My wife, Jennifer, and I had a lovely discussion with artist Dawn Waters Baker about our Pass the Piece collaborative art project sponsored by Rabbit Room.
After this year’s Hutchmoot Homebound, Rabbit Room‘s online conference, an opportunity was offered to participate in a collaborative art project called Pass the Piece. The project randomly pairs two artist. One begins a piece of artwork and sends it to the second artist to complete. I received a piece from artist Dawn Waters Baker titled “Living in the Land of Uz,” and I responded to her piece which you can view and read more about HERE.
Just this week, I sent my Pass the Piece artwork to a visual artist who works with a variety of mediums. A dear and patient friend with just the right tools has helped me to create something to serve as a palette of sorts upon which my friend also engraved a poem I wrote which serves as my part of this piece. (Thank you Rick!) I do hope that artist to whom I’ve sent my piece can work with it. I can’t wait to see what she does with it.
It may be no surprise to those in the congregation I pastor, but I’ve based my poem on Job which has been the subject of sermon series as of late. Job is a book with which I have had a familiarity, but it, just like suffering in general, is not something I can readily get my head around. I think I’ve gotten a better handle on Job, and I hope I have a more honest and faithful and hopeful understanding of suffering. The poem I wrote is based on Job 38:1-7 which reads,
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?. On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (ESV)
You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
I have no answers, Lord, Only questions. Like, why come with a storm Into the chaos of my storm? How is one to know which is the help, Which whirlwind is caused by sin, Which rescue or finish me? And why have you stood off Silently? I have no answers, Only questions. No, I was not there When you laid the foundation. It was not by my skill or strength That it was made square and plumb. I did not stretch out a line its length To measure Your wisdom and love. I did not pour into the earth with my hands The footing upon which Every last thing that stands Now stands. I did not mark the depth, breadth, and height Of Your cornerstone’s wisdom. I did not lay it in place By it make all true and right. Nor did I choose the keystone Which holds the arch, fills the breach, Holds in place the pillars of sky, Holds all these things leaning together, Even the answers just out of reach As I lean towards You, One Whom I thought I knew, One Who is now unknown, But where else can I go With my questions? What was it like When the morning stars sang In the first day’s, pre-dawn light? What was the sound Of the song which You taught? Who led the heavenly band? Who called the contradance Who led the grand March, the real and swing of the Allemande Right and left? How did the cosmos resound When the sons of God shouted for joy? What was the noise When the lifeless void Gave way to the dawn-- The break of day? What was that like: Sound filled with sparks, When delight became Light? I only have questions. Who are you, who now comes To me in the ruin of ash, To the dust of the death in which I sit? What do you know of loss, What to you did faithfulness cost, And will I ever see the point of this? © Randall Edwards 2021
The following is a step towards the culmination of a project sponsored by Rabbit Room called Pass the Piece. If you’d like to view what has been so inspiring for me, you may access the content of this year’s Hutchmoot Homebound through this weekend (Oct 28-31) beginning Thursday, HERE. (Note: You have to pay for the content, but it is so worth it.) You may never have thought you’d ever read a sentence like the one you just read. “Hutchmoot Homebound”? I want to challenge you that if you don’t know what you just read to “be curious.” There will be payoffs. If you do get access to the content, check out the Pass the Piece pages in the website’s Art Studio. It will bless your socks off!
After the Hutchmoot weekend in early October, a collaborative art project began in which artists were paired with other artists (much like a Secret Santa gift exchange). Each participant drew a name and for that drawn name, the artist drawing the name was to make something to pass on a piece of art to the artist whose name they drew. The receiving artist would then add to, augment, complete, respond to, you name it… the piece of art they received. Having participated in projects somewhat like this, I know how inspiring they can be. There is something about receiving and responding that resembles the surprise of grace. And, much like grace, the collaboration and responses don’t merely double the efforts, they exponentialize them. That is, the effort doesn’t merely become a multiple of efforts and creativity, but the end the product feels more like an exponent of the two.
At any rate, I was fortunate enough to have been paired with visual artist Dawn Waters Baker whose website you must visit and whose speaking engagements you must view. You will be blessed by her take on art and faith. You can find her online at www.dawnwatersbaker.com.
