Beautiful Mundane

I confessed to my husband the other day that I don’t usually like it when he walks in the door at the end of the workday and gives me a kiss. It’s just too mundane, I said. Routine drives me mad, I whined.

Which on further consideration is laughable, because neither of us works full-time and so it’s rarely more than two or three days in a week that he’s even walking in the door at the end of the workday.

Confession is good for the soul. I think I needed to actually hear myself saying those words in order to write this song, and this song has been good for my soul.

A couple allusions/credits – I didn’t come up with “the meaning of life is to live.” It’s one of my all-time favorite quotes. I was sure it was from Leo Tolstoy, but my Google search doesn’t seem to confirm that. The closest I could come to a source was Goodreads citing Eleanor Roosevelt: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” I still think it came from one of those broody Russians I love reading though, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.

And “tell a better story” is an idea I absorbed from reading Life of Pi.

“Mundane” has its roots in the Latin word “mundus” meaning “world.” It means ordinary, everyday, “of, pertaining to, or typical of this world.” Maybe it is something worth paying attention to, if it’s your world.

If I believed the world had need
Of another sad song
I’d go on like this, go on like this
Till we’re all bored to tears
But I believe the world don’t need
A thing I have to give
And that the meaning of life
Is to live

It’s all right here
Right where nobody’s looking
The beautiful mundane

Remember when, see it again
Tell a better story
The living truth
That changes everything
It was a long time ago
Until we saw the light
And felt the warmth
And held each other close

It’s all right here
Right where nobody’s looking
The beautiful mundane

I still believe in falling leaves
And transient twilight