Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Letting someone else wash your feet (or your undies for that matter)

When was the last time you made yourself seriously vulnerable by putting your reputation, your money, your emotional stability on the line?

When I think about risky vulnerability, I think about apologising for something even when I think I'm more deserving of an apology. I think about asking, really asking for feedback. I think about loving someone who won't love me back.

I'm pretty good at vulnerability when it's on my terms (I will share x with you at the time I specify), but not when it's on others' terms (You want me to share x with you, right now?). I'm good at apologies that make it impossible for the other person not to forgive me (I'm really sorry for x, I really didn't mean it, and I know it hurt you. Hopefully you're not too mad at me). I'm good at asking for criticism in a way that puts myself down before the other person can, ultimately risking very little.

I'm hopeless at genuine vulnerability.

And there's a whole other genre of vulnerability I'm only just working out - the vulnerability of accepting unsolicited help and love from others.

In the last few months I've been gifted many things; coffees, accommodation, meals, a listening ear, hand-written letters, cards, financial support and many prayers. Even our neighbours recently gave us their vacuum cleaner for no reason.

You might expect my immediate response to these beautiful actions to be thankfulness. And it is, but intermingled with a strong sense of indebtedness to the person. Twisted, huh? Even getting a letter in the mail makes me feel slightly bad. My heart goes like this: "YAY a letter!. Wow, that person's so nice. I must to do something in return."

I always feel the need to pay the person back, to return the favour, to out-do their generosity. It becomes a challenge when you actually physically or financially can't. A friend of mine at church who recently came down with chronic fatigue says it's incredibly strange being on the receiving end of help all of a sudden, being the weak one, the helpless one.

But like her, in the midst of my guilt-complex, I'm learning about grace; the unmerited favour that rains down from above in the form of God-become-man; the salvation I did nothing to earn and do nothing to keep. I'm learning to let the beautiful, pure, almighty Jesus wash my filthy feet.

And I'm asking myself: Will I receive God's grace, full of wonder, awe and thankfulness or will I try to buy it with my worthless rags, cheapening it as I do?

What about you, do you struggle with accepting unsolicited love and help from others?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

the wildwood chronicles

Oh to be able to draw and paint!

Carson Ellis is one of my favourite illustrators; she does all the Decemberists' cover art and she and her husband, Decemberists' frontman, Colin Meloy, have just published this beautiful book, The Wildwood Chronicles.

You can download the first four chapters free here.

It's set in a forest on the edge of Portland, of all places. Which reminds me of Portlandia, the show responsible for "Put a Bird on it" as well as this gem, "Dream of the 90s"....

"In Portland, it's like the Bush Administration never happened! In Portland you can go to a record store and sell your CDs! In Portland you can put a bird on something and call it art!"

in the hood

Friday, July 22, 2011

van dieman's land

I had a dreamy week in Hobart recently. If you have not been, I exhort you to go where weatherboard cottages nestle into snowcapped mountains surrounded by endless water snaking towards the horizon.*

Also, the clever among you will note I am wearing the scarf I began knitting so many months ago. It took me so long my friends at Brown Owls quipped it deserved its own facebook page. But the months of labour were worth it. It nary leaves my neck.

*Not at all exaggerated.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

with all thy getting get

abbotsford; upper fern gully; yarra valley


Listening to Justin Vernon on the latest Bon Iver album got me thinking - who else out there is rocking falsetto vocals?

How do you feel about men singing in a high voice? Generally I like it. In the right song, it adds a beautiful fragility.

Here's my little list of the best male falsetto singers, past and present. Who am I missing?

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver)
Thom York (Radiohead)
Sufjan Stevens
Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons)
Dougie Mandagi (Temper Trap)
Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Glen Hansard (The Frames/Swell Season)
Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
Jeff Buckley

For perhaps one of the creepiest/weirdest/best falsetto performances, here's Antony and the Johnsons' cover of Beyonce's Crazy in Love.

Update: I need to add: My Morning Jacket, Jens Lekman, Jose Gonzales, maybe some Fleetfoxes (esp. their harmonies).