Through a bit of messaging back and forth and some personal discernment, Mrs Baker settled on Job as the subject of her piece which is titled, “In the Land of Uz.” In her painting, Dawn uses both color and imagery to communicate both the profound sadness of Job as well as points to the reconciliation at the end of the book. You can view the piece and read some of her comments on her Instagram page HERE.
In order to share both the artwork and the poetry I wrote in response to her work, I created a video in which you may view her beautiful painting and listen to the poetry.
Lastly, I just need to say how grateful I am to Dawn and her thoughtful engagement with a difficult subject like the book of Job and for her generosity in sharing such beautiful talent and art. My being able to work through and respond to her work has exponentialized blessing in me, and in a season which has felt so austere, this feels abundantly lavish. Thank you, Dawn.
You may view the video and poetry it inspired below.
Act I Now there was a day In the land of Uz When everything I loved was taken away, And as the sun went down I sat on the ground Of this dried, dead wilderness Of desert brown-- Dry as my eyes That cannot cry anymore. And here ‘neath this leafless tree I wonder if I will ever be Whole again, if I would ever want or live to see Another day. The sky turned from yellow-orange to red, And the crimson gave way To the darker hues of violence-- The violet, black and blues Of the beating I’d taken that day. What did I do for this? Why was I stripped? Is leaving all that is left, To mark one by one a death and a death And another death, another leaving? Is grieving the only way I’ll remember my love For those who died today? I thought if I clung to you That you would keep me from the Beasts Of grief and fear. Is that not true? What good then does clinging do? What’s the point if you won’t keep me From these things? If you will not shield me with your limbs Lean over, cover and shelter me? © Randall Edwards, 2021 Pass the Piece Project 2021 Ekphrastic poem in response to “In the Land of Uz” © Dawn Waters Baker 2021, 6x8 oil on aluminum panel
Act II Now there was a day In the land of Judah When the Love who is everything was taken away. And the sun went down On a mother who fell to the ground Outside the walls of a dried, dead town of desert brown-- dry as her eyes that could not cry anymore. And here ‘neath this cruel tree She wonders if she will ever be Whole again, if she will ever see him Alive someday. The sky turned from yellow-orange to red, And the crimson gave way To the day’s darker hues of violence The violet, black, and blue Of the beatings they gave him that day. What did He do for this? Why was He stripped, Made into a game by those who bet for all he had left, While she counts each cry, one by one Till his last breath? To them, she was just another mother grieving. Is grief the only way She’ll remember Love-- The Love she bore and who died this day? I never thought that I would see My son murdered so ruthlessly. In all the years I never thought in my heart That this would be the part He’d play, That of all days, this day, Would become His wedding day. How could I have known when I asked That He was waiting till the last So that on this tree Stretched out like a vine He would give himself as the best wine For me. © Randall Edwards, 2021 Pass the Piece Project 2021 Ekphrastic poem in response to “In the Land of Uz” © Dawn Waters Baker 2021, 6x8 oil on aluminum panel
Act III There will be a day When the Love worth everything Will return everything taken away. There will be no fading light. As life rises from the green ground, That which was dried and dead shall teem with life And every tear found, wiped from our eyes. There beside the River, ‘neath a boulevard of trees, We shall walk in an arbor of peace, In the shade of leaves which fall In healing on you and me. And in that dappled light we shall see, See, as He sees us. The sky breaks with the red and orange-yellow of day, The crimson calls to us: Rise, O Sleeper. Rise! Awake! And the darker hues of the violence, The violet, black, and blue of beatings taken Will slough off and be shaken away. Did He who was hanged on the tree Do this for you and me? The One who still bears those scars? Will we, the blessed meek, find everything ours? Stunned by this bliss. In silence we’ll wonder, What on earth did we do to deserve this? There it will be asked of us, Do you see? That all which you bore was borne by me? That what you were left to do I did not deny myself? That I too was not kept from those things? That on that tree I clung to you, And by it leaned in love, Leaned over to cover and shelter you And hide you in me. © Randall Edwards, 2021 Pass the Piece Project 2021 Ekphrastic poem in response to “In the Land of Uz” © Dawn Waters Baker 2021, 6x8 oil on aluminum panel