I can’t even fathom a guess as to what great blessings God is going to pour out on me or how He is going to use me. But I know that He has plans for me, and I smile.

Jeremiah 29: 11-13
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Five-Minute Dance Party

Here is a tip: If you blink repeatedly while scanning your eyes around the room, it will look like you are in a room with a strobe light. I don’t recommend doing that for the entire duration of a five-minute—or even a one-minute—dance party, but it can be amusing when done for a few seconds.
            Now, there are a few things that you have to remember about the five-minute dance party. The five-minute dance party is not the dance that pro football players do when they make a touchdown; there is no gloating involved. The five-minute dance party is celebratory but not “in your face.” It is a positive, uplifting thing. Think of it as a spontaneous carefree interlude in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day.
            You can have a five-minute dance party with friends or you can do it alone. I typically prefer to do it by myself, ‘cause I’m antisocial like that. But if I’m with someone that I’m really comfortable around—and I have to be really comfortable around you if I’m willing to let you see me “dance”—then there’s nothing that I love more than to share some merriment with a person who’s dear to me.
            The five-minute dance party does not require music, but you can put on some tasty tracks if you like. Only n00bs (and perhaps also insecure preteens) think you have to have music on to dance. If you are of that mindset, it’s okay: there’s hope for you yet. My favorite music to dance to is Owl City because it’s peppy, optimistic, fantastical, dreamy, and has awesome beats and groove-alicious techno synth lines. (Here is another tip: don’t say “groove-alicious.” It sounds ridiculous. See?) Another bonus is that it’s often going through my head even when it’s not blasting out of any speakers around me, so I have, in essence, turned my mind into a portable dance-party-machine. Clever, huh? Anyway, you choose what music you like. If you want to include music. Again, you don’t have to.
            Other accessories: You really don’t need anything else—just you, your buddies if you choose, and a playful attitude. One thing you should never bring along is self-consciousness. Leave it at home, or at least in your pre-dance-party mindset. It doesn't belong at the five-minute dance party. Like a sloth on tranquilizers, it will only hold you back and take away from the vivacious atmosphere. Take my word for it.
            Now, if you’re like me, you like things that are bright and multicolored and happy and wow. However, there are some things that sometimes appear at other types of parties that are not appropriate here. For one, confetti. I love confetti. I prefer making it myself out of construction paper than using the sequins that you can get at craft stores for seemingly every occasion under the sun. But I digress. Confetti is not appropriate for the five-minute dance party because it results in an aftermath of work instead of an aftermath of laughter and gaiety over how much fun you just had. If you throw confetti at a five-minute dance party, you will most assuredly spend more than five minutes cleaning it up. So don’t do it. “But what if I cut up rather large pieces of confetti?” you might ask. “Those will be a lot easier to clean up, won’t they?” No. Don’t do it. Take it from someone who knows. Besides, one of the nifty things about the five-minute dance party is that you can have it almost anywhere, but you don’t want to make a mess just anywhere, even if it is bright and colorful and even if you are going to clean it up.
            If confetti is not recommended for the five-minute dance party, then glitter is a MAJOR NO-NO. As much as I love that Pink lyric, there is almost no place where it is appropriate to throw glitter in the air. Because glitter in the air eventually falls to the ground, and then it is a nightmare to clean up. Don’t even try to outwit it: glitter-resistance is futile. Other people who are much funnier than I am have commented on this, so I will direct you to them instead of trying to elaborate further.

To recap:

