Hutchmoot, a Christian Creativity conference (I don't really know how else to explain it) I probably should wait a few days to let everything percolate before posting about such a packed weekend...
(This was begun 3 weeks ago, and never finished...blame Paris & Copenhagen for the delay.)
The Hutchmoot began as the brain-child of Pete & Andrew Peterson, growing out of another of their brain children, the Rabbit Room, which is an online community of Storytellers-- artists of all stripes, be they culinary, literary, musical or visual. It in turn is modeled after the room where the Inklings (GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and other folks with real names instead of initials) met, a little room called "The Rabbit Room" at the Oxford pub, "The Eagle & Child." Andrew Peterson beautifully tells the story of his trip to Oxford & London here. I love that post because it resonates with me. I, too, have walked the streets of Oxford, thinking of Aslan, and Harry Potter, and Luthien dancing for Beren, and of God's Severe Mercy in my life and everyone's... I've longed for artistic community, too. I've felt the whispers of 1000 thoughts seep out of every cobbled stone as I walked the crooked High Street and listened to dozens of bells.
And then I've come home, gotten married, had a baby, and felt every bit of poetry seep out of my bones. Well, not every bit-- there are those moments, when I see my baby's glowing grin upon learning a new trick, when I feel the unspeakable Joy that is the precursor to every good poem-- and there certainly have been days of dark greyness, the deep Mourning of which is another heartbeat to True poetry. Before I met Ryan, I wrote poems all the time.
I remember walking across campus as golden leaves danced in the wind, and feeling words building themselves to poetry in my mind. I remember laughing with delight at the thought that God had ordained those very leaves to bring ME joy! I think I lived more Coram Deo then (consciously before the face of God). I remember using rhythm and rhyme to describe what I couldn't put into mere words; worship, youthful romance, truths teased and wrestled out of Scripture, desperate Hope in dark times, experiences and pleadings with various friends, especially one dearest to me. Then, my junior year of college, my world imploded. I have never known darker days, nor do I ever want to. The Lord brought me through; He carried me, sad poetry and all.
I met Ryan the following summer, and began our fairy-tale-perfect courtship. I remember sitting in my oh-so-picturesque apartment on St. James Ct, and trying to write a poem describing my journey from stubborn-trust-in-despair to amazed, thankful joy... and I couldn't. It was like I couldn't bear to write of happiness like I had written of grief... like I didn't want to put Ryan in the same category as those who had broken my heart. I put the pen down, and never picked it up again. In 4 years I haven't written a single poem. Nor a story... I've voraciously devoured good Stories, but never had the urge to write one. Deep down, I still felt that I could write, but that I just didn't have any good Story to add. I prayed "Lord, if you want me to write again, give me a Story or the drive to find one." In the meantime, I was content using my story-telling ability to make the Testaments come to life for my preschoolers, SS class, VBS and middle school girls' Bible study.
Slowly, though, I've begun to miss written Storytelling. As my daughter gets older, as my marriage gets both easier and harder, I want to leave a legacy of Story to carry others walking a similar road. Lately, I've wanted to have a story to write, instead of just realizing I didn't have one.
Ryan writes stories like some people doodle. He has all sorts of story-ideas, good ones too!, and he writes a character study here, a scene there, and that's it. He's got fabulous ideas, and notebooks full of bits and pieces of tales I'd love to read... but nothing finished. Oh, except the fairytale he wrote to ask me to marry him. I guess he was a little more motivated to finish that one, seeing as how The Question was the ending. It worked. ;)
We sure love Andrew Peterson, and all the original Rabbit Roomers (the Inklings). We like to journal and blog, to talk and hear good stories. Faith & imagination are the topics which first drew me to Ryan. We love reading and music and art fairs and thinking movies and hearing people's stories. I'd been craving a bit of direction for my one remaining authorial outlet-- this blog-- and maybe this would provide some of that? Besides, it would be something to do together, and that is usually a good thing. And the Hutchmoot just sounded SO COOL!! So we signed up to attend the Hutchmoot, and drove down to Nashville, literally still asking each other why exactly we were here while stuck in traffic on the Nashville turnpike.
