These Things Happen

My cold got worse this past week and landed me on the couch for a couple days (not COVID-19, I got a negative test). On Monday I mostly slept, and when my daughter came home from school she told me there was a 7 pm curfew in effect.

That’s how I learned that Daunte Wright, a Black man only three years older than my 17-year-old daughter, had been killed by police in the Minneapolis suburbs. More protests. One thousand National Guard troops called in by the governor.

As the trial of George Floyd’s killer continues here in these Twin Cities.

As we keep tearing each other apart with guns across this country. (Yesterday I wrote this song. Today I recorded it. Between those two moments, eight people were killed in a mass shooting in Indianapolis.)

As the virus we’ve grown sick of fights to keep its place in the world.

This is a ragged haunted open wound of a song because that’s what I have this week. I am grateful that the sun came out today, the first sunny day in too long. And that I finally felt well enough to get out of the house. I filled bird feeders and poked around in my gardens. I still believe. In spite of everything.

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

So another man dies at the public servants’ hands 
At the point of the weapons of the so-called protectors
And another mother cries on the screens in our hands
And weary voices rage at the racist military-industrial-congressional war machine

Yeah these things happen
But these things don’t just happen

We’re under a cloud here down in the muck
April is the cruelest month except for all the others
Maybe our hearts are in the right place
But our lungs keep breathing in these toxic fumes 
And we spew them out knowing not what we do
And pointing our fingers and shifting the blame
And the world’s on fire with a deadly virus
And our country’s the sickest cause we deny it

Yeah these things happen
But these things don’t just happen

These lumps of metal they make us hard
Steel our nerves and rob us of compassion
Our original sin keeps us weak
Exposes our skin and lies about what it means
Till we want to scratch it off

And the government tries and the government fails
And the people go mad and the people go numb
And we try to believe and we try to behave
And the truth eludes us and we lose our way

These things do happen
These things happen
These things happen
And these things don’t just happen

Fire Inside

One thing pandemic life has taught me is how to write a song at a moment’s notice. Today my afternoon brought me an unexpected two hours to myself, so I set everything aside and started writing just a few minutes after the door closed and I was alone in the house. It’s become almost a habit now, to sit down and write till I get stuck, then take the dog for a walk and try to work out the rest of it. Which is how I finished this one.

The prompt for #songaweek2021’s week 14 is “inside there’s a fire” which was in front of me as I was writing this one, and I liked it enough to take my title from it too.

This week I have a cold so I got to use my low notes. Also I’ve upgraded my blog so I can now directly embed audio files here, rather than linking to Soundcloud. I didn’t make a video this week since I’m not feeling the greatest, wanted the recording process to be low-hassle.

Oh, maybe you can tell I’ve been hearing a lot of U2 lately thanks to my daughter having newly discovered them and playing their music pretty much exclusively all the time. I think some of Bono’s vocalizing influenced me 🙂


I’m sitting on the back steps on an April afternoon
Just minding my own business, making up a little tune
Nothing’s wrong
In this song
Sun shining and the birds are singing and the rain falls now and then
Grass growing, little buds are showing on the ends of waking stems
Everything
Is breathing

My heart keeps beating at the bars
Of this bony cage

I’m lying on my back one summer night when I was young
Eyes gazing through the blackness at a million sparkling suns
Up is down
Lost is found
Hand of another holding mine and fingers intertwined
Just-blossomed lovers coming close in body and in mind
So damn true
So brand new

My heart is pulsing with the stars
Through this eager flesh 

I’m looking for the way back to the best that’s yet to come
I’m jumping in the river just to find out where it runs
Sink or swim
I’m all in
My heart perpetually starts
And starts again

Love’s Alive

Very limited time to write this week but I was feeling inspired in the afternoon I allotted myself today to write and record this song. For spring, for Easter, for love and life . . .

Pick up your questions and put down your weapons 
And don’t be afraid anymore
There’s something to see here if you care to be here
Don’t be afraid anymore

Oh . . . love’s alive

The birds are returning, the babies are learning
Don’t despair today
The cold ice is breaking the warm earth is waking
Don’t despair today

Oh . . love’s alive

Share with your neighbor, welcome the stranger
Believe you have enough
Give yourself mercy, be patient dear person
Believe you are enough

Oh . . . love’s alive

Lamentation 21

Last night I turned off the news and played classical music while I made dinner. Sometimes no words, only music, is exactly what I need. This week, #songaweek2021 week 12, I wanted to make my own wordless music with the instrument I feel most proficient at, my voice. I used a black screen for the video so if you are so inclined, you may want to put the video on full screen – let your screen go black and feel the music. This is my cry of a song for this young year already freighted with so much grief.

