A Safe Place

art by Bre McDaniel

This song is not linear in nature or in narrative and so has no one simple story behind it.  In some way it is all wrapped up in the poem “The Uses of Sorrow” by the late, great, Mary Oliver.

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

– M. Oliver

There is something beautiful and sacred about spaces of darkness, the private places that we all have that belong to us alone. Places where even our idea of God does not get it, where there is no idea of sin.  Places where we are able to, in the words of J.D. Salinger’s character Seymour Glass unlearn “the differences, the illusory differences, between boys and girls, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold.”  Places where we escape the binary of good and bad and remember that there is a field “beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing” where Rumi and/or the beloved waits for us.  For me this is a place I try to go to in my spiritual pursuits, and it is the place I need to go when, as they say, ‘life happens’.  The joy of the birth of a child.  The grief of death.  The despair in the face of what I am complicit in doing to the world.  The lack of care for others I witness.  My own lack of care.
That place we have access to is one where we are free from the temptation to navigate by fear, the place where reconciliation is possible and we can begin the work of both being who we were created to be and interacting with the other in a way that is authentically free.

(. . . .)

The song ends with a repeated line. This line is what my father spoke to me in response to my question of whether he still had hope for life.  This was at a time in his life as he navigated the struggles of living with Lewy Body Dementia. I know now that I asked him this question at a time when he was actively losing his ability to not only speak, but to move on his own.  With a spark in his eye, and with all the determination he could muster— which he needed in order to physically annunciate the words, something difficult to do as his muscular system deteriorated—he looked me in the eye and with a tremor declared:

“Where there is life, there is hope!”

This is a sentiment I want to give to anyone and everyone who is out there listening.  Take it, hold it, cherish it—most of all, believe it.

*As a note (and in answer to my Mother-in-Law’s query about the line about mothers) regarding the references to “God” and “mother”.  These are not about any idea of true divinity or any particular mothers, but rather about the ideas of authority that we all carry that affect us with their gaze.  Perhaps these forces and ideas are helpful in our development to a certain extent, but there is a time when we all do best to launch, to go to our dark place, to mold and emerge into what and who we were created to be.

A safe place

Come along with me
Just don’t tell your mother
I’m hoping we can see
More and more of eachother

I know a place where no light gets in
We can hide from God there, we can hide from sin

If you navigate by fear
You always have an answer
But certainty deceives
and it grows like a cancer

I know a place where no light gets in
I go there to remember, I go to begin

I’ll keep dreaming … while I can
But why not dream while I have the chance?
Hope still sings I believe
Faith is all she asks of me

The city holds its breath
Waiting for the tremor
The weeds are growing high
Neighbors fear one another

I know a place where no light gets in
Where we can trust each other and rest as friends

It’s not how close you get
Its direction that matters
I’ll keep facing her
the rest of my winters
In that place where no light gets in
There’s a part of each of us that is safe within

I’ll keep dreaming … while I can
But why not dream while we have the chance?
Hope still sings I believe
Faith is all she asks of me

Don’t give up  There is a way
Where there is life there is hope
The body remembers what the mind forgets
Where there is life there is hope

Words and Music by Peter La Grand

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