“So, what’s your story, Hannah?”
The magic of North Wind Manor settled close as one of the guests asked the question of another. One was a long time Rabbit Roomer. The other, a friend of Andrew’s, saw a tweet and came. By the candlelight in the old kitchen, they exchanged stories—and the exchange of stories became the currency of the night.
The story we came to hear began years ago as a conversation between Chris Slaten (otherwise known as Son of Laughter) and Arthur Alligood as they talked of one day playing this show together. They didn’t have a set list; instead, they responded to each other, to each other’s stories. When Arthur played a song about leaving home, Chris echoed it. The stories continued, the pages turning from tales of restless running to the needing of friends and community. When Arthur sang, “It’s laughter mixed with sorrows of the soul,” he unknowingly summarized the night.
After an intermission, Andrew Peterson played “The Rain Keeps Falling,” a song from his forthcoming album, The Burning Edge of Dawn. He introduced it saying, “Sing along. You guys are going to collectively represent the Holy Spirit.” And so the room full of musicians, artists, and stories sang “Peace, be still.” The magic of stillness descended on the room, and then, we danced.
Andrew invited singer-songwriter Jon Troast to the stage. While Andrew asked the audience to experience peace, Jon asked for the peace to overflow into action saying, “You just need to be goofy sometimes. So I’m going to be super vulnerable and ask you to stand up and dance.” As we listened to and participated in the sophisticated, jazzy, hokeypokey-like dance number, the spell of stillness morphed into the magic of laughter.
“You’ve inspired me to write a dance song,” Chris Slaten said, returning to the rustic wooden stage made homey by a simple rug. Jon was quick to encouraged him. “You’ve got it in you.” And Chris replied, “We all do. That’s the point of the song, isn’t it?”
The reminder that we have something in us resonated in each song; they seemed laden with longings and desires and frustrations that often only music or art can give proper names to. These musicians humbly speak brave truth. After Slaten played one of his new songs, Arthur captured the emotion in the room: “I feel like we need to contemplate that song for like an hour. It was gripping.” The power of the song left us with a moment of pause before we applauded. In those brief silent seconds, we became aware of the lightning flashing far in the distance, of something hidden coming alive, of our story being changed.
The story concluded with community. Chris’s last song began, “No story is over, no story is over.” And Arthur’s last song, and the final song of the show, echoed like an epilogue. “I’m waiting for the morning, waiting in the night, when that sun comes over the mountain, she’s gonna turn that darkness to light.”
Though the sparkling candles and fireflies, the creaking wooden floors, the walls of books hovering close as old friends, and the friends familiar as family make a house concert at North Wind Manor magical, it was the particular magic of hope that made the evening special. As heads bobbed in unison, hope was easier to believe in. And such magic is not confined to one concert; it is exactly why the Rabbit Room exists. This community reminds us that we all have something in us that could make us stand up and dance, or sit in the stillness of peace, or tremble like thunder in the distance. This hope of community reminds us that the story is not over and that a grand beginning awaits us. Until then, the story is filled with these beautiful pages of conversation and communion.
Sarah Bramblett has a PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition and resides in Kennesaw, Georgia with her husband Lane and daughter Shiloh (a "joy tornado"). Sarah was an intern for the Rabbit Room while in undergrad and still believes in the life-giving power of Story; she loves passing on that power to college students who don’t think they can write.