Headlong into the darkness can be an interesting place to exist, methinks. Perhaps not headlong into it so much, as spying it when it pokes its head around the bend and starts making the turn.
What do we do then? Run. Lay down. We can feel it coming if we're honest...if we're listening to our rhythms. If we pay attention to what the calendar brings in our heart year-to-date, year-to-date. Our seasons, as you may have heard it said. Some seasons are surprises, others aren't. Either way, they can be dark.
"January is a dark month for me. While it's a new beginning, to to re-orient, etc, I also simply get bogged down by the early dark and the frigid cold."
Those are Aaron Strumpel's words, not mine. Have you met him? He's a good fellow. A good songwriter. A fine artist.
As January came around the corner this year, Strumpel made the choice to invite it in. To exist inside of it in a creative headspace. Instead of fighting it to the mornings that smell less of the depth of winter and more of the possibility of spring, he wondered some things. What about writing a song a day for the whole month? What would he find deep down in there...in those darkened spots? What would it take to "approach the Spirit who gives voice and melody in all things, every day, for sustenance and partnership?"
Those seem honorable things to wonder. Questions and tasks of noble aim. The entering into the loveliness of a new discipline...and it seems disciplines take good root in the dark mornings of deep winter.
But what would happen?
The result is January Journal, a collection of 31 songs chronicling the journey through as many days: Small prayers. Sparse demos. Spoken word. Love poems.
And in the midst of this is some of Strumpel's best songwriting to date.
The opening discipline is the charging and purposeful, "First Fruits."
"First love, first fruits, first days, first you, I am for you, I am for you."
From there: Dedication. Hope. Protest. Surrender. Repentance. Love. Joy.
The record is sparse on instrumentation: any song is no more than Strumpel and an acoustic stringed instrument of one sort or another. The tracks are raw, the writing honest. The ebb and flow of time is felt and welcomed. The tension and beauty of a month. January Journal shows what can be tilled from those darkened spots...when the dark days are embraced in Spirit and discipline, awareness and honesty.
Aaron Strumpel will release January Journal as part of his involvement in the Ruminate Retreat, September 14-16 in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Until then, all his other records can be heard at aaronstrumpel.bandcamp.com.
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