Blackbird – Chapter 11

I Believe in God

WHEN I RETURNED to the office a few days later, my whole outlook changed. My inbox was full of requests for quotations and other administrative tasks, but I wasn’t weakened to see the work that awaited me. I moved along and replied to each request with a smile. It took me the rest of the week to clean out my email, so when Friday rolled around, I was happy to get a couple of days to spend with my family. I felt so alive because the birth of my son sparked a sudden desire to return to my writing.

I made a faithful promise to myself that no matter what happened from that moment on I would never let another word go unreleased. I would spend every waking moment away from my job and my family to pursue the dream that gave me so much hope. I wasn’t sure the direction my writing would take me, but I was determined to recapture the continuous path and reimagine the cage that held my thoughts.

BlackbirdAfter I tucked my family into their beds later that night, I went outside to contemplate my next move. I had started a manuscript for my daughter shortly after the release of my first book to teach her some of the new ideas I had been researching. I already had a few thousand words written, so I decided to head back inside to rediscover the lost words.

When my quick hand gripped the knob, I felt the cold rain trickle down my wrinkled forehead and fall on my fist. I hesitated to open the door because I felt a subdued voice telling me to wait. I stood unable to move in the direction I intended.

Releasing my loose grip, I stood in the chilling rain for a few minutes and ponder my hesitation. I stood on the edge of the deck while the rainfall beat down softly against the wooden slats. I tilted my head toward the night sky to feel the shivering warmth of the rain. Instead of seeking shelter I looked to the pouring rain for direction.

I felt calm as I closed my eyes to feel a closer connection to the wet storm. I stayed motionless under the irregular rainfall for a few minutes before raw emotion emerged. Like a midnight fire raging through a blazing storm, I couldn’t extinguish the poetic spark wanting to spread throughout my soul.

I wiped away the last raindrop from my eye and went inside to write. The words flowed so gracefully as my upper body slightly shook from the dampness of the rain soaked into my stretched-out sweater. When I stopped, I realized I had written another poem.

I never had ambitions to write poetry, but it seemed to surface in the unguarded moments I searched for direction. I contemplated what the words represented and realized my inspiration to write came from a place I knew nothing about. The only thing I was sure of is that when inspiration came, I wasn’t going to waste it. I was even going to be bold enough to ask for it to find me. I titled the poem Motionless Rainfall.

With a vital work exam approaching, I decided to take a personal day to dig into the massive book I needed to learn to pass my test. The material was dry, so I wanted to find a quiet place to study.

That morning I came up with a few coffee shops where I could find solitude to soak in a little knowledge. I wasn’t sure which one to choose, so I circled for a half an hour unable to make a final decision. Driving around aimlessly I noticed my car was rotating around my university campus. It took me a minute to realize what I was doing so I parked the car.

I looked at the young men and women heading to their classes in my rusty rearview mirror. I decided to grab my laptop bag and led myself to the closest entrance. I felt like an eighteen-year-old kid as I walked the dim hallway to the library.

It was the same narrow path I walked as a young man and with each step, I felt the footprints I left behind. I made my way to the staircase located inside the library and walked to the fifth floor. I found the exact spot I sat twenty years ago and unzipped my bag. I replaced my laptop with an industry textbook, but I couldn’t crack it open.

For some strange reason, I refused to turn the page. The nostalgic feeling of a place that once held freedom was so empowering I could only stare at the protective cover. I looked behind me and saw the encased clock that hung in the same position years before. I turned my freshly shaven head to look at the faces of the students buried in their textbooks. The climactic scene looked so familiar, but I felt completely different as I struggled to open my book.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anything done, so I decided not to fight the feeling and embrace the emotions calling to me from the past. I put my book back into my bag and marched through the campus soaking up all the youthful potential. I was so caught up in the moment I didn’t even realize I was walking around the same place I wrote my first poem.

The moment was too perfect to let pass, so I laid my bag next to the closest bench I could find. I observed the people walking by as if I never left. I sat on the right side of that bench for almost three hours writing.

I started three separate poems in the same place I wrote my first one but the piece I completed from start to finish I titled Returned Innocence.

Over the next three months, I wrote over twenty poems. Each one was distinct, but they had an underlying message wrapped inside the words.

