The Wonderlands: Six Rays of Sunlight

As a writer, I’ve always loved Jon’s way with words. They have a simplistic beauty that is not afraid to express the truth. And it’s for that same reason (among others) that I’ve also always respected him as a writer and a musician.

So when Jon Foreman’s Sunlight EP was released on May 26, I was eager to listen.

Before discussing each song, I want to mention that Sunlight is part of an ambitious project. It’s one of four EP; Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, Dawn. The idea was to chase the light of day for twenty-four hours with twenty-four songs, one song representing each hour of the day.

The EP begins with “Terminal,” a song about how we’re all going to die. The beginning track is about the end. I find that to be an interesting polarity for an opening. Maybe it’s a little depressing for some, but it’s true. Although, there’s more to this song then just that grim fact. Musically, this song is like an onion, or a delicious chocolate cake. It has many layers. Between the strings and cello and keys and symbols and that faint voice whispering in the background toward the end of the song, the entire production is rather complex, but comes together to create something beautiful. And it’s that faint voice that enforces the message, softly speaking:

“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
For our days here are like grass
We flourish like a flower of the field
The wind blows and it is gone
And its place remembers it no more
Naked we came from our mother’s womb
And naked we will depart
For we bring nothing into the world
And we cant take nothing away”

Beautiful honesty. That’s what I call it, since death is a subject few people are willing to discuss. “Terminal” brings this topic to light in a lovely way. And as I listen to beginning of the song, I’m reminded of a sunrise, of a brand new day. I’m reminded about the beginning of all things.

The opening track is followed by “The Mountain.” There’s a rustic feel to this song that begins with the first guitar chords. Jon’s soft voice breaks through the instrumentals to declaring that if we can’t move the mountain, then, we trust that there’s a higher being who can. We all have mountains, or obstacles, to face in our life, but sometimes we need a little help overcoming them. The lovely instrumentals at the end with the repeating line is not only one of my favorite parts, but also solidifies this songs motto.

“You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are” is the anthem to the beautifully flawed people who walk this earth as well as the next song on the playlist. This song is about the flaws in humanity being made perfect in weakness. From the very beginning there’s an uplifting feeling in the melody. The truth is we all wear mask to protect ourselves, but it also prevents us from feeling joy. We all have scares. But it’s those scars that make us who we are and it’s also those same things that make us beautiful. So drop your masks and simply be yourself. Let your beauty shine. I can’t help but feel good and smile when listening to this song. There’s beauty in the lyrics, in the melody and in the reminder that YOU are beautiful.

Following the uplifting anthem of “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are” is the sing-songy, nostalgic lyrics of “Caroline.” And don’t you just love that harmonica? I know I certainly do. As the rhythmic lyrics bounce along we’re reminded of life’s journey while being given an emotion punch. We’re reminded of losing and gaining, of the childhood innocents we once had and that no matter how hard we try we can’t return to the past. All we can do is forge on, like the song. As the repeating line in the chorus says, “where your heart is now.” All we can really do is figure out where our heart is now and go from there. I think it’s safe to say that we all have a little bit of Caroline in us. It’s only human nature to feel all these things, to feel the nostalgic pull of the past. And on a personal note, it’s songs like this that remind me why I fell in love with Jon’s writing in the first place.

The second to last song on this EP is “Patron Saint of Rock and Roll.” It begins with an organ as if in a church or old cathedral. As this fades to other interments, Jon’s voice can be heard over other voices/chanting of the congregation during worship. Through Jon’s wonderful metaphors, direct and witty lyrics the idea that no simple religious idea will feed the hungry or help the poor or that there’s even a saint to save your soul is laid before us. There’s only one God in Heaven who works through us, His human vessels.

“All of God’s Children” is the last song on this EP and holds a deep and powerful message. We are all God’s children. Stripped down to a guitar, this songs seems simple, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s this beautiful simplicity that can drive home the honest truth that I continue to fall in love with over and over again. I’ve always found something beautiful about songs that use only a guitar. Maybe it’s the fact that the lyrics can’t hide behind all the other flashy instrumentals (although, don’t misunderstand me because I love those songs too). In songs like this the words and message are laid out before us. Underneath it all, we are all of God’s children.

When I first listened to Sunlight, I was blow away. Being familiar with Jon’s work, I knew this EP wouldn’t disappoint, but it exceeded my expectation in every way. I’m not even sure I had any expectations, but I suppose you could argue that I assumed Jon would just do his thing as an artists and everything would be lovely. Well, in that case…he delivered.

Thank you Jon for these beautiful, heartfelt songs. I’m excited to continuously enjoy Sunlight and to dive into the other EPs as they are released throughout the year.

If you haven’t listened to Sunlight, but this entry has peaked your curiosity, then, take a listen to “Caroline” and “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are.” Let me know what you think.

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Somewhere Between

This is where life happens – where relationships rise and fall, where empires succeed or meet their demise. These are the deep waters: the glorious terrible space between the mirage and the facts, between waking and the dream. This is where we live and where our song is born. Somewhere between chaos and the control – these are the wonderlands.
~ Jon Foreman – “Chaos vs. Control”

For as long as I can remember I’ve had an issue with these two things; chaos and control. Those who know me well would say I’m organized and like structure. It’s true. (And, honestly, it’s what helped me successfully make it through my college years). But sometimes it’s both a blessing and a curse.

