- A Lesson In Metaphor
“I have eyes in the back of my head,” my kindergarten teacher warned us as we walked single file behind her, an assortment of little ducks, to the water fountain.
I took this literally. Where are the eyes? I wondered, squinting to study the head I did not yet know I needed glasses to see clearly. I assumed the vantage point for this second set of eyes must be less than ideal, obscured by the short bob haircut stopping just above the nape of her neck. Unless these eyes could see through the hair? I closed mine then, double checking that I would not suddenly realize I had access to an extra pair myself. Nope. So do all grown ups have eyes in the backs of their heads, or was this something specifically developed when one becomes a kindergarten teacher? It couldn’t be that only this kindergarten teacher had them, could it?
I pondered these great mysteries while waiting my turn to take a drink. When it came, I stuck my face into the horseshoe-shaped stream and sipped. A nagging doubt entered my brain and started tickling it with the kind of feather that all doubts carry with them. I swatted at the feather but the doubt smiled and danced to the other side of my head to continue its pestering.
What if she doesn’t have eyes in the back of her head? What if she’s lying? Grown ups lie sometimes. Would she?
I turned my gaze surreptitiously in her direction and found that her back was to me, looking off towards the playground and away from her class, right hand acting as a visor against the sun. Then, I took a huge gulp, bulging cheeks, did a quick about-face before I could think better of it, and spit a surprisingly generous amount of water on the little girl standing behind me in line.
Her face, dripping, stared at me in wide-eyed shock.
I glanced again towards the teacher and (ah hah!) she did not immediately whip around in outrage. Until of course the sopping girl started to cry and the entire line of little ducks erupted into chaos, tattling on me in shrill unison for my, um, episode.
The teacher snarled. I got in an immense amount of trouble. My mother was called. I said sorry to the girl, and I meant it.
But then I knew for sure. There were no eyes in the back of that head.
- union with beauty
I meet God often at a creek 10 minutes from my house in Nashville. It is the only place in the world I consistently meet God, as though we have a standing appointment for whenever we both choose, any day of the week, any time of the day. I call it my creek, though of course it is not. But it feels that way after countless hours of reading by it, sitting in it, walking through it and staring out at it. And meeting God.
By God I mean, well, God Himself, but for those who don’t believe in that creek-dwelling omnipotent Person, I can explain the feeling of meeting God at my creek as something like the difference between witnessing beauty and joining in with it. Becoming part of it. The gray heron that makes a habit of flying surprisingly low overhead, the occasional duck or deer, the breeze that causes leaves to swirl and float down like maroon snow in autumn - it seems that I don’t just see these things at my creek, I participate in being Nature with them. Like they decide to open a door usually locked to human beings, and for a moment, I am the exception with an invitation inside.
The fact that my numinous creek is 10 minutes from my house in Nashville is significant because, look, Nashville is home, but Nashville does not have much to boast about by way of beauty. Sure, there are trees, and they change into lovely colors in the fall, a few parks of below-average to average maintenance, and some manicured golf courses of which one has to be rich to avail oneself. But mostly, Nashville is a city like any other, adorned with dirty streets and too many parking garages. People come here for the line dancing and the omnidirectional country music blaring from bars on Broadway. And I guess those beer wagon thingies where you exercise and get wasted simultaneously.
No one flocks to Nashville panting after an aesthetic experience.
They flock elsewhere, as I have, to the caldera in Santorini where I’ve sipped a truly perfect cappuccino and watched the sunset dazzle from it’s most famous stage in Oia. Or to Iceland, where I’ve sat on a cliff face with puffins in the distance, stared at a black sand beach dotted by glaciers and waterfalls and neon green mountains, almost heavy-handed in its allure. I’ve chased rainbows throughout the North Coast of Ireland so defined I felt they were drawn with felt pens before my eyes, driven up the 101 in California from LA to Novato, and swam in a butterfly infested cove of Caribbean ice-blue waters in Haiti every morning for months. Shoot, I was born in Wyoming, and if the show Yellowstone has taught the world anything, it’s that we all should’ve moved to the West when it was any measure of affordable.
I have sat in awe. And I have been moved. And I have taken the photos and exclaimed the words and caught the breaths in my chest. Yet I have rarely met God.
