Not the movie. My suitcase. Little Miss Sunshine is the name I dubbed my carry-on that has seen about as many miles as I have. She is scratched up, peeled off, dented, beat up and broken. After my last trip I had parked her in my closet but not tossed her out of sentimental reasons. She has been on three book tours with me. Traveled coast to coast to coast. Been on the road for one tour over two months non-stop. She's carried my goods, operated as a sound equipment carry all when I recording Clearstory Radio programs on site at The Southern Festival of the Book and elsewhere. She has been - my friend.
When I first purchased her eons ago it was with an advance check from a book contract. If you are a writer and you are going to purchase something that has full mobility spinner wheels with a ten year warranty and so forth I recommend doing so at a real luggage place when you have said advance. The time will never be better and otherwise you will talk yourself out of this purchase. Don't do it. All those miles are entitled to being able to move stuff from point a to point b.
For years upon years I've worn black on black, carried black with a side of black. This was long before the goth movement or maybe before all New Yorkers wore black as a silent symbol that they were true New Yorkers. I just did. It was my favorite non-color. So when I bought this wild, artist creation of a suitcase it went totally against type. But there she was up on the high ledge. It was kinda a love at first site moment. I saw her and my eyes got all swirly like The Fantastic Mr. Fox movie and I asked them to take her down. I bought her. I took her home. People commented for years that she was certainly - something. And, I said, yes, she is. She was created by an artist. And, they replied like yeah maybe a five year old. And I told them they just didn't appreciate real art.
We had so many miles ahead of us that I had thought I'd make a little video of her traveling in all the cities, airports, backroads. I shot one short video that my Mama loved and I don't have clue where that might be. I thought I'd take a slew of photos like the gnome commercials. Like Kaya McLaren did with her PWQ Barbie trophy. Nope. Didn't do it.
The people who did appreciate her were The Adorables who were young enough back then to think everything I did was cool and me showing up was like a movie star whizzing in. Little Miss Sunshine was the icing on the cake. They like to roll her for me because she had such magnificent wheels. The stewards and pilots and security people in the airport smiled when they saw her coming. A bright cheery little thing in the midst of that boring waving of black black black suitcases all day. I felt like I was doing my little bit of warm, sunshiney part in the world to carry her along. When I arrived in a new hotel room she beamed like a good friend, a steady companion.
Still, the day came when people said, you know - you really need to get a new suitcase. When the airline people kept saying, We have to make a note that she has a broken handle. BUT HER WHEELS! I wanted to protest, they're still really spinn-ey.
Finally, sadly, I realized it was time. Then black Friday rolled around with a group-on special for a set of luggage with spinney wheels. Matching. One, two, three. All black or all white and I chose all-white figuring I'd cover it with bumper stickers or something. It would suffice. It was gloriously inexpensive and not a smidgen of the quality. Still, Little Miss Sunshine had entered cloudy days. I packed her away. Didn't trash her because I just couldn't. After all, coast to coast to coast makes for a lot of memories. I had parked the new, empty luggage behind a piece of furniture that I had my son move into a closet. (Don't ask because it is a long story). I tried to get it out. I could not. I asked my sister to come help. We could not. She said, This is not happening, in her very, practical sister voice. I tugged at the furniture, I tugged at the suitcase handle which I could reach. I stood on my head and tried to force it sideways. Let me repeat, she said, this is not happening. Then she reached for Little Miss Sunshine and said - here. Take this. And throw the rest of your stuff in the backseat. Just throw your clothes in there and go!
Little Miss Sunshine rides again. To Texas. For surely, certainly, most likely the very last time. It's hard to say good bye to people we love but also the things. These lovely inanimate objects that are said not to have a life but the little toaster would argue with this. And the scientist. Those great minds of physics that discuss things like atoms and molecules and all matter and manner of things being made up of the squares that make us but energy. Swirling masses of light and stardust. Every changing, decaying, evolving.
I couldn't think of a better place for LMS to hang up her boots than officially at a Pulpwood Queen Event called Girlfriend getaway weekend. After all, like these women, she has been a good friend of mine.
Once upon a time in the land of now there were authors, painters, artists, musicians, and dancers who were deep thinkers, and . . . get this - devout. And darlin' they were at the top of their game. The kind of authors who excelled in story, in character, in setting and they went on to capture the hearts of readers everywhere. Because they were professionals who took pride in being excellent. They managed to move in metaphor and allegory the way some of us flip TV channels. Because they studied to show themselves approved and they applied their God given intellect to create art that stood for something.
It's easy as an author to point to CS Lewis and Tolkien, certainly O'Conner if you will and understand her kind of strange, but there are so very, many others. From every genre and walk of life. They permeated our society with their creativity which they gladly understood was a gift from God and with that gift came the responsibility to be excellent
Recently, I attended the Kindlingsfest conference on Orcas Island. Inspired by the Inklings, the group of writers who would meet in Oxford at the pub to discuss God and so forth, the Kindlings movement was birthed in America. Now, granted, CS Lewis and Tolkien argued a bit. They argued about story, writing, theology. They argued about being Catholic or Protestant. They argued. That is to say they had open intellectual and theological debate between themselves.
And, some of that seems to have gone missing to some degree in this country. The willingness to discuss the things of God without accusing the other of being without God. It has happened so fast that we have an entire subculture based upon creating works of art that are stamped 'God approved' without challenging others to read and think. To discover literature, music, and art that is surely God infused by the truth and beauty, the hurt and humanity, which it conveys.
All that to say this.
