(Two posts in two days. Time for a vacation!)
Buster and I found ourselves alone at home last night. My wife had taken our two kids to her parent’s farm to spend the night so that today they could help in putting up sweet corn. After their departure I fed Buster and as it was an unusually cooler evening sat outside to pray the Divine Office. Visions of a night to myself bounced around my head but in the end it was what would be considered by cynics as a boring evening.
I grilled two steaks and a monster loaded baked potato, almost ruining the steaks by deciding to experiment with garlic pepper. I had to hunt for but eventually found a bag of cheese curl chips hidden by my wife behind the cereal boxes on the pantry shelves downstairs. I washed it all down with the last beer in the house, a leftover from my son’s going away party last Labor Day before he left for boot camp. As I drank the last beer from that fun day of friends and sudden thunderstorm it occurred to me that it took me almost a full year to consume the 15-18 cans of beer that had remained from that day. Thirty years ago that wouldn’t have lasted a weekend. Times change, we change, and hopefully for the better.
I told my wife that I was going to use the occasion to watch a movie or two that I normally cannot while the kids are home. I’ve had The Raven in my Netflix queue for a year and learned the other day that it will be no longer available to stream after August 1. There were Lone Survivor or American Sniper to consider.
Then I remembered a DVD I purchased almost two years ago and had yet to watch. Given what I’d written yesterday about staying positive I decided that I didn’t want to watch any horror, suspense or war. I opted instead for the quiet storytelling that I’d read about in The Spitfire Grill. Buster curled upon my lap and on the quilt my grandmother had made for me over thirty-five years ago. Sitting in the dark of my home I was taken to small town Maine and to the story of Percy Talbot and her impact on the small town where she is seeking a fresh start in life.
You can view the film’s trailer here.
Good storytelling does not have to be overly dramatic. To be sure, there is drama in Percy’s story, but it is the kind of drama we are more likely to encounter in our every day lives. Small town gossips. Running and working a struggling small business. Dealing with our past, our regrets and managing to move forward with each new day. Sin, healing and redemption. Many use movies to escape from their lives and I’m no different. But I believe there is still a place for us all in the small stories that are going on all around us if we but open our eyes and our hearts to them. This was a story I wish I’d written.
I won’t write about the plot here and instead encourage you to seek out and take in the story that unfolds in Gilead, Maine and at The Spitfire Grill. This is not a “chick flick” but is a very real and human story. I see that it has been turned into a musical and has been seen on many stages since this 1996 independent gem of a film and Sundance Award winner was released. I must admit that I can’t imagine anyone other than the film’s actors in the roles of these characters. They all did a terrific job of capturing the mannerisms and even dialect of small town Mainers which I have myself experienced during two visits to the state. I will be watching this film again soon, this time joined by my family.
Buster and I capped off our night as bachelors with a final patrol of the perimeter (Buster) and a torch-lit scotch on the deck (me). In the film there is a beautiful scene shot in the mountains of Vermont during which Percy sings a few lines from a traditional Black-American spiritual “There is a Balm in Gilead.” (from Jeremiah 8:22). I found myself humming it under the clouds and moonlight.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.
If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.
Running. Working. Struggling. Dealing. Managing.
This is our story. The healing will come if we will only seek it.
I know I am.
Addendum: During the course of writing this post I looked up some reviews of the movie. Talk about being slapped across the face by rampant cynicism. It seems to me that is one of the biggest obstacles we face today and I’ve been working hard to overcome my own. I stand by what I’ve written above and still recommend this film. We overcome this world’s cynicism by taking a break from the world allowing ourselves to heal from the wounds inflicted by others or by ourselves. Stories like this one help us along that path.