Recently, I found myself drinking coffee and wading in the ocean at sunrise in Miami. One of about five or six early risers that morning, it was silent but for the waves, with a view as striking as you can imagine. I felt the familiar pain of being at odds with unfathomable pulchritude. A stranger on the periphery of an intimacy as yet unknown to me. The earth performing signs and wonders, me conscious of my own brain trying like a thirsty dog to lap up every molecule and finding that my tongue could not make contact with the water in the bowl right in front of my face. A distant viewing of something I felt in my bones I needed to grasp because what if I never see it again. What if I never see anything like it again. It crossed my mind that I was having the experience of a tourist. Distinctly not belonging.
And I thought about my creek.
If one were to look at a photo of my creek side by side with the sunrise under which my skin was being painted pink and gold in that moment, I admit that my creek would not hold much of a candle. So why is it that my soul comes alive and my cells settle into a kind of peace and stillness I only ever strive after elsewhere?
In that ocean under that Miami sunrise, a phrase of explanation plopped into my mind like a skipping stone: the pressure of enjoyment. I don’t go to my creek with any taking in mind. I don’t go as a tourist. I don’t even go necessarily with the expectation of God showing up for our appointment. I just go because it is 10 minutes from my house and that is the place I go and because it is mine even though it is of course not. And there God is. Hello again.
Isn’t this the way with striving? I clutch and clutch and it all slips through my fingers like the wind. I open my palms, and find that I hold the whole world.
- hey, welcome.
Lot of talk about digital footprints these days. Lot of talk about increasing the size of them. Debates about whether this is good or bad to do. My footprint is a run-of-the-mill size 7. I have an album out that very few people know is there. I forget to take pictures during my most documentable moments. I hAtE eDiTiNg TiKtOkS. I tend to my house plants but neglect my yard, read 4 books at once, argue both too often and not enough, find metaphors in almost everything, and nearly subsist on dried mango and peanut butter (not together- maybe will try this). Mostly, I write, and once I realized that I do not write with my size 7 digital feet but with my brain and my relatively dexterous fingers (guitar player), I thought perhaps now is a good time to start that hypothetical blog.
Beginning at the beginning, my name is Jordyn Kay Shellhart, Jordyn with a Y.
This has been my name since I was 3 years old. Before that my name was Jordan Kay Shellhart, Jordan with an A. The standardized tests in middle school and my passport application conspired once to reveal to me that I was and am still legally Jordan Kay Shellhart, Jordan with an A. My mother never bothered to change it when she changed it. Then I guess neither did I. But it’s the looping of the Y in my cursive handwriting, the way it seems to suggest something feminine and fluid, how it appears twice when I write out my not-quite-name in full that affirms I am Jordyn except on the most high stakes governmental occasions.
My big brother named me after Michael Jordan. I possess none of my name sake’s athletic ability but am saddled with a bit of his competitiveness, as much as I’ve tried to shake that off like biting fleas my entire life (please don’t try to tell me it’s because I’m an Aries as this happens to be my least favorite subject on the planet, whatever the planet suggests about my immutable personality). Jordan means flowing, ascending - the Jordan River. Languid and winding, like a cursive Y. Michael Jordan means striving, pushing within an inch of your life. Fast and daring and wielding voracity as a sword, or a basketball.
I desire to be a river, worried not about where it is going, but trusting fully that it is going somewhere. Peaceably gurgling over pebbles and dancing with the light in flashes of blue and gold. Jordyn, flexible, wandering. Still, Jordan, seeking that next shot, sizing up the court and forcing her way to the net is always somewhere under the surface, never quite letting me forget that she is there - a birth certificate, a passport, a record deal DocuSigned alone on a tour bus somewhere in DC, the ambition that keeps me up at night, mocking me while I watch dreams elude my grasp like the ephemeral mist that they are and leaving me looking up at the sky with the same question on my lips: still not my time, huh?
Maybe that Jordan leads somewhere beautiful too, just with more white foam and rapids. They both led me here, I suppose.
I don’t know really what this blog will shape up to be, but it will be here. I will be here, with probably meandering thoughts painting the walls of my little corner of the universe. I think it will be a simple corner, usually unobtrusive, a couple of plush armchairs and a fireplace, cups of tea and saucers (I am not English but don’t tell that to my imagination). I can’t promise the dishes won’t end up strewn about haphazardly, but if you’d like, you’re welcome to sit and drink. I’d love the company.