I woke up from one those nightmares that come out of “nowhere”. I knew it had something to do with Following the Star – or rather Not Following the Star – which is in fact where I have to start.
I live on ten acres. There is no development in sight. But when I walked out into the front yard of my dream, there were some one hundred No Trespassing signs marking a convoluted circle around the house. Some developer had come in the night and staked out a ridiculous new property line for me and clearly they were flaunting this barrier and putting it in my face. A row of yellow signs divided my driveway in two, they left me a patch of grass outside the front door. On one side of the house the signs were staked right up to the foundation line. I was stunned. I imagine if I had gone back in the house, I would have found the signs in there, too – blocking my way to the bathroom.
Last time I reflected on this journey, I managed to get out of my cave and make it up into the starlit view from the tower. Now I’m back down on ground level and opening my front door. Maybe I was ready to start out on a journey. Maybe I was just letting out the cat. Regardless, some developer is out there blocking my way, blocking my view, and advertising their claim on me. I pulled out a couple of signs and threw them down, but it would not be that easy. Something inside knows the signs are mine – I allowed them to be there – I am ‘the developer’. I live in this world of illusion and preoccupation with myself. I’m terrified of getting old, or loosing the studio, or the house, of not affording my friend-wife’s medications, or having my art dry up from the inside. I’ve allowed Netflix and caffeine into my space (again) to make their claims and set me down on the couch-of-my-life. These are all the low-level comfort/addictions of a typical middle class life – and the unconscious fear of the unknown that goes along with it. The dream is sign – a sign made up of signs. I’m not being clever, I’m just getting it.
The Three Wise Men, the Kings of the Orient, represent a kind of inner soul bravery of spirit, a curiosity that trespasses barriers, an expansive outlook, a search for our Origin that leads out into far flung territories, something that follows a Star. This is all rung out of us here in the West – in the West-of-our-lives – doesn’t matter if you are reading this in China – we all have a ‘West’ – a place of safety and drunkenness with safety. A place in the self with a lot of very human preoccupations and No Trespassing signs. The signs and barriers are there - even when we don’t see them - especially when we don’t see them.
Who is it that follows a Star? I know what follows a pop song, a pretty woman, the warmth of the sun. But who or what follows a Star? What travels in the night sharing the road with thieves and vampires? Who were these stargazers from the east who seemed to know something, who set out from their high towers, who crossed borders at will? We domesticate them in crèches, Christmas plays, gold foil, and colorful robes. But they remind me that not all who seek the Child, who carry word of the Child, are churched, catechized, circumcised, or circumspect.
I roll over and put my feet on the cold floor. The cat wants out.
Image: Wounded Bird Table by David Orth
Advent = Arrival
Arrivals, by definition, are momentary states. They last an instant. Arrivals are both ethereal and ephemeral. A letter arrives. A child arrives. A Christ child arrives. We try to find ways to hang on them. We read letters over and over. We take photographs and make scrapbooks of and for our children. We go to church, we pray, we celebrate Christmas.
This has always been my struggle. Trying to stay in the moment. I am always looking ahead. To the next project; the next adventure. When my first child was born, my wife and I looked forward to his arrival. For different reasons, I’m pretty sure. But, when he was born she was able to stay in the moment. To hold him and…just love him.
I was already looking down the road. To when he would be able to talk to me. Start laughing at my corny jokes. When he would first play t-ball. When he would bring home his first girlfriend. Would I be afraid when he got hurt or became ill?
I did the same with my first daughter when she was born. Amazed at actually having a baby girl. Amazed at how it all happened. Then, with the arrival, the looking ahead. And the same with my last two daughters. They’re all grown now. Wonderful adults. It went by too fast, while I was thinking about the future. My wife enjoyed and savored every moment with them. She still does. We’re divorced now.
The advent of Advent brings it all home. This trip with Robin and David will be a rather melancholy one. Not in a bad way. It has made me actually stop and look back on a wonderful life. I am allowing myself to be nostalgic.
I love the Nativity story. How Christ’s arrival was foretold. How men, the powerful and the meek, followed a star. His arrival was over in a moment. But His story will live forever. It would be nice if we could hold onto it for the entire year. I wonder if Jesus minds that we take Him for granted sometimes?
My thoughts are scattered now. All the pictures in my head are a bit out of focus. Robin and David, my path has not become clear. No star yet. But, I am looking forward to this trip. A new destination lies ahead. A new arrival.
Image: Following The Star, by James Mangum
the star leads more
now I trace its
path its rising
in the faces and
places around me…
Image: Dancing Through Shadows by C. Robin Janning