Into Your Hands

Every year for Good Friday my church puts out a call to artists to choose one of the seven last words of Christ and share something based on the particular last words they chose. For now our church is doing everything online – mostly Facebook Live – including the upcoming Good Friday service. I was getting ready to sign up for “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” and started writing the words to this song, before I realized our family’s plan to go camping that weekend will negate my ability to do any livestreaming that day.

Still, I liked what I had started and decided to go ahead and make it my song for week 11 of #songaweek2021.

Every winter I think I’m dying
Come the spring I feel like trying
Trying again
In the summer I know I’m living
Go to fall it all starts giving
Giving out, gone
On and on and on and on

Chasing down the speed of light
Face pressed up to window staring out of my existence
Back against the wall of furious insistence
Into your hands
Into your hands
I commend my spirit

Every night’s an invitation
To a sweet obliteration
Of all that I think I should be
In the morning I remember
Dreams that fade like dying embers
Light as dry leaves
Leaving, left, and lost

Chasing down the speed of light
Face pressed up to window staring out of my existence
Back against the wall of furious insistence
Into your hands
Into your hands
I commend my spirit

All Our Living Lives

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do” randomly popped into my head this week, along with a tune. So I followed it out and wrote this song for week 10 of #songaweek2021. Recorded on a rainy day in March in my basement studio, the perfect kind of day to spend in a basement studio!

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do”
That’s what you said but i don’t think it’s true
Somebody somewhere’s been lying to you
All your living life

Drop what you’re fighting and give me your hand
Let’s just relax for now
Follow me down where the waves meet the land
You’ve been waiting all your life somehow

“The bigger they are the harder they fall”
But that don’t seem right cause I’m feeling so small
I don’t know if you can hear me at all
All my living life

It’s never been easy for me to explain
Let’s just go somewhere new 
Follow me hard like a runaway train
I’ve been waiting all of my life too

Out of the frying pan into the fire
Let’s just keep breathing now 
Over the limit and under the wire
We’ve been broken open anyhow

Something about you, something about me
Something about the wind in the trees
Nothing much out of the ordinary
All our living lives

Come with me, run with me, under the sun
Let’s just embrace the day
Follow me close and I’ll try to keep up
Life is for the living anyway

Matter of Time

We’ve been in a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sort of mood around the house lately – Nathan and I just finished watching the fabulous Runnin Down a Dream documentary with our 17-year-old Luthien who is deep into schooling herself in the history of rock and roll, especially 90s music. (You can watch that documentary free at the Crackle link I attached to it!)

All that to say, I owe a good deal of the sound of this song to Tom and the band. The song itself came together surprisingly quickly; it felt as if I’d been carrying around this nebulous muck that got heavier over the winter, and somehow getting myself inside the head of the thing that was messing around in my head turned into this incredibly freeing, actually joyful-feeling rock song about aging and decay and everything as I know it falling apart.

Oh and Nathan added a plethora of guitar tracks, drums and bass (and he sang!) which certainly added to the joy for both of us in making this song! This is what being 45 feels like today, and I’m quite alright with it.

Week 9, #songaweek2021. I actually used the week’s prompt too, verbatim in the bridge (“you could turn back but why would you want to”). You can also download the song for free at our Cabin of Love bandcamp page – https://cabinoflove.bandcamp.com/track/matter-of-time

You’ve got sparkle, you’ve got spunk
You’ve got apocalyptic piles of pixie punk
I’m gonna dumb you down and lay you low
You won’t believe what hit you but I think you’ll know

Take it easy, it’s just a matter of time
Don’t take it personally, I’m gonna mess with your mind

Now you’re older, you think you’re so smart
You’re just a rusted cage around a broken-down heart
I’m gonna chill your bones and haunt your dreams
With ghosts of chances and washed-up schemes

Take it easy, it’s just a matter of time
Don’t take it personally, I’m gonna mess with your mind

You could turn back but why would you want to?
Nothing to see but visions of what might have been

So what you got now? What you gonna do
With whatever is left, is left up to you
I’ll keep right on rolling like I always do
And for a little while I might remember you

Take it easy, it’s just a matter of time
Don’t take it personally, I’m gonna mess with your mind
Take it easy, it’s just a matter of time
Don’t take it personally, nobody said I was kind

Make Your Way Home (cowrite with Laurie and David Easterling)

Now this was fun! The Easterlings are a couple in Tennessee who I met through my songaweek.org group, and they are prolific songwriters. Just about every week they post multiple new songs they’ve written with other people. The day of my Zoom session with them, David had already done another cowrite earlier that day.

