Where the Trees Stand Still

I was born with wanderlust for blood. 

You know, Wanderlust is an interesting word.  The similar German word, Fernweh, literally means, "ache for distance."  It's one of many beautiful aches life has handed me – as if tied with a red ribbon, presented tenderly with the hope of kindredship if not love – as if Life itself wanted to share its own ache with someone who'd get it, appreciate it, and share it. 

I can't tell you when it was that I first saw a globe but I am pretty certain I remember the first time I understood what a globe meant.  I stood mesmerized by the thought of faraway browns and greens as I first realized my actual size… smooth seas and rippled continents rolling under my fingertips.  I stood there spinning the globe over and over to the background noise of, "Sammy, it's time to go … Sammy! We're leaving now…"

I was a shy kid.  Every year in grade school my mom made a piñata for me to take to school at Christmas time and I suffered the extra attention it drew me.  My 5th grade year was different though.  I completely forgot about myself because I was lost in a piñata globe my mother labored over the night before.  I could only wonder about large island in the southern hemisphere, which looked to me a lot like Gilligan's Island.  Was it a real place?  When my teacher presented the piñata to the class I couldn't help but blurt-ask, "What's that island on the other side down low?"  It sparked a moment I'll never forget as she told us, as if telling a true fairy tale, about Australia with its kangaroos, wombats, and Tasmanian devils.  Right there I prayed, "God, please please please, let me go to Australia some day."  That was a moment I forgot until my first overseas trip.  I was in my mid-20s having a bad day and while I sat in a cold room lamenting my down mood to God I remembered that piñata and that I was sitting in Melbourne, Australia at that moment.  My experiences let me believe easily that God does indeed love his children.

Wanderlust catches up to you though.  I spent the 90s playing in a band, touring the country, flying to Europe, and running sound for other bands doing the same. I took every opportunity to hit the road.  The nomadic life felt natural to me but looking back, it only revealed Life's secret about the ache of distance.  It is the ache of solitude that we all seem to fear yet long to embrace; the fear that we are truly and uniquely alone in the universe and that somehow the answer to that ache lies in drinking in all places, experiencing all moments, and living the chase – not the dream.  It was only amplified for me by sleeping on van seats, motel floors, and tour bus bunks.  The bittersweet taste of longing has always been my favorite flavor.

On a melancholy tour day I sat staring out a moving bus window playing one of those eye games we play as telephone poles race by.  The wires go down, then up, a flash of a pole then down then up… on and on.  Then I was drawn to trees close to the road as they raced by, nothing but a blur of barren Ohio branches, and in your mind's ear you can hear them whoosh by.  Then I was drawn to the trees further out which moved more slowly.  Then I saw a picture that has stuck with me ever since. 

I saw a house with trees in the yard and time slowed to a crawl.  It was a simple house with a porch.  It was a porch with a couple of chairs.  It was a house with an empty dirt driveway on a Thursday afternoon.  But I saw it all.  You see, there must have been a yellow Ford truck that belonged to that driveway but, at the moment, it was sitting in the parking lot of a factory where its owner worked a simple job.  He came home from his job every day to his wife and his two kids.  He sat on the porch with his best friend (who helped him lay a new roof on his house last fall) and drank Bud Light while children swung and laughed in the tire swing hung from a tall tree in the front yard.  He was saving for his kids' college and for retirement.  He didn't have anything fancy but he had much to love.  He was an honest man.  It's not that he didn't have unfulfilled longings and aspirations of his own.  It's that he knew better and accepted his life in honesty and he was better and wiser for it.  The people around him were better for it too.  I almost lifted a hand to wave out the window to his empty porch and empty driveway.  A small, noisy part of me wished I had been built the same simple way but the rest of me couldn't stomach the thought of risking such a change.

I looked across the bus at Bebo who had by now become a friend of mine.  (Bebo Norman is the singer/songwriter I was on tour with at the time.)  The melancholy that settles in two-thirds way through a tour is a shared experience and I knew he was feeling it too.  I said, "Hey Bebo, don't you wish sometimes you lived where the trees stand still?"

He wrote this song which describes the feeling perfectly.

Today my trees stand pretty still but they're getting restless.  I hear the wind rustling the leaves.