All of This Time

This is week 42 of #songaweek2021. Which makes this week “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.” But not necessarily this song. It just gets to say it was born in a fortuitous time.

Oh, I must give some credit for inspiration – this post from The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) discussing a book about trees called Old Growth, about how trees do everything, including living and dying, on a very different timescale from us humans.

And thanks to my daughter for letting me use her Sirius Black bobblehead, and my brother for the gift of the Ukrainian nesting doll many years ago. They were very cooperative film stars.

I remember my grandmother and the laundry on the line
But I feel it like a story from another space and time
Oh the sweet sting in the memories of the days we’ve left behind
Gone forever, come back never, nevermore

There goes the me I used to be
Here comes the one I’m setting free
All of this time it’s up to me to live with me
In peace

There’s a country undiscovered in each other who I meet
You’re a universe of wonders and you share this air I breathe
It’s a language only you know but I’ll listen when you speak
You mean more to me than anything you say

There goes the you I thought I knew
Here is the you I’m talking to
All of this time I’m only taking in a glimpse
Of you

I go dreaming with the trees while they are dying by degrees
Round my feet I feel their children rising up from broken seeds
Taking root, spreading out, bright sky, dark ground
Changing ever and forever, evermore

There goes the world we used to know
Here comes the one we’re making now
All of this time it’s up to us to live with us
In love

Forgive Everyone Everything

Sometimes I write a song just to help me process an idea or event. That’s the case with this one.

My daughter and I visited Reconciliation Park in Mankato, Minnesota, this past week, and these words “forgive everyone everything” were inscribed there. I felt them to be difficult and freeing, beautiful and irritating, controversial and common-sensical. In Mankato, in 1862, 38 Dakota men were publicly hanged by the United States government in the wake of the US-Dakota Conflict. This memorial and these words were placed here by native and white community members together, and you can read more about it here.

The last photo in the video is the tea tag I just happened to have with me as I was writing this song on Thursday.

Hate is a hard road
Rutted and narrow
Twisting and dragging on and on
Love is a river
and when you flow with her
you find yourself right where you belong

Forgive everyone everything

You didn’t start this
You cannot end it
But you can hold on to what is good
And wave it like wheat fields
And feel it like fireflies
Glowing like starlight in the woods

Forgive everyone everything

Breathe it in deeply
Breathe it out freely
Sing it like sunshine after rain

Forgive everyone everything

What We’re Fighting For

This week’s song came together from so many influences. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

Peace, please, peace.

Afghani woman on BBC Newshour, 13 August 2021

Won’t you knock down all the walls that we built stable? / Tip them over and restore them to sturdy dinner tables

Nate Crary, Messy Mass liturgy, “Only By Our Lonesome” song

“Once There Was” – a song and an album by Carrellee. It’s really only that phrase that influenced the line in my song, “once there never was.” Just playing with words.

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” by Pete Seeger

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .

Jesus, Matthew 5:3

You think you know all the right things to tell a fool like me
But I won’t hear you at all as long as this wall stands where a table should be

I am not so sure what we’re fighting for
Where have all the poor in spirit gone?

Once there never was all that we tell ourselves there was back then
Now is right where we are and right where we can begin to be again

I am not so sure what we’re fighting for
Where have all the poor in spirit gone?

“Peace, please, peace . . .”

We are stars and mud, spirit and spit fire and flood, brawn and brain
Ours are oceans unknown, deserts that patiently await the rain

I am not so sure what we’re fighting for
Where have all the poor in spirit gone?

I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Emily Dickinson wrote this poem that’s been coming to my mind often lately. It feels more meaningful than ever right now, in our always-on-brand, everyone-pay-attention-to-me, social-media-saturated culture. Being nobody seems so very sane and wise in contrast. With enough nobodies we could change the world I think.

For further consideration, hear this episode of the “Another Name for Everything” podcast with Richard Rohr, discussing the idea of the cosmic egg, and specifically the dangers of over-focusing on “my story.”

Also this “Big Head” episode of Matthew Syed’s “Sideways” podcast, which happened to come up in my feed today and felt truly timely.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson

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