I spent four rich days in Nashville last week. The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate, as I’ve been expecting a major transition for awhile now. I usually sense when the switch is about to flip and the world is creeping forward to move on (obligatory hat tip to Roland Deschain). Sometimes this can feel a little ominous, like the change that is coming should evoke a little dread in me. But sometimes it’s a simple as me recognizing the bare flesh made from stone.
I went to Hutchmoot this year. And at some point while I was there, the switch flipped, I was made more flesh, and the world moved on.
This was my second year to convene with all of the other nerdy, pipe-smoking, socially-awkward-in-the-best-way Rabbits that generally huddle around The Rabbit Room. I knew a little of what to expect. I knew just how high the hurdles of intimidation were going to stand. I knew the kind of effort it was going to take on my part to throw my body over them and hope to land on my feet.
I’m not sure I always did. But point is that I tried, right?
It’s okay to be bad at something on your way to begin good at it.
Hutchmoot Session 2: A Case for Craft
So, I was asked when a few familiar faces arrived why I thought I had been brought to Hutchmoot this year. What did I think I was going to hear? Or find? Or receive?
What am I doing here?
Others around me seemed to have some direction in what they were specifically seeking. Or even what they were expecting to hear from God. But I didn’t have an answer.
I don’t know what I’m doing here. I just know I’m supposed to stand here in front of this proverbial fire hydrant with my Dixie cup and do my best to leave with some water. Maybe try not to get my face too distorted by the pressure.
Let me back up. I spent the greater part of the last two years sick with what could’ve quickly and easily turned into a pretty serious chronic illness involving a digestive tract that wasn’t really interested in digesting anything but itself. I was bombarded with stress — both physically and emotionally — beginning with an ugly stint in the hospital just after the first of the year. Suddenly, I was becoming aware of how, for 29 years, I’ve been wearing myself out. Stretching myself to keep together what may very well have been destined to be torn apart. My crippling [and ultimately ridiculous] messiah complex is another story for another day.
Still, this all involved mourning my own mortality and the painfully tedious and pragmatic tragedy of my rebellious heart. I have spent the greater part of this year feeling tired and nauseated and heartbroken and emotionally rubbed raw. But you know, in the spirit of my personal theme of 2013 so far, you’ll be surprised what won’t actually kill you. I kept asking myself what the story was here. What am I going to make of this whole experience? I worked hard to dig around and bring some depth to the death that had been hunting me all year — lurking in every available space and laughing at me at every available opportunity. What am I going to make this mean?
Fast forward to October and the question at hand.
I’m standing at the hydrant. I have a few extra Dixie cups with me. I’m not sure how I’m going to travel with them all. Hell, maybe I’ll just drink as much as I can in the moment and hope it nourishes something I can take with me. The one thing I know for sure is that we, the nerdy rabbits, gather to receive as much as we gather to make something happen.
And something happened.
I soaked up such grace and wisdom in session and in personal conversations about writing and publishing and being a person and calming down. These things have had more impact on me than I have time to express. But there was a moment that the sky opened up and the whole of the earth turned to whisper to me the thing I had been drawn here to hear.
Andrew Peterson and Jonathan Rogers presented the final session I attended for the weekend entitled Writing Close to the Earth. They promptly engaged me in an intellectual cage fight about coming down from my lofty, abstract one-line-focused writing [as in, setting up an entire scene just to get one abstract message across, not that I’m guilty of this at all *ah hem] and digging my literal hands into the literal earth to find what already exists. All of this was so true of me both in my writing and in my personal life. Jonathan even mentioned a wild character in one of his books that he debated even leaving in because he seemed to just come out of nowhere with one-line abstract wisdom and disappear again into the wilderness.
I’m basically this character in my actual life. Sans locusts and animal furs, abstract vaguery isn’t just my first language, it’s my spiritual gift.
But then he said it. The thing I had come all this way to hear. The thing that unveiled the 29 years and 10 months so far:
There I had been, exhausting myself in God knows how many ways for God knows how long, trying desperately to give meaning to stories that didn’t really need my help to mean anything at all.
And just in case I didn’t get to catch all of that in my tattered up Dixie Cup during the session, the blasting hydrant let up again in the form of a conversation I had with Nate Wilson, where he reminded me that cream rises, and my only job is to excel in my craft [which I believe was given several different metaphors including duck hunting and pie making]. To see. And to say. There is a God. He is better at this than I am. And no matter how unfocused and overwhelmed I am, He’s going to get what He wants. There will be meaning. Every time.
I could say so much more about the weekend. And I may take some time to post about each session individually. For now, suffice it to say I walked in to Hutchmoot one version of myself and walked out another entirely — taken, again, [ever so gently this time] from one degree of glory to the next.