            Another thing to consider is the “where.” As I mentioned, you can have a five-minute dance party almost anywhere. Don’t forget the “almost.” Here are some situations where it is not appropriate to break out into a five-minute dance party: office meetings (this only happens in commercials), during class, while a minister is giving a sermon, official ceremonies (graduations, etc.—although the end of a graduation ceremony is a great time for a dance party).
            Don’t think, however, that just because you’re in a place where you need to be quiet, you can’t have a mini dance party. My friend Sarah would often post pictures and statuses on Facebook about five-minute dance parties that she and her friends would have in their university’s library. And what’s more in need of a dance-party break than a long study session in the library? Just keep it down. (This would be a no-music dance-party place.) You can let loose all you want in a place like a library as long as you don’t disturb the other patrons or make a mess. Use your own discretion.
            The last thing to discuss is the “why.” That’s one of the great things about five-minute dance parties. Like the characters in a musical, you don’t need some extravagant reason to take a break from whatever it is that you’re doing and dance out for a few minutes. Just found out that you don’t have to work weekends this month? Dance party. The book you’ve been dying to get your hands on is finally back in stock? Dance party. You went outside and were just overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape that lay before you? Dance party! Guy that you really like just asked you to dinner? Girl that you asked out said “yes”? Those are some of the best reasons for a five-minute dance party. (And for those last two, feel free to extend the giddy happy dance beyond five minutes.) Or maybe you just need a break from the tedium of a mundane workday. Close your eyes, think of an awesome adventure you had recently, and dance party away, my friend. However, depending on your work environment, you might want to close the office door first.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I wonder if caterpillars know that someday they'll fly. Do they know that they will turn into butterflies, or do they just go about their lives, crawling on the ground, doing their caterpillary thing, and then one day start the metamorphosis process because it suddenly just seems natural, like breathing or like drinking when you're thirsty?
            I think that maybe we’re like caterpillars sometimes. Some of us have no idea what flying’s like, but we see others doing it and we want to do it, too. But it seems so foreign, and appearances suggest that we should never be able to; the ones we see flying seem like an entirely different species from us. But they’re really not; they’re just in a different phase of life than we are.
            Whether they are people we know personally or perhaps famous people that we look up to, when we watch the ones who are soaring, it’s tempting to see them and think that they have some integral trait that we just don’t possess: grace, agility, wings. But the truth is, that’s just not the case. Like the lowly caterpillar that has the same exact DNA as the butterflies that fly above it, we have all of that potential inside of us now. You have what it takes. Maybe you’re the aspiring musician, furiously scribbling down the songs that are just pouring out of you, practicing in your garage until 1:00 am. You see the rock stars on TV and you want to be that good. My friend, you already are a rock star. Maybe you’re the premed college student, trying to manage a part-time job while you take 18 credits and maintain a 3.9 GPA because one day you want to be the chief of surgery at the top hospital in your state. Look at the hours your keeping—you’re practicing for your residency. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do in life but you have lots of ideas and a big heart and a couple of life-sized dreams that you’re scared to admit to even yourself but that you want to throw yourself into headfirst.
            Don’t feel discouraged because you can’t see any wings yet. Everyone has to start somewhere. There was a time when your favorite band was playing in any local bar or cafĂ© that would have them. Your role model who works at Johns Hopkins started out with the same overloaded schedule that you have. Butterflies start with their stomachs lying on the ground. And have you ever watched caterpillars in the chrysalis stage? I have, and it has to be the most boring part of their short little lives. It doesn’t look like too much fun, and I imagine that their bodies are working very hard to do what they need to do. It also takes up about a third of their lifespan to complete. But when they emerge, they can fly.
            Maybe it’s not your moment yet, but there will be a day when you do have wings. It’s coming. If you feel more like a caterpillar right now than a butterfly, embrace the stage of life that you’re in. Keep trying; keep growing. Don't give up. No one magically arrives at point B--they have to travel there from point A first. And when you're getting bored and tired of the place that you're in right now, remember that when you have your wings, you will look back and you will know that the caterpillar stage was well worth it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The View From Here

When I look at the world, I see more than what’s physically there. The colors are more saturated, the sun shines brighter, and the clouds are always puffy like cotton balls. When I sail back and forth on a playground swing, I close my eyes and I’m flying through the galaxy. I pass the stars and planets and they wave hello. The earth is down there somewhere, but my feet can’t feel the ground, so I might as well be miles away.
            The dandelions aren’t weeds, but friends who just want to be included 'cause they’re eager to play. The honeybees that buzz ‘round the clover patch are friends, too. They don’t mean to hurt anyone; it’s just that they scare easy. When they follow you around, it’s just because they’re playful and they like you and they think you look pretty and smell nice. The spider is a brilliant seamstress who uses her silky silver thread to embroider lacy stars that iridesce in the moonlight in the forgotten corners that other decorators have neglected.
            I see a piece of litter that glitters on the ground, a discarded silver wrapper reflecting the sunlight. A broken piece of red plastic from a child’s toy looks like a flower from the distance as it peers through the blades of grass. Shy, it’s afraid that someone who sees it will throw it away, unwanted, like yesterday’s tired headlines. But I know that it’s beautiful.
            This world is filled with so much magic and ethereal beauty, but I think that a lot of it goes unnoticed. Your backyard is a breathtaking wonderland, if you can only see it.