God bless those who have journeyed to the distant shores of Orcas every year to partake in something that celebrates true life, and creative excellence. (Side note: All good pilgrimages seem to involve places that are remote, difficult to reach, and require travelers to be determined to get there.) Orcas during Kindlingsfest is a place of porches with old scotch, pipe smoke, good wine and great conversation. A place where one may openly toast a renewed kinship or new friendship while discussing how God lives and breathes and moves among us. And, how He continues to create within us so that He might communicate and inspire the souls of this dry and dusty, beautifully, broken world.
Because, like all good things of God the Kindling's movement is about one more thing - relationship. The people who have been traveling to this island for many years for the event, which is not an easy feat, (see plane, shuttle, ferry, car) discovered they weren't even checking to see who was speaking in any particular year before attending. They were coming for the reunion of collective artists and like-minds that had traveled just as far. They were coming for communion.
And isn't that what it's all about at the end of the long day and the dark night? Communion with souls who openly worship this mysterious Creator and use their gifts to reflect that light?
This year in particular seemed rich with the reunion of familiar faces and the speakers, those presenting were stellar. Brilliant. I'm sure I'll drop a few in my simple task here to highlight the event but here are a few names, links and works, that you should get to know. I'll be blogging about some of these people and my moments with them individually in days to come.
An award-winning broadcaster, writer and founder of The Kindlings, a movement devoted to rekindling the creative, intellectual and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. Since the 1960’s his work has focused on understanding faith and culture and interpreting each to the other. For more information visit www.DickStaub.com and www.TheKindlings.com
Dr. Malcolm Guite, a poet, priest and academic living and working in Cambridge who has thought deeply about building intergenerational communities. His recent writings are The Singing Bowl, Sounding the Seasons, and What Do Christians Believe?: Belonging and Belief in Modern Christianity. He also plays in Cambridge rock band Mystery Train, and lectures widely in England and USA on poetry and theology.
Dr. Bobette Buster, . After serving as creative executive for Tony Scott, Larry Gelbart and Ray Stark, Bobette Buster continues to consult for Hollywood’s prominent decision makers and creatives at leading studios including Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Disney Animation, and Sony Animation. Bobette conducts seminars for the most elite film school programs around the world. Bobette’s well-known and inspiring lectures have elicited extraordinary reactions from professional audiences around the world. Leading film industry figures, writers, communications leaders and other storytellers have also cited the effect it has had on the transformation within their own lives.
Graham Kerr, An internationally known culinary and television personality, award-winning author, and master of metaphorical speaking. His focus is on serving people who want to make healthy, creative, lifestyle changes and to increase their consumption of fresh, local edible plants and seafood. His life goal is “to help to convert habits that harm into resources that heal both for ourselves and others in need.”
(Ok, so he is kinda infamous BUT honey, it's that witty, charming, beautiful, sassy wife of his that takes the cake. She deserves - and has - her own following. Treena Kerr is the kind of woman most of us aspire to be when we grow up finally at any age!)
Lyric tenor Ross Hauck is a resident of Issaquah, Washington, where he lives with his wife, Laura, twin boys, Daniel and Benjamin, daughter Lillian Rose, and new baby girl Charlotte Grace. Hailed by the Seattle Times as “almost superhuman in musical effect”, Mr. Hauck maintains a busy and eclectic career, often specializing in both early and new music. Read More
"Through Your Eyes." Bruce Herman is a painter and educator living and working in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Herman holds the Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts at Gordon College where has has taught and curated exhibitions since 1984. He completed both undergraduate and graduate fine arts degrees at Boston University College of Fine Arts with graduate work under Philip Guston and James Weeks; undergraduate work with David Aronson, Reed Kay, and Arthur Polonsky. Herman lectures widely and has had work published in many books, journals, and popular magazines––most recently in Walter Hansen's Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman. His artwork has been exhibited in more than 25 solo shows and over 125 group exhibitions in eleven major cities including Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. His work has been shown internationally, including in England, Italy, Canada, and Israel. Herman’s art is featured in many public and private collections including the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art in Rome; The Cincinnati Museum of Fine Arts; DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts; the Hammer Museum, Grunwald Print Collection, Los Angeles; the Cape Ann Museum, and in many universities throughout the United States and Canada.
Dr.Walter Hansen is a writer, New Testament scholar, and philanthropist whose work has taken him all over the world for teaching and ministry. Walter received a Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College in 1968, a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1972 and a Doctor of Theology from the University of Toronto in 1985. He was Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary (1995-2005), and has authored numerous books and articles on Paul's writing.
Dr. Jeff Keuss
Sundance Select Jeff Keuss is a theologian who writes and teaches on the intersection of theology and culture at Seattle Pacific University. Jeff is at turns a father of three daughters, a husband, a Presbyterian clergyman, a professor of theology, a researcher and writer on theology, literature and contemporary culture, a friend and teacher, a reclusive monk in some places and a sideshow freak in others. And someone who drinks too much coffee in places that have free wi-fi…in summer 2014 he will succeed founder Dick Staub as President of The Kindlings.
Actor and Arts Advocate Host of BagEnd Café. Nigel Goodwin is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and former student of Francis Schaeffer and Hans Rookmaker at La'Abri. He is the Founder of the London Arts Centre Group and Executive Director of Genesis Arts Trust, a ministry committed to serving the needs of Christian artists throughout the world. Nigel and his wife, Gillian, live on the Isle of Wight and are the parents of three grown daughters.
Dr. Jerry Root
Jerry has been studying C. S. Lewis and a constellation of subjects related to Lewis since 1970. Both his M.Div. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation were about C. S. Lewis. He has taught college and university courses on C. S. Lewis continuously since 1980. He has lectured on Lewis at 59 Colleges and Universities in 9 different Countries and has preached or lectured in 24 different countries and 32 states.
With Very Special Offerings from Kindlings Alumni -
Jeff Johnson, Susan Osborn, Eric Miller, Scott Cairns and many others I'm forgetting to mention.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.