Big 33 List

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Every year for my birthday I have this funny little tradition of making a “Big ___ List” (insert number of years old). Each year, I make a bucketlist of goals/activities to try for the following year. There is one list item for each year old I turn.

(By the way, the Garden Arch picture is up there because it was an item on my Big 32 List!)

BIG 33 List:

  1. Get a Hammock
  2. Plant a fruit tree
  3. Read a Classic (I always put this one on the list, but I need a suggestion)
  4. Have a baby boy/4th Child (pretty inevitable this November… 🙂
  5. Make homemade croissants
  6. Go Camping with the whole family
  7. Have a “no spending month”
  8. Get awesomely fit after pregnancy
  9. Go see a musical in Denver
  10. See another cirque du soleil show
  11. Visit a new place
  12. Finish the Bellwether series
  13. Create/design a “sacred space”
  14. Go to the KS State Fair
  15. Finish the dining room redo
  16. Have a great solid first year of homeschooling
  17. Keep moving towards “Clearing” and minimalism in our house
  18. Complete the UNC tree walk and learn some new tree names
  19. Do the Nature Pal Exchange with the kids
  20. Finish my braided rug
  21. Finish my sunshine quilt (I hate to admit but this has been on at least 4 years of lists)
  22. Always make a double batch when cooking
  23. Be a better friend when it comes to birthdays/gifts
  24. Get something published in Uppercase Magazine
  25. Stop texting and looking at my phone while driving
  26. Redo my kitchen countertops
  27. Keep in monthly blog log of our homeschooling adventures
  28. Learn how to wire a light.
  29. Drive the Poudre Canyon road during the peak of fall colors.
  30. Eat at Acorn in Denver (or….. other suggestions?)
  31. Eat more vegetables/Get my kids to eat more vegetables
  32. Apply for an artist in residence program
  33. Don’t cut my hair so I can actually grow it out

An Update on Beatrice & on Us

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How’s B doing?

A few weeks ago our 1 and a half year old, Beatrice, caught a stomach bug and threw up all night and the next day. The following day she had four seizures in about 20 hours.

After the third seizure Betony and I found ourselves driving to the Children’s Hospital emergency room at 4am. We watched an incredible moon-setting and sunrise on our drive. I remember humming a hymn and Betony praying. I’m sure we were quite sleep deprived as we cried and felt so much fear for B.

They let us know at Children’s that this was actually normal; that when a child is coming out of a stomach virus it can cause a seizure or cluster of seizures to occur. We’d never heard that.

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Since then the CT-SCAN, EEG, and EKG have all come back normal. We are watching to see if B has these continued problems after stomach bugs or it also could be linked to her getting really upset and holding her breath.

The important thing- she’s doing great and feeling better.

We are so relieved.

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How We are Doing 

This medical emergency actual came at the end of a really difficult month for the Coons family. While readying everything for Easter (I’m a church worship director) we found out two big things: the pastor I work for was leaving so my job’s future was uncertain and we were pregnant with our 4th child. In the midst of this uncertainly and these hard discussions is when B had her seizures.

So everything has somewhat come to a halt for us. All our energies have gone towards these big things: Making sure Beatrice is okay, coming to grips with a new future and processing having a fourth little one, and vocational questions. (Another good update: it looks like I’m remaining at St. Andrew, continuing the work of the church service we’ve started but also getting involved in other areas too!)

When this year started we decided we were going to choose a theme each month and let that guide our exploration of belief, the subject of our next music & art project for Giants & Pilgrims.

This month’s theme we’ve chosen? Re-awaken. After so much to process, figure out, and re-imagine, we are simply letting ourselves re-awaken to dreaming the new future. It feels a little like we’re just about to leave a holding pattern.

We are taking our time and I, personally, am beginning to feel those great warmths of hope and optimism.

An ending note: We’re SO thankful for all of your prayers and well-wishes and calls and encouragements and Facebook comments during this time! The care and concern for Beatrice and the Coons family was so tangible. It was humbling.