In college I was part of a drama team that worked together to write and perform farces of well-known musicals, and that was some of the most fun I’ve had in my life! But since then, I’ve done very little collaborative writing. Being introverted, I feel most free in my writing process when I’m completely alone. As in no one else in the house. Which hasn’t happened much this year, but I’m grateful for the tiny studio Nathan built me in the basement, that helps me feel isolated enough to get creative.

David and Laurie were wonderful to work with. Our songaweek group has been doing monthly Zoom open mics all year so I’ve gotten to know them a bit through that already, and as I expected, our cowriting session felt like spending time with extended family or good neighbors. We had limited time but we pulled it off and wrote this song in about an hour, using the week 8 #songaweek2021 prompt “change please.” I really enjoyed the different feel of writing a song with other people. Always good to get a different perspective and a little glimpse into someone else’s creative process. Not something I will probably do regularly, but what I love about writing a song a week is that I feel free to try new things because everything isn’t riding on this week – there are always more songs to write!

You can find out more about David and his music at his website http://www.davideasterling.com.

Oh, and the picture for the song is a fairy house my daughter Luthien built on the banks of the Mississippi in summer 2019.

Please change your mind 
Don’t leave me behind
I was desperate to say
But I left it unsaid
The words wailed in my head
You’re leaving today  

May you never be sad enough to give up
Or too busy to explore the unknown
Remember no matter how far you go
You can always make your way home

I’ve been waiting so long 
To sing my own song
Can’t stay in this place
Stretch my wings and try
To see where I can fly
Cast off my old ways

May you never be sad enough to give up
Or too busy to explore the unknown
Remember no matter how far you go
You can always make your way home

The road is always there
Time may not be fair
The same road that leads away
Leads back home someday

May you never be sad enough to give up
Or too busy to explore the unknown
Remember no matter how far you go
You can always make your way home

Sunny and Cold

This week’s weather in Minnesota – and even Texas!! – am I right?! It’s nothing worse than I expect for living here and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the coldest winter days, when it’s too cold to snow and you can practically feel your nose getting ready to bleed when you step out your front door; it’s that with the intense cold comes intense sunshine and bluebird skies. And I’ve decided after all these years that there’s something to love about sunny and cold.

I wrote most of the lyrics for this week’s song while out on walks with Cody (my dog) in the sunny and cold. This is a one-take live video and audio recording made about an hour after I brought my jumble of lyric ideas into my studio today and hashed it all out into a song. I rarely write, record and publish all on the same day but time was running short this week so here we are.

Sunny and cold still cheers my soul
It’s the sparkle of the light on the satin snow
It’s the red geranium in the windowsill
On a golden afternoon

Cold and sunny like a jar of honey
Amber glow
Sleepy flow
Sunny and cold like a twelve-year-old
All the fire of youth
All the chill of give me the truth

Sunny and cold still warms my heart
It’s a parka wrapped around my tender parts
It’s the people in the park walking happy dogs
And the smiles in our eyes

Cold and sunny like a wad of money
Burning a hole
Freezing your soul
Sunny and cold like a secret told
Flaming passion
Cooling ashes

*Note – I’ve gone off Facebook for Lent and so instead of posting my weekly songs there as I have been doing the past couple years, I’ll be posting them here on my blog. I’m secretly hoping that doing this will motivate me to *keep* posting on my blog each week even when (if?) I go back to the big FB.

Christmas Day

Another year (and what a year!) and I haven’t posted much on my blog again. I’ve still been writing songs – one every week this year so far. Many are on my YouTube channel. Wanted to share here on my blog the one I wrote for this week. Christmas Day is always hard for some people, and this year many more of us will be feeling blue and alone.

Additionally, for a little more sad but then some punk rock cheer, here’s my family’s tenth annual holiday greeting:

Peace and love to you and yours as we end out this year and bravely go forth into the next!