Dear readers and subcreators! This is our last week reading Adorning the Dark together. It’s been such a joy reading along with you, discussing what stands out, digging into themes and questions, and hearing what you’re working on. Thanks for joining in. Here’s one last excerpt, and another couple discussion-starters, and we’ll have a creative prompt on Friday—but the conversation doesn’t have to stop this week. Keep coming back if you want to keep talking. (And join us in January to read Walking on Water.)
Right before my first tour in Sweden I called my dad.
“Dad, we’re Swedish, right?”
He laughed. “Yeah, my grandfather emigrated from there to Amherst, Massachusetts.”
“Do you know where he was from? What was his name?”
“His name was Ernest, but they used to spell it ‘Ernst.’ According to my records, he came from a city called Kalmar.” …
One of my dreams, after a few tours there, was to bring my whole family so they could meet the friends I’d made and walk the land our forefathers had walked. In 2013 it finally happened…. We climbed through the brush as [our eighty-year-old guide] chattered to us in Swedish, though we had indicated several times that we didn’t speak it.
And there it was, surrounded by tall trees: a cellar, probably for storing potatoes, which would have been under the cottage. The big stones that lined it were green with moss, placed in a rough square about five feet across. Humus and leafy debris littered the bottom, and when I jumped in it was springy. …
But the story wasn’t over. The next time I was in Sweden I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened to the rest of my family. Every time I met a Peterson (which is pretty often over there) I wondered if we were related. So I kept digging on the websites, kept pressing my dad for more information, and every time I came back the hunt resumed.
Then, in 2016, I found them. … When [Ingrid] arrived at the concert I knew her immediately. She looked vaguely like my grandfather. … We walked through the old stone church he would have attended and saw the thousand-year-old baptismal font. No joke, there was a Viking rune stone outside the church, surrounded by wild daisies. …
Even after all that, I ache for home. I still yearn for a place to belong. Even with the stone arch and the cottage garden and the memories of young laughter among the low-hung trees, even as I’ve tasted honey the bees conjured from wildflowers on my own land, though it was as sweet as the righteous Word of the Lord—even still, Jamie and I move through our story and sense the unfinishedness of things. As I sit in The Chapter House I can see on the wall, next to the painting of Castle Kalmar, a hundred signatures of friends who have spent time in here, and though I hold dear the remembrance of their fellowship I know their bodies are winding ever down, as mine is, to a long and expectant sleep. Though we strike out on the Christmas tour every December, my friends and I, to sing the story of the Incarnation, we carry with us a quiet hollow in the heart, an unrung bell that waits to sound with the final note of the reappearing of the Lamb of God. My brother and I continue to serve the Rabbit Room ministry, setting a table for the writers and artists, bards and wanderers who can’t shake the feeling of a spiritual homesickness. We feel it too. At church, even when I receive the Eucharist and sing songs of the Good King with my friends and family, I feel that same persistent longing, dogging my every step. My heart, God help me, is restless, and has ever been so. What, Jesus, can I do?
Write about it, a voice says in my head. Tell that story.
But I get so tired. I know my heart is plagued with sin after sin after sin—sins that would appall you, dear reader—and the voice still says Write about that. Don’t hold it in. Watch how even that can bring me glory.
Ah, Lord, I’m so weak! And so foolish. I’ve hurt my wife, my children, my friends. I just want to go home.
Write that song. Write that story. Homesickness is the way home.
Discussion: What is one way you can let homesickness point you—and those for whom you create—toward home?
What chapter or phrase, challenge or idea has most stood out to you in these eight weeks of reading?
Join us in the forum for more conversation.