Thank you.

Here’s to this May being about “re-awakening”.

Song Story: “Ghosts for Tinder”

Betony and I are both from Kansas. When I tell people this they often comment with something Wizard of Oz related. I usually joke with them back and say, “Have you ever driven through Kansas? It’s like driving through Purgatory. There is NOTHING on I-70. Its a sea of blue and brown.”

But then I assure them with something I also truly believe. That Kansas does have an incredible beauty; like enormous, open skies that hold vast sunsets or intense changes of season. When Betony and I are in Kansas we feel home, we feel safe, and we visit often (we currently live in Colorado).

Being from the midwest I remember being taught something fascinating about the plains ecology: that it’s actually adapted for wildfires to burn through. It happened so much in the thousands of years in our region that plants and life have evolved to assume it’s likelihood. (The government actually pays money for certain acres of prairie to be burned. The CRP program helps all the ecology to have areas remain native and they do controlled burns to preserve that correctly! It’s amazing to watch!)

Here’s a science-y run down from a museum site of how fire actually helps the grasses of the plains:

“The roots and growing points of prairie plants form thick networks underground, where they are protected from fire. Prairie fires move quickly, so the soil acts as a buffer protecting prairie plants’ underground growing structures.

After prairie fires, the dark surface of the soil is warmed by the sun, and in the spring this helps seeds germinate. Existing plants grow stronger after fires. New seeds carried into the burned soil start new plants. For some plants with hard seed-coats, fire burns some of the seedcoat off the seeds and actually helps the seed germinate faster.”

I think there is something profound here in this story of nature. That fire can actually lead to better growth.

http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/prairie/htmls/eco_fadapt.html

How many of us know this scene: In order to get over the relationship, in order to move on, the broken-hearted takes all the love-letters and keepsakes and momentos and, in ceremony, collects them in the pile outside. Slowly and deliberately a match is lit, maybe a prayer is said, and the fire begins- a fire that will hopefully clear things for new growth. In the pain of letting go there is the hope of new life.

How many of us know this scene? but a bigger question is How many of us have lived it?

Betony and I’s album and art project Becoming looked at this metaphor and saw truth in it worth creating from. She created a stunning piece of a prairie fire after I wrote the song “Ghosts for Tinder”.

It begs the questions,
Have you let things go that hurt like a fire, but now with distance you see great life came from it?
Are you in the process and pain of letting some of that go now?

Here’s the lyrics to “Ghosts for Tinder”. And you can listen to it here as well.

GHOSTS FOR THE TINDER lyrics by Tim Coons

Come and keep by my lovely fire
I’ve got pieces I’m scheming from the liars with in me
You’ve replayed in my darker mind
You’re re-lived in the days I have assigned without you

Yes, I’ll leave it behind
Yes, I’ll leave it behind
Yes, I’ll leave it behind
Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Burn it down here
burn it down
it will come again
come up, on up from this ground
Up and around
So burn it down

I’ve got ghosts for the tinder glow
I’ve got pages to wash clean as snow to warm me
I’ve got memories for matches now
I will lighten the load so sad and loud for
When I see you

Heaven knows it will light
Heaven knows it will light

A Work of Art for Lent

Tim Coons writing:

I teamed up with Jeff Cook, the pastor of Atlas Church in Greeley, CO, for this project. (Atlas is a wonderful community we started with a group of friends and we’re all still connected to this day.)

We’re calling this Atlas Observance: beauty for the spiritual season. Basically, Jeff wrote and performed this six minute teaching piece about Ash Wednesday and Lent and I scored it so it leads into our new Giants & Pilgrims’ song “Empty”.

We hope it holds spiritual resonance for all types of travelers and fellow observers of this season.

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February Practice and Process: “Balm”

(image is from a Chinese cloisonné painting factory we visited in China 2008)

In creating our new project, Bellwether (an art series and album due winter 2016) we’ve decided to share what we’re doing each month before it’s released.
We’re calling these posts “practice and process“.