Without accomplishing my goal of reading the first few chapters of my textbook I headed home to see my family. I was a few short kilometers away when I noticed a park underneath a nearby bridge. I had been going to this park since I was a kid and drove by it every day on my way home from work, but this time I had a feeling to park the car again.

I wandered through the walking trails in circles before I noticed a secluded area where I could rest my feet. I was looking for a comfortable bench but only found a few lonely rocks stacked randomly one on top of another. They leaned next to a small pond that was around three feet deep and barely larger than a child’s swimming pool.

To my right stood a miniature waterfall resting only six feet high. I sat and listened to the sounds of the water as it flowed down the shiny green rocks and crashed into the adjacent pond creating hundreds of little white bubbles. The sound of the water was so intense I couldn’t hear the fierce wind blowing against the mature trees behind me. The isolated bubbles immediately disappeared from the base of the peaceful waterfall when I looked away.

Looking around to absorb the beauty of the landscape, I saw a stone cross standing approximately nine feet away. I couldn’t see if anything was on the front, so my curiosity guided me from the rocks. I moved toward the front of the cross anticipating a grand sign from God.

When I arrived, I saw a memorial for all the men and women who gave their lives during the great war. I couldn’t make out some of the words because the language I was never taught. I looked for a few minutes until I noticed another monument in my peripheral vision.

Standing tall behind me was another stone structure with hundreds of names men and women who gave their lives for freedom. I read over a dozen names engraved on the memorial before I felt my attention shift. I couldn’t help but think about all the unreleased passions left behind in the silent fields that once held their lifeless bodies. I could almost feel the buried dreams of these men and women who I had never meet.

I wanted to start my second book, but I couldn’t find the right words to release my passion from this same lonely field of dreams.

Repositioning myself back to the base of the waterfall I closed my eyes. With the back of my hands resting on my knees, I took a deep breath and exhaled. I connected my two fingers to my thumb and took an indrawn breath through my upturned nostrils. Resting my chin on my chest, I asked God for the right direction as I exhaled.

When my inhalation reached its peak, I felt the urge to hold it inside and silently counted one two three. In those three seconds, I heard a voice inside of myself answer the question. My inner voice said a combination of words I never uttered before.

I believe in God.

Immediately I spoke the words repeatedly in my mind. It was the first time in my life I said the words I believe in God and truly meant it. I knew I had a strange connection to something I couldn’t really understand, but as the words arrived, I felt so much peace.

I couldn’t control the intensity building inside my body every time I said the words. It felt so overpowering I decided to speak the words out loud. They flew out of my mouth with so much meaning. To hear myself say the words out loud was so different than when I heard them in my thoughts. When I released the words trapped inside, I felt so free. It was like someone lifted a weight I didn’t know existed. I stood up so fast my body felt raised from the earth under my feet.

I floated down the path toward my car with a smile emerging that could only be seen on the face of a child. The sounds of nature turned up their volume as I walked within the freedom of the structure. When I got to the bridge close to my car I stopped for a minute to reflect on what I said. I asked for direction in my writing, but I still couldn’t make the connection with the words I released.

Then out of nowhere, I saw it.

It wasn’t walking toward me or flying away in the other direction but had its legs planted into the earth. It wasn’t a blackbird I saw, but an empty bench waiting in the distance. I moved toward it unaware of the path.

I felt the wooden bench calling to me from beyond the wrinkled water, but I had to maneuver around some rocks and weeds to find the way. Putting one foot in front of the other I moved forward one step at a time.

Before long I found myself sitting on the right side of the bench as memories of past experiences screened through my mind like a motion picture. The scenes were so vivid I reconnected each quiet moment one by one. The theatre of my mind played back the last year and a half of my life in only a few seconds.

Every scene was like a piece of a puzzle, and each one had its purpose and its place. Sitting with my left arm wrapped around the bench I could finally see the complex picture. When I put the dramatic pieces together, I realized my next book only had to be remembered.

Making my way across two more bridges, I noticed a combination of birds surrounded my feet. It was like I had bread crumbs in my pocket as the birds followed me along the path. They came in so many different sizes, and colors and each one made its distinct sound. They stood around me as I waited patiently on the last bridge anticipating a sign from God. I wanted validation, but nothing was coming in the distant sky.

