Thursday, July 10, 2014

Leave the Edges Wild

There is a band whose songs and open-hearted life have consistently sustained me with good soul-food: Over the Rhine. I may have mentioned them before. They have faithfully described and inscribed reality onto my mind and heart for some time now. Their song "Lifelong Fling," for example, has flown over this little writing space like a banner from the beginning. Now, another thought from their creative universe comes to fruition in my life, that of "leaving the edges wild." The idea surfaces in their most recent album, Meet Me at the Edge of the World. Linford Detweiler, who heads up the group with his wife Karin Bergquist, explains the significance of this phrase in a delightful conversation with the good people at Image Journal. He explains that when they first bought their farm in rural Ohio, his father heard birdsongs and saw flora and fauna he hadn't seen in years, and so urged them to "leave the edges wild." The image is a fruitful one and they return to it multiple times on the record.

As do I when I spin the vinyl and hear it again making deep grooves in me, in the quiet summer night, accompanied by ice clinking in my glass. Let go. You don't need to hem in every minute of every day. Leave the edges wild. Or, to use an Old Testament metaphor, don't gather every last bit of grain behind you when you harvest - leave some for the widows and orphans. This is good news to my harried heart, as I tend to the exacting. I sigh deeply, wish I were different, and then hope to learn a new approach to my brief hours and weeks.

Put another way, I am being schooled in spontaneity. A late-night hankering for scotch and live music leads us to gathering around the T Collective. The musicians (usually a grouping of different artists every time) throw out sounds and craft them on the fly. "Did you plan any of this?" I inquire during the set break, gesturing toward the stage. No, she answers, it is improvisation tonight. There are wild edges to the creations - screams and drones and pops streaming out continually, making something new out of nothing. When I try to describe the listening experience, it comes out again in terms of food. It is like eating a good meal made out of raw art: nutritive, homegrown, and satisfying. Like snipping greens out of the garden for breakfast.

Speaking of our little "urban farm," it is "loosely-tended" this year. Plant, uproot, let it go crazy. Wild edibles are a new favorite- purslane, dandelion, wild sorrel, and the like - and my man slyly suggested that maybe it would be better that he not mow the backyard. You know, just in case he destroyed something important. Sure, our chickens decimate everything with their tearing little beaks anyway. Like the hosta. (Oh well. I guess our hens are widows and orphans in their own way.) Plus, after a steady diet of healthy greens, they give back, prodigiously turning out eggs with yolks the color of Valencia orange peel.

Maybe a balance can be struck between the planned and unplanned, the structured and the spontaneous. For me, summer is a lesson in letting things grow outside the boxes in our calendar days and measuring them otherwise. Not in minutes or hours, nor even in coffee spoons. Rather, in thanks for surprise feasts of all kinds found in the margins of need and in the present moment unmeasurable that swells to satisfied fulness. Lord, remind me to leave the edges wild.

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