They will detail the spiritual/life practice we’re doing,
give a look at our in-process art that we’re creating in response,
and then include a whole host of resources and activities! (like the new desktop wallpaper, book/music/movie lists, recipes, explorations for kids, etc. This is so as a entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

FEBRUARY Theme: BALM

February is in the heart of winter, close to the edge of a hope for spring. And with Valentine’s Day sitting in the month we’ve often treated February as a time to put into words the way we feel about the ones we deeply love. It’s a way to warm up the cold. We’ve chosen our theme of “balm” with some of these lines drawn.

Practice:

The very definition of balm is “something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect.”

This month we are

  1. exploring what service looks like for our family. We want to start being restorative in an intentional way. For us that looks like partnering with a local charity called “Turn Around Bikes”. They restore donated bikes and give them to people in need. Honestly, since having children we’ve had a hard time being consistent and feeling effective when it comes to giving of ourselves in this kind of way. We’re open to getting better at service. Furthermore, it’s our hope to instill a great sense of compassion in our children. This is at least a first step.
  2. For our second spiritual/life practice we’re setting up a table altar like we did last month. This time before dinner we’ll be praying for people in need of “balm” or some extra love and care. Then on Mondays we’ll be writing and mailing postcards, sending that love out in words.

Here is a really cool free printable postcard designed by our friend Kyle Steed, if you’re needing a great design:

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Process:

Tim is working on recording a song called “There is a Balm in Gilead” this month while I’m gathering ideas and paper tidbits for the overall series.

Resources for “Balm”:

FEBRUARY Dates to Take Note of:

February 7th – Superbowl 50 (with the *ahem*, Denver Broncos! Bake these, I promise you won’t regret it.)
February 8th – Chinese New Year (year of the monkey!) – We love to celebrate by ordering Chinese takeout and reliving our China trip 🙂
February 9th – Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday – we love to listen to this sweet mix curated by Starbucks
February 10th – Ash Wednesday
February 14th – Valentine’s Day
February 15th – President’s Day
February 17th –  Random Acts of Kindness Day
February 28th – The Oscars

Local: Greeley, CO events:

February 5th (and up through the end of the month) – Soundscape a group art show at the Atlas Theater that pairs music and art (right up our alley don’t you think?)
Soundscape Art Poster
February 27th – Tim and Charla are opening for the lead singer of Everclear at the MOXI theater!
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Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

EXPLORATIONS:

Here in Greeley, CO we have had just buckets and buckets of snow. We haven’t seen the ground since December 1st. I don’t even remember what it looks like. During winters like this, I think the best possible plan of action is to find a warm tropical greenhouse to visit. Usually we make a trip to the Butterfly pavilion. This year, I am thinking we are going to visit the Orchid Showcase (Jan. 8-Feb 22) at the Denver Botanical Gardens.
Chihuly Glass at Denver Botanic Garden5

Participate in Turnaround bikes workshops this month and other service related activities.

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Make a visit to the Cranford Cove to get a new selection of looseleaf teas to enjoy this month.

Speaking of tea, the girls and I are planning a lovely Valentine’s tea party with lots of tiny delicacies, fancy china, and, of course, hats and dresses.
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ART:

Spend some time digging into Picasso’s works and share with the girls.
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Their are some really fun art activities in this book.
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Make all sorts of homemade valentines

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READING lists:

Here are some of the kid’s books I have on reserve at the library this month. I was looking for books that deal with Compassion. I would love to hear your recommendations if you have any.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton, The Lion and the Mouse,  and A Sick Day for Amos Mcgee

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I am also reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane out loud to Lucy. It is an absolute favorite of ours. The themes are nested in kindness and compassion and the journey of self-discovery. It’s a good one for adults too.
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Mary Oliver poetry books – these are ABSOLUTELY balm to my soul.
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As a little personal “balm” against the dreariness of February, I love to order my garden seeds. (my favorite is Baker Heirloom Seeds – just reading their catalog is therapeutic)
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LISTEN:

Oxygen by Willy Mason. The video is only ok, but the song is so good.

