“To redeem the lost.” That line occurs on the very first page of Patti Smith’s melancholic M Train as a reason for why we write. I underlined the phrase when I first read the book last fall. I was charmed by it again when I opened the book last night to begin a second trip on the Train. For what its worth, I agree with Smith’s rationale.
But before I pulled that book from my shelf, I caught the second half of True Grit, the Coen brothers remake that lopes along atop a Carter Burwell score. I had forgotten how much I love that movie. You could say it had become lost to my mind, and that would be a fair thing to say. I watched again as Mattie fell into the snake pit, and a snake did what snakes often do. And then as Rooster, with Mattie cradled in his arms, rides Little Blackie as hard as he can in the direction of someone that might be able to save her. It’s the dead of night, you can hardly see anything save the stars. About the only sound is a horse’s locomotive breathing, in and out and in and out. Finally Little Blackie has nothing left to give, and falls. It is then that Rooster re-cradles Mattie and begins to run in the way a one-eyed fat man would run carrying someone he loves who he fears he might lose. Again, the scenes are dark, about the only thing you can detect is Rooster’s labored breathing. He calls upon a lost grit, and there is redemption. From the start of that sequence to its conclusion, the song “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand” builds and then crests in a gentle climax. The weight of it all was almost too much for me to bear.
Then, not long after those scenes, the film ends, and as credits roll, Iris DeMent’s unmistakable voice sings “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” And I could bear it no more. Tears fell.
I’ve not written in this space in quite some time. I wouldn’t say the world has missed me, but a few of you have for you’ve told me so. Notes like “You’re quiet. Is everything okay?” and “I miss your voice.” Those notes mean more than you’ll ever know. I’m no pro when it comes to self-awareness, but I’m fair, and I feel like I’ve lost some pieces of myself over the past few months. Not due to some tragedy because nothing like that has happened. No, I’d chalk it up to plain old life, and the passing of time. You simply forget some things or misplace them or possibly even doubt aspects of yourself you once held firm. Maybe coming back to this space and writing a little more often will help me remember, help me redeem some of what I think at least I’ve lost. Because yes, time gets away from us.
I won’t promise to write here every day or anything like that. But it’ll be every so often. Maybe all you’ll be able to detect is the faint, labored breathing of an astigmatic-eyed older man running under dark starred skies cradling that which he loves, remembering, redeeming, and holding fast to God’s unchanging hand.