How to Greet the Day

I try to greet each day  on our front porch—or the small porch out the door of our kitchen if I don’t want to put pants on. Often it is nothing more than fulfillment of ritual. But most mornings it is a peaceful place that I later wish I would have abided in–if it were possible–for the remainder of the day. Golden hour is my favorite time to greet the day—when the light is clear and full but still soft. The beauty is so striking and fragile that in the mere moments that it takes for the light to change, the mid morning sun feels as unforgiving as noon day in Arizona. And so it is better to leave the porch while the magic is still present, so as not to ruin the memory of the moment.

And that is the difficult thing about the most wonderful parts of life. They cannot endure as long as you decide they will. You have to embrace them while they are present and let them go just as passionately. Trying to hang on too long to a thing diminishes our passion for it—it becomes overused and strained like that time I loved Fruity Captain Crunch so much that I ate an entire box of it dry and then vomited. I never touched the stuff again. And so I try to leave a thing before it is finished and embrace the pain of goodbye even if there could be just a little more time. Because even those last moments are all but consumed by the thought that they will end.

On the other end, when you are presenting magic, creating it for a crowd or even just sharing with friends about something you learned or experienced–it is important, perhaps even kind, to give the audience a definite ending before they'd like it to come. No matter how much they might clammer for more music or words or conversation or jokes, you do them a favor by being the bad guy that says its time for bed. The difficulty of doing this has as much to do with narcissism as it does peer pressure. It feels rare and wonderful to be the source of something that someone cannot get enough of. We for a moment feel like the source of life—there is no place on the globe that our audience would rather be than with us. But if self importance is all you can think of, then you will continue on as conductor until the train reaches a collapsed bridge and plummets into a ravine—disappointing everyone. So when you reach your intended destination, bring the thing to a stop at the station and let everyone off. Let the joy of the thing continue in their conversation as they walk out of the station and in the quiet of their mind as they lay down to sleep.

For the listener, every special moment has to be listened to carefully and in its own way. Sometimes it means we have to lay on a couch and grab some high fidelity headphones. While writing this, I was tempted to listen to Sufjan Stevens new album for the first time. Thankfully, I felt a twinge of guilt seeing a picture of Sufjan, wondering what he might say about giving his hard work (and my own writing) my half attention. I also felt a sensation of what it would be like to give myself permission to lay on the couch for a half hour and listen carefully. Strangely it seemed almost too luxurious, too decadent that I should enjoy life fully instead of being more productive. I am glad to report that I came to my senses and declined, making it instead a reward for accomplishing a certain amount of writing.

To be experienced fully, each thing must be received on its own terms. Some friends for example have a band that must be danced to. If you are looking for details in the music as I often do, they will still delight but you will miss the point and maybe even be put off a bit. And so it was frustrating when on Saturday night I ran sound for their show after we (The White Oaks) opened for them. I was relegated to listening to the details with little time for dancing—which to my detriment my personality is hesitant to anyway.

The point is, if we are daring an artist to give us something valuable, we must become a part of their work, posturing ourselves in a way that they know it will best be received. If you want to be impressed without trying, consume pop—it was intended to be received with the least amount of effort possible and it will likewise fail to move you in any posture altering way. But if you want to be moved, you are going to have to allow something to move you as you become a moving part of it. And so the morning demands of me that I don’t prepare myself perfectly, that I don’t brace myself against the cold. The day wants to be felt and make me feel alive by making contact with as much skin as my neighbors can stand to see without calling the police.

Now if you will excuse me I'm going to turn off the lights and listen to some Sufjan Stevens.