After our first amazing meal, I felt like Charlie in Mr Wonka's chocolate factory (we'd just watched Johnny Depp's version the night before), as Mr. Wonka goes down the line of children, describing each one's claim to fame "And you're the little buggar who cracked the system!... You're the one who... You're the one that..." Then he gets to Charlie: "And you're just lucky to be here, aren't you?" Swallow. Yup, that's me. AP kept referring to us as "Rabbit Roomers" and most of the people we met were authors or aspiring ones, artists or movie critics... every one of THEIR blogs was cool and well-thought-out... and mine... does it even have a point? And Ryan & I would just look at each other, and tend the baby.
This feeling continued throughout the weekend, but instead of feeling excluded, I felt completely inspired. These people were people who felt, who appreciated so many of the same things that I do! "Oh the joy of meeting one who knows the same poems as you!" I was reminded of so many stories I'd forgotten, and amazingly, every one of them brought to mind a friend (or myself) struggling with something. Maybe in our counseling we should use more stories!!
I'll share the biggest "aha!" moment, then close this rambling tome...hopefully before Eowyn wakes up from her morning nap. :) SD Smith, Travis Prinzi, and Pete Peterson did a session on struggle and imperfection as part of our characters called "Perfected in Weakness." I believe it was Travis Prinzi (I'll check once I can get my notes from upstairs...after said baby awakes) who drove home the point that good outcomes ALWAYS come from mercy-God's mercy-, not our merit. I tend to think that I just have to do the right thing, that when it really counts, I've GOT to obey, or else the gig is up. I tend to despair when I fail... again. He brought up Lord of the Rings' ending. Sam and Frodo have been so faithful, so obedient, and have brought the Ring through impossible hardship to the very brink of destruction. Then, at the moment when obedience really matters-- when Frodo stands to cast it into the fires of Mt. Doom-- he fails. Instead of casting it in, he negates his whole prior obedience by cradling it to himself, counting it more precious than the whole world and all its good. Gollum shows up and the two begin a fight to the death, as Travis put it, "that's my evil!" "no, MY evil!" "No, MY EVIL!" Great... lots of righteousness going on here... But then, Gollum-- his life spared by Mr. Bilbo out of sheer mercy-- saves them all. By God's will, he slips and falls, clutching the Ring, into the fire, and both are destroyed. Mercy, God's mercy, Mr. Bilbo's mercy, saved them all, not Frodo's obedience. Wow. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.
So I want to write now. I remember that I don't have to have a great story-- just something that reflects The Story. I don't have to have it all figured out. I don't even have to obey perfectly (which is good because I don't)... I do have to cling to Mercy...though even then, It is clinging to me.
As you can see, we came home with LOTS of new books, and I'm resolved to read with even more intentionality. I'm starting up my old quote journal! Ryan & I have been drawn closer by discussion of these things we both love. We've started to read together more, and to talk about our stories. I keep hoping he'll post on how the Hutchmoot affected him. (nudge, nudge, honey) I've gotten several more great blogs on my BlogReader and they inspire me. I've also been inspired to seek beauty in all my work, even in little blog posts. So I hope you will see more "every-day musing" style posts up here, and probably more organization in when I post on more topical...topics =D (i.e. Tuesdays- Theological Musings, or something of that sort), or at the very least better tags... We're motivated to get http://MamaSzrama.com/books up (that book review site I've mentioned) & running ASAP.I'm also even more excited about attending the Relevant 2010 Blogging conference!! I guess biggest of all, for both Ryan & I, is the desire to be more of a part of the amazing creative communit(ies) available to us. I want to maximize our marriage's potential for creative community, maximize our Louisvillian surroundings and the similarly-inclined friends we already have here (you know who you are), and I want to be more available to the online communities I have- Rabbit Room, Relevant, and even this little webcorner, Eowyn's Heir. I guess that's kind of why I went into so much background info, so that all of you reading this, from wherever you are, might know me a little more. That's a scary thought... but I think it's part of every good story. The protagonist has to be known, right?