This Great Valentines Mix curated by Personal Practice

Announcing the Giants & Pilgrims’ New Art & Music Project: Bellwether

So it’s time for announcements and proclamations.

For each Giants & Pilgrims’ project we choose a theme and explore that theme with art & music. Last year we released Becoming, about the constant process of growing up. The year before that was Almanac No. 1 and the art & music was centered in the realm of family and proven love.

Where are Betony and my hopes and dreams taking Giants & Pilgrims for 2016? What will fuel the works of art & music?

Here’s what we hope to explore this year, in depth:

Belief.

What do Betony and I believe as individuals? As a married couple? What do we really cling to? What do we want to pass on to our children? What do we hold as important and utmost in our lives? The thing behind the thing behind the thing? What are the values and vision and world views that truly shape where we head as a family? What are the words we put towards the big questions of God, metaphysics, doctrine, discovery, and experience?

And this is just a starting place of the questions!

We’re calling the project Bellwether. It’s actually an old shepherding term. A bellwether is a sheep that is a little more aggressive, a little more obnoxious and hungry. (It’s known to get out of pens for food).

And so a bell is placed on it. This not only helps the shepherd know where the sheep is, but it also helps the sheep. As the bell wether wanders for greener pastures, the rest of the sheep follow to new fields of grass.

Betony and I are looking for bells to follow. We’re asking questions. We are hungry and we hope to find great fields this 2016.

We’ll be creating towards an end project to be released this fall/winter, but we plan to share the process as well. Each month Betony and I are choosing a theme that will be our centering of exploration and practice. We will dig in to this Bellwether theme to as the year progresses. January’s Bellwether theme is “clearing” – see our full exploration of that theme here tomorrow.

“Monarch Migration” Painting Story and Process Photos

Over the course of this month, we will be sharing some of the stories behind the paintings and songs in the Becoming series.
You can purchase prints of this piece here.

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“Monarch Migration”
15X30  mixed media on canvas

The farm I grew up on is in the heart of the prairie in Kansas. It is a 30 minute drive on dusty dirt roads to the nearest civilization. My parents apple orchard is surrounded by 180 acres of native prairie and forests. Their driveway is over a mile long – and because the county maintenance trucks won’t maintain driveways, it was usually in pretty rough shape – horribly muddy in the spring, treacherously icy in the winter, and full of sand pits in the summer. Our mailbox was at the end of the driveway and a daily ritual was to walk and get the mail.

On this particular day in September, when I was probably about 8 years old, I remember turning the corner at the mailbox and feeling like something was different. There was a quivering energy to the air. I looked up and noticed hundreds of monarchs in the sky above me. And then, as I looked closer at the trees lining the roadway, I gasped, because what I had first thought were leaves fluttering in the wind were actually wings. Thousands and thousands of wings. I had happened upon the migration of monarchs.

I’m not sure why the butterflies ended up in KS that year. It’s out of their normal migratory path. After I left home, my parents had them come through one other year. But I have never seen them again.

We are losing monarchs. There are less and less every year. Their main source of food, the milkweed plant is being displaced by fields and housing and mowers. The older I get, the more I am becoming aware of how fleeting everything around us is. How delicate the beauty of these tiny wings. How necessary it is to pause and notice the flutters hidden in the branches.

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Story behind the painting “On Becoming and Artist”

Over the course of this month, we will be sharing some of the stories behind the paintings and songs in the Becoming series.
You can purchase prints of this piece here.
And, you can listen to the song, Eventually, here.

