Throughout September, we are bringing other talented artists to “our” stage. Each artist will be presenting a song and a writing that explore their own take on the theme of “Returning.”
Today you get to meet this beautiful soul…
Ami Andersen is a singer-songwriter based in Northeast Minneapolis. She has two sweet daughters and is married to a pastor. Her musical influences include traditional folk melodies and hymns, beginning piano lessons early on and playing hymns for church by around 12 years old.
Ami studied piano and voice in college and has enjoyed various music opportunities such as playing for ballet classes, senior living singalongs, and background music at places like the IDS tower in Minneapolis, as well as teaching class piano and accompanying choirs.
However, her favorite musical ventures are still playing for church and working to write thoughtful and beautiful music. She released an album of hymns with new melodies (Shelter: Hymns Resung) in 2012 and then an album of mostly original work (Wayfaring) in April 2019, both of which you can find wherever you stream or purchase music online and at amiandersen.com.
Returning to Longing
by Ami Andersen
Somewhere over the rainbow. Where is that and what do you suppose is over there? Somewhere peaceful and easy? Golden and happy?
When Dorothy begins singing this song in the Wizard of Oz, she has just been told to “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble” which leaves her saying to Toto, “Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?”
2020 has been a strange year, at this point we barely need to comment on that. What sounded like a golden year at the outset (2020 has a ring to it) has left us all in a state of being unsettled from routines and relationships and missing out on many of the things we normally enjoy. Unrest has boiled over for various reasons around the world, and suffering that was already present in peoples’ lives has been worsened by isolation and economic distress.
A place without trouble is a far off dream.
While September usually means a return to school here in America and a more regular schedule, or a return to a season of sports or concerts and theater, these things are either not returning right now or they are quite different than before. We actually can’t return to normalcy, not yet anyway. Some have lost loved ones and will never be able to return to life with them. Others have lost their livelihoods and businesses.
On the other hand, many are ‘returning’ to things they may have neglected or never tried. My husband and I have canned fresh produce nearly every year we’ve been married and I grew up doing so as well, but this year we could barely find canning lids! Apparently folks are discovering home canning, perhaps along with gardening, baking bread, house projects and simple vacations close to home.
In the second line of the song, it says, “There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.” While we’ve never been to this trouble free land, somehow we have a memory of it, a sense that it ought to exist and maybe does somewhere. In a quote that I love from C.S. Lewis and I’ve referenced elsewhere in my own songs (especially Somewhere Better), he talks about this remembering and desire for a far off place:
“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering… These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but… they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
It can be easy to slip either into cynicism or platitudes about things getting better. Somewhere Over the Rainbow could be accused of childish escapism, and of course Dorothy does get carried off to a magical place of bright colors and fantastical creatures.
She seemingly finds the place over the rainbow. But then of course, it turns out that even there troubles exist, and in the end she just wants to go home.
As a Christian, I believe this desire that we all have for a place free of trouble is telling us something truthful. It is reminding us that there is in fact a country where things are set right, whether illness or loss or injustice. Jesus actually makes a promise that he is preparing this place for us in his Father’s house, the same Father that invites us to be called his children, and thus at home in his house. Here and now our wish to be free of trouble and yet at home are often at odds. When our Father makes all things right, however, those two places will be one and the same.
So what can we return to right now? Certainly we can return to a commitment to what matters, showing love to others and using our time well, as we are able. Perhaps there are other simple things we may remember and return to like gardening and crafting or even doing without excess.
But maybe we should also return to the desire for things to be made truly better, not running away from our troubles, but embracing the reminder that we are still waiting for things to be made right.