Organization is one thing, but structure is another. A few years ago I realized that it had reached a point where I was so structured I had trouble doing anything out of my normal routine. It was becoming monotonous. I knew I had to break free. On the flip side, those same people would say that I’m also spontaneous.

I know, two opposite ends of the spectrum.

But then I stop and think, “Do any of us like dealing with things that are out of our control?” Absolutely not. None of us want to feel like we have no say. No one likes feeling as if they’re spinning in circles.

And that’s what I believe leads to structure. If things are planned out perfectly then everything will go according to plan. There will be no room for errors.

Wrong.

It’s all an illusion.

Don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing wrong with being organized and structured (I still am…to a point), but there is a point where a line is crossed and being structured takes over. It becomes, dare I say it, unhealthy.

We have to learn to roll with the punches. We can’t control everything.

I’ve learned that life is made up of moments. Most of these moments are chaotic. There are times of peace, but there is always chaos. Life is chaos and there are many things that we can’t control. The secret is to find the balance between the things we can control and the things we can’t, as hard as it might be.

I know I’m still working on it.

From chaos is born beauty. It’s true. At least in my opinion. Some of the most lovely, memorable moments in our lives have come from chaos. Think about it. I’m sure you can think of at least one.

Sometimes I believe unpredictability breeds chaos. Within recent years I’ve started to fall in love with unpredictability. The idea that anything can happen and everyday is an adventure both excites and scares me. But just like we can’t control everything, we also can’t always throw caution to the wind. There is a balance and we have to find it.

It’s like Jon says in the above quote, “Somewhere between chaos and control – these are the wonderlands.”

If this is where life happens, where we thrive, then I want to live in this place known as The Wonderlands. I want to live, to dream, to sing. I want to know where I’m going and at the same time have no idea. I want to be open to the everyday possibilities of the unknown. I want to embrace the chaos instead of trying to control it.

Yes, I think I would like to live in this place called The Wonderlands. Wouldn’t you?

Cheers to Love

I think I figured it out
We need to be together
Like the shore and the sea
We are not one thing
We’re drawn here together
My ocean and me
~ Jon Foreman – “In My Arms”

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
~ Aristotle

Love must be one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.

I came to this conclusion solely based on observation. I’ve watched my grandparents over the years and have old pictures from their wedding day. Every morning they seem to fall in love with each other all over again. I’ve grown up in an affectionate household (and family) and have watched my parents as well. Then I watched as my little brother went off to college and met the same woman he’s still with today. Yes, I have grown up with fine examples of love all around me, yet I’ve never felt that way about anyone. Of course I love my family and my friends and a few choice acquaintances because they’re lovely people, but I’ve never loved anyone enough to even think once that I would want to spend the rest of my life with them. At least not yet.

This past weekend I traveled to New Jersey to watch my cousin marry his longtime girlfriend. I lived too far to see this romance unfold, but I could tell by the way they looked at each other that they loved one another.

I have faith that one day I will find a great love, the same kind of love my grandparents, parents, brother and now my cousin have. I believe that there is someone for everyone.

Until that day, I will keep moving forward with my life. I’m content with how things are and what I have and know that one day I will find my great love. But for now, I still have mountains to climb on my own. I’m alright with that too.

Love must be one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. So cheers to those of you who have found it and to those of you who are still searching…don’t lose hope.

A Moment in History

A few days ago two friends and I took a little road trip to The Clark, an art museum in Williamstown, MA.

Road trip aside (which are always fun), I love art museums. I enjoy taking my time walking around to the different pieces of art. I like standing in front of each painting, reading the little card next to it and studying the brush strokes as much as the painting itself.

On display were works by artists I already loved, such as Monet and Renoir. There were paintings by those I had never heard of and those who seemed vaguely familiar. And there were those I found and fell in love with, such as Inness and Homer.

So what was it about theses artists that captured my attention?

Claude Monet, a French artist, is said to be a founder of Impressionist painting. Simply put, I have always found his work beautiful. When looking at one his paintings, I almost believe I could step right into it and become part of the image.

Pierrie-Auguste Renoir was a French painter who is said to have been the leading artist in the Impressionist style. Since I first saw Dance at Bougival a number of years ago (probably when I was in high school), I have loved his work. For me, seeing it in person was both a treat and an experience. The people in his paintings seem very much alive and ready to step off the canvas. There were a number of times when I thought how much emotion was expressed in their eyes and I found myself lost in them. Even his non-portrait paintings have a distinct beauty.

George Inness, American landscape painter, was influenced by those at the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school and the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg. The spiritualism of this theology can be vividly seen in Inness’ work as it matured. The lighting and realism of his work was gorgeous, at least in my opinion. I found myself able to stare at one his paintings for a very long time, feeling as if I could walk right into it.

Winslow Homer was a 19th century American landscape painter best known for his marine subjects. His work is absolutely beautiful and my love of the ocean made me immediately fall in love with these paintings.

While I was looking at these paintings, both by the artists mentioned here and the others I didn’t note, I was struck with a rather interesting thought. At one point in history the artist set up an easel and placed a canvas on it. He gathered up some paint and brushes and set to work on making what he saw with his own eyes come to life on the white canvas. These paintings capture a moment in time, people, a culture, a society. And long after the artist is gone, long after I am gone, these works of art will still exist for people to marvel.