ON BECOMING AN ARTIST
24X18 mixed media on canvas
Companion Song: Eventually
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I grew up in a very artistic family. My mother is an amazing artist and she dedicated many hours of our homeschooling to magical projects with artistic bents. But I never considered myself an artist. My older sister was always the one who could draw elaborate characters and scenes from her head. I was the kid that was good at math and science. It wasn’t until H.S. – when my sister went off to private ballet school in Canada – and I took my first structured art classes, that I even considered that I was good at art as well.

Little River H.S. is a tiny rural school in Kansas only accessible by dirt country roads. There were 32 kids in my graduating class. The year below me had 12. Beth Myers is the art teacher there and she has this amazing little “attic” art department that smells like wax and sunshine. It is the only room on the second story and had a door to the rooftop. She let me set up my own work table under a window in the corner where I could leave my scattered in-progress works out. It was this glorious little world all in its own. It was the first time I started to see my self as an artist separate from my sister.

In college, I was majoring in the sciences – computer programing and biology (believe it or not), but would still take art classes for fun. The art rooms were always where I wanted to be. Walking in felt like home. I was working several jobs – scooping ice cream and delivering papers and I hated it. But I was teaching little art workshops for my friends. Then, in the classified ads I saw an advertisement for a M.S. Art teacher. I applied, and through uncharacteristic boldness and luck, I got the job.

And slowly, I realized that the thing I loved most, and the space I loved most was creating. Sitting in a sunshine filled place with a steaming mug of coffee, tools of making in my hands, excavating beauty from the stories that make up our lives.

To me this piece is about the pull. About how all these little tidbits and disconnected themes in your life have direction and movement. You may not see the image they are forming until you reach the destination. But, your passions, your curiosities, your dreams – they all are leading somewhere.

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EVENTUALLY lyrics by Tim Coons
My hourglass, my calloused hands

My furrowed brow in all my plans

I’ll come into my own, I’ll come into my own

The distance I have traveled

The wool that I have gathered

I’ll come into my own, I’ll come into my own

Heaven’s ship sails low

All the while, it’s ever close

You know you know…

You’ll never have that time you need

You strike the rock but nothing bleeds

You’ll come into your own

eventually

the distance you have wandered
The fabric torn asunder

You’ll come into your own, you’ll come into your own

Heaven’s ship sails slow

Give it time, it’ll show

before you go, before you go

you know, you know, oh

“Is There Beauty in the Monotony?” or “Why I Wrote the song Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise”

Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise

We have a window in our bedroom. Each morning the sun shines through in various colors, depending on the season and cloud cover and make of the light. It falls onto our hardwood floors.

Honestly, most mornings as I awake to this light and find myself next to my best friend (and often with a baby or child in our bed as well) I have a strong sense of gratitude. It is the birth of another day. And I get to spend this day with my Love and my family.

Then at the end of the day we are spent. It’s not easy raising kids and doing the daily, monotonous business of all that needs to be done. Many nights as we lay together in bed, exhausted, the moon brings soft light to this closing. That light glows through that same window and on those same hardwood floors.

There are many songs about living the day in and day out life, a poetic look at the sacred rhythms that, when stepped back from and observed, are quite beautiful. I wrote the song “Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise” with this idea in mind. Even the title exemplifies the theme I was going for.

On an additional note I was also inspired for this song by a strange source. And you all can make fun of me for this.

When I first heard the big, overly-dramatic song from Fiddler On the Roof “Sunrise, Sunset”, I was moved; even as a sixth grader. I loved the idea that day to day, season to season, life moves fast and it’s so good to share that with the person you love. I was moved in sixth grade hearing this song.

Now I hear it as a 37-year-old and WEEP. I mean SOB. No kidding. The bittersweet truths represented in the tremendous arc of this music takes me out.

So I wrote the lyrics of this song with the same premise. Together we have each day. We’re watching our kids grow and leave the house, we’re dancing and taking it from sun to moon until our last days. And we’re so blessed.

Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise (Lyrics)

Will you wake with me, In the sunrise
Will you wait with me in the moonlight
How we’ll lay, And both be held
Folding limbs
As last lights fail –

Oh you’ll walk with me
In the one light
Oh you’ll sing with me
The one line
How you’ll smile
How we’ll laugh
How we’ll stand
As oceans pass —

Oh you’ll dance with me
At first sight
And fall asleep, beat
After night after after night
How we’ll watch
Them fly away
How we’ll say we love the race that they would take –

Won’t you wait with me
For the sunrise
Holding close to me
In the one light
We’ll all move on Far from here
My dust to dust And your dust near –

Why I Wrote the Song “Boxing Shadows” or What Happens When You Get What You Want?

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“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”

-Jim Carrey

What happens when you get what you want?

Let me tell a personal story.

I had a strong, single-minded dream for several years of my life. I desperately wanted to achieve this dream. It was a goal that I hoped for and prayed for and worked towards. Honestly, it was really a strange and simple dream.

I wanted to release an album with Worship Circle Records. (I’m sure many of you are wondering who Worship Circle Records are…)

I had been writing and leading worship music for many years and Worship Circle Records had put out my favorite album of all time in this genre. Their album “Enter the Worship Circle: Circle One” was a stripped down, raw collection of great songwriting and expression. This little, independent record company was being led by great people and I wanted badly to be a part of it.

Well, I got the chance to do it. After a songwriting intensive and through good relationships (and this is many years later) I released an album with them. I had done it. I had achieved this goal.

Rewind just a bit. Before anything with the album went forward I remember my wife turning to me and saying, “You know, if you get to do this and release an album with them you’ll just find something else to obsess about afterwards. This isn’t really an end-all goal that will make you happy”

As the record was coming out I smiled and enjoyed it all, but my wife’s words stuck with me. It wasn’t but a few months later that I started thinking: Now what? I know this is an arrival point but… what’s next?

What happens when you get what you want? What happens when you reach that goal or achieve that victory? After the initial joy and sense of success, what are we left with?

Nothing. Not really. That sounds so defeatist but it rings true to me. After you climb that peak you deeply enjoy the moment and then you climb back down. And you start dreaming about other peaks.

That’s okay.

I think what that teaches us is that it’s not about the peak. Life needs to be about something more expansive and all encompassing, something bigger than our goals.

There’s an incredible remake of the cartoon Wile E. Coyote (NOT done by Looney Toons) in which he CATCHES the road runner. He’s floored that he’s actually done it. He has his friend over and they have a feast. He’s says something like, “You know, it just tastes so good when you work for your food…” But then his friend asks him, “Now what are you going to do?” Even WE know this is a big deal for Wile E. We’ve seen him make countless tries (and loved seeing the failures) to achieve this goal.

The rest of the cartoon we see Wile E. spiral into deep depression and a directionless listlessness. (The gag ends with him strapped into a catapult of his own creation then it quickly cuts to him with his buddy again and Wile E. has become a born again Christian. A cutting joke, but perhaps appropriate?)

I wrote the song “Boxing Shadows” to work through the tension of these questions. What happens if I actually get what I want? What happens when I fail? What happens after each peak is conquered? Will my desires become less? Will I feel like it was all worth it?

On a musical note I did something very on purpose in the song. It begins with janky toy-castle. This is actually a toy my daughters own and they LOVE that I use it. The sound represents to me that thin, immature idea of ourselves as kids. The self-importance of our singular heroics trying to sound strong.

Then the song actually ends with a real trumpet blast (my friend Craig Basarich is incredible). I wanted the song to close with this feeling of maturity and joy that we have in the trials and tensions. That we DO achieve but that’s not what it’s about. It’s that we keep on growing and becoming. That’s where the true adventure lies.

Oh, you won the war, you won the war
and now you’re wandering how you’re so alone
You got the part, you got the part
but why are all lines so damn short?

You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow

Oh, when do you know, when do you know?
That all the work was worth the pay in tolls?
My dreams still howl, my dog still growls
the pack is running faster every hour

You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow
You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow