The Turning Gem

Music, Film, Family


We turn not older with years, but newer every day.

       – Emily Dickinson


Prayer makes me a bit uncomfortable, which I’m quite sure isn’t entirely atypical of a person not practiced in such things. There are many reasons for this, and I suspect there are many answers, but one wonder I’ve got is why a God who teaches us that modesty is a virtue wouldn’t be put off by constant praise. Why would God care if kind things are said of God? God, more than likely, already knows how you feel anyway.


Of course, somehow, it makes perfect sense to ask God for things when the soul is in want. Does that mean there is an inherent selfishness, then, to prayer? The only reason to speak to God is to get something in return? Perhaps. If nothing else, at least in my case, if I gain some sort of understanding about the questions I’m asking… I have received a wonderful gift. More often than not, insight takes a while to appreciate. 


I’ve had a particularly difficult time gaining insight, and refraining from angry outbursts, when it comes to chatting up heavenly spirits about my Mom. Not too long ago, after a rather difficult visit, I started to write down a conversation (one-sided as it may have been) with God. It started with two simple questions:


What does time mean to God? And what good is a human memory? 


I supposed that was an insensitive thing to ask God, so I just started writing…


Sorry about that, old friend. It’s just that I do not know where you’re taking my mother. The other day she told me she felt like something was being stolen from her. “Theft” she said, “that’s what I think about”. I have no doubt that, in the end, she’ll remember exactly as much as You feel is necessary, and none of us need to know what those things are. She isn’t going to a place in order to communicate with us. So, I can only assume she’s being prepared to better communicate with YOU… or whomever else might be camped out up there with you. 

This all makes me think that our sadness is selfish. Our fear, understandable, but baseless. The thing is – and I’m sure you can see this – she’s miserable. And not in a a way any of us can relate. What’s that all about? Some kind of natural consequence? A subtle punishment for having not taken better care of herself? See, because if that’s the case, you’re kinda being an asshole. 

You and I have gone a few rounds, which you’ve graciously allowed me to survive, but when you start messing with my Mom… you get called some names. I don’t make the rules, brother! 


I left it at that. Figured that was about enough poking the bear, you know… in case God was the easily offended type. But, this is how we think. Our mortal understanding of the universe and the Divine. When unspeakably difficult to understand things happen, we look for someone to blame. If not “blame” at least question. Someone or something has to know what all of it means. The trick is… shutting up for long enough to hear how God may be trying to explain.


With all of the millions of pages written about the Divine – all of the thousands of songs, books, paintings, and other works attempting to explain the unexplainable – it’s difficult to imagine the world being entirely barren of any truly perceivable answers.  Being a creative person myself, I know for a fact it’s difficult to produce anything artistic while also believing no one is listening. What is a prayer if not a poem, after all, and why was my mother being made to suffer in such a way? 


I put that question out there into the ether. I didn’t expect an answer. I’m not entirely sure anyone ever does. Sometimes it just feels good to talk. Talk… and then go to bed, hoping to dream about something that makes a little more sense than the life you’ve been given. So that’s what I did. 



I woke up quite early the next morning, some time just before dawn. I wasn’t in much of a mood to jump out of bed, so I opened my music library to find something peaceful to listen to. To my surprise, there was an album present that I hadn’t seen before (this happens occasionally on the Bandcamp platform, if you subscribe to a particular record label). The album was called “Hartwold” by a band from Maine called Hagathorn. I opened the file, and was immediately taken to a different world (have a listen for yourself, as I continue with my story).



What I heard in this music was the place I saw my mother preparing to journey. Somewhere both old and unseen by human eyes. I heard the wind in the trees, through tall grass, and droplets of rain peppering the calm of the rivers. Somehow I knew there was a cabin nearby, being kept warm by a fire made of cedar wood. The fog was just thick enough to feel friendly, and though not a single life form could be seen I could feel them nearby.


Not watching. Not waiting. Just being.

Everything. Everywhere. All at once. 


I simply do not remember ever feeling so at peace with the world in my entire life. Not because this landscape was a place I hoped to some day go, but because I knew no matter how miserable I perceived my mother being – right now, here within this plane of existence – what lies on the other side of her life is absolutely beautiful. 


How do I know this to be true? Because Hagathorn was an answer to my prayer. I called God an asshole in that prayer, and I woke up in Hartwold.


So, you see, folks can tell me all they want that God is vengeful. Folks can tell me God isn’t real. Folks can tell me I’m wasting my time looking for the bright side in everything, but even atheists have faith in the nothingness they believe exists. 


I hope each an every one of you has a peaceful day. Express what you need to express to whomever you need to express it to… and breathe easy knowing you’re not alone. 

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