I still felt good about my decision until I reached the car. I quickly realized I was about to expose myself even further with this book. The idea of sharing my personal experiences and relationship with God became fearful as I formulated a fascinating story of why it was a horrible idea. I sat behind the wheel with my two fingers extended next to my thumb and reached down to turn on the radio. My hand looked like a withered claw as I turned up the volume.

Moving the knob to the right I instantly heard something that shook me to my core. It floated throughout the car like a feeling asking to be discovered. To my amazement, the song Blackbird by the Beatles played in the background.

The questions surrounding my decision no longer existed because the existence of a spirit inside of a feeling freed me from my manufactured fear. Listening to the words, I couldn’t help but question if this was the sign I was looking for when I stood on the bridge over wrinkled water.

I thought back to the moments I saw a blackbird along my journey and what it may have represented. Twice before I felt the unexpected presence of a blackbird right in front of my eyes, but this time its appearance was only a feeling inside of a song. When the chorus ended, I wondered if I would have felt this experience as directional if the door to my cage wasn’t already cracked open. If my spirit wasn’t broken multiple times in the past could I have arrived at this moment of silent contemplation?

Could I genuinely see the freedom in my words without the journey to obtain them? When I put two hands back on the wheel, I knew it was time to release the blackbird once again.

There was one thing I wanted to do before I propelled myself back into the past. To portray my new connection to God, I was going to have to dig up emotions I wasn’t sure I had the strength to recapture. I decided to start preparing my book on New Year’s Day, but I wanted a fresh start. I felt my connection to God had transformed my life, so I decided to get baptized again before I wrote the first word.

With my son’s baptism scheduled for New Year’s Eve, our reverend stopped in to go over the details. I figured it was the perfect time to present my desire, but she said it wasn’t possible.

I was a little shocked as she explained why she couldn’t honor my request. Already being baptized as a child, the church could not grant my request to get baptized again. She could see the disappointment in my eyes as I stared at her with a look of disbelief. She told me that although I couldn’t get baptized for the second time, I did have the opportunity to reaffirm my connection to God during my son’s baptism in a few short weeks.

After she left, I asked my wife if I could take a walk to clear my head. I had images of dunking my bald head in a pool of holy water, but walking up the steep hill by my house, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Although I was disappointed, I thought about the underlying reason for my request. I wanted to strengthen the connection to my words and show God I was grateful for his inspiration. I wanted to meet God halfway.

When I finally got to the top of the hill, I stared into the hundreds of wavy trees circling the cul de sac. Each one stood dozens of feet above the loose soil, and each one had a strength to stand tall despite the prevailing winds swaying them back and forth.

It wasn’t their enormous size or their position in the forest that kept them steady. It was their connection to the earth and the depth of their roots that prevented them from falling. Although I could only see their twisted branches, I realized their true power existed below the surface. Their real connection to the earth that gave them birth is unseen.

I stood staring into the neighboring forest with an understanding that I didn’t need a visible display of my faith because the roots I planted reached beyond what I could see.

Arriving at the church New Year’s Eve, I had a different perspective on what was about to take place. I watched the wet cross written on my son’s forehead knowing he would never remember this moment. He didn’t make a sound as our reverend marked him with the sign of God.

We already had a name picked out but decided after my grandfather’s passing to change his middle name. Not only did I want to honor my grandfather by using his name, but I also wanted my son’s chosen name to symbolize that even in death we all can be reborn. I stood beside my family and reaffirmed my true connection to God. I read the words presented with an understanding that my job was far from done.

My son didn’t decide to get baptized, but maybe one day he will choose to take the journey to find God for himself. Maybe one day he will see the light inside of him that has been waiting for the moment to reveal itself.

My job as his father is not to show him the light but give him the opportunity to find it for himself. The path may not be expected, but if you dare to take the first step through the cage, you will find the courage to rise.

On my journey to find a better part of myself, I noticed something within myself that I didn’t know existed. I saw freedom and strength to fly with the wind and not against it. I discovered something higher than myself that exists within myself. I unearthed my true connection to God.

Final chapter

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