Today I grumped and griped. I do everything around here. No one ever tells me thank you. No one ever offers to help. I wouldn’t have to get on to all of you if you’d pick up your stuff once in a while.
Then I sadly sulked. I wish my life were more than dishes and groceries and picking up toys. I wish I had more time to finish writing my books. I wish I were skinnier and prettier and smarter. I would be much happier then.
Then, my kids asked me to play frisbee with them and have a picnic in the yard. My husband wrapped his arms around me and kissed me. I visited a new bookstore with some friends. Isn’t that all you need in life? Family and friends and books? Oh, and God.
I remembered looking into the stars as a teenager and knowing how great big God is and how minuscule I am. And yet He loves me.
I’ve been reading and re-reading a book of poetry called Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. It’s a beautiful book that grapples with the vastness of space and the heaviness of human grief. Here are some tidbits from the book:
Is God being or pure force? The wind/or what commands it?
Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone/That the others have come and gone – a momentary blip -/When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic . . . . Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,/Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on/At twilight. Hearing the engines flair, the horns/Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be/One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial./ Wide open, so everything floods in at once
What if dark matter is like the space between people/When what holds them together isn’t exactly love, and I think/That sounds right – how strong the pull can be, as if something/That knows better won’t let you drift apart so easily, and how/Small and heavy you feel, stuck there spinning in place.
The earth beneath us. The earth/Around and above . . . The earth/Nicked and sliced into territory./Hacked and hollowed. Stoppered tight./ Tripwire . . . . . The earth/Floating in darkness, suspended in spin./The earth gunning it around the sun./The earth we ride in disbelief . . . The earth coming off on our shoes.
It’s as if we keep trying to defy gravity, to get beyond the idea of self, to embrace and wonder and mingle with the universe. But we never quite can because the force of human emotion always pulls us back down. We reach toward the stars, that freedom, that enormity, but we can’t ever quite break free from being earthly, being human. That’s what faith is, isn’t it? We are trying to live a spiritual life in an earthly world. Bound by our human minds and the dirt on our feet, our reach for God is never long enough. Which is why He comes to us.
I think Tracy K. Smith and the musician Owl City are kindred spirits and don’t know it. I recently went to an Owl City concert and have been listening to his music lately, and I realized that some of his songs are, in a way, expressing the same message as some of the poems in Life on Mars. Check out these lyrics:
Living close to the ground/Is seventh Heaven cause there are angels all around/Among my frivolous thoughts/I believe there are beautiful things seen by the astronauts/Wake me if you’re out there
Dear God, I was terribly lost/When the galaxies crossed/And the sun went dark./But dear God, You’re the only North Star/I would follow this far.
From a song called “Meteor Shower” – I can finally see that You’re right there beside me/I am not my own, for I have been made new/Please don’t let me go/I desperately need You
Way up in the air, you’re finally free/And you can stay up there right next to me/All this gravity will try to pull you down/But not this time/When the sun goes down and the lights burn out/Then it’s time for you to shine/Brighter than a shooting star/So shine no matter where you are
So his lyrics are a little more perky than the poetry of Smith (Well, writing poetry is a more difficult process and has more layers than writing lyrics – sorry, Owl City!), but he seems to get this tension between living in the heavens and living on earth. He gets the frivolity of humanity (like my grumping and sulking) and the grace of God, the God of the universe, who forgives us for taking ourselves so seriously.
So tonight, I ask for forgiveness. I, again, re-learn how to love. I look up into the sky and say – in Smith’s words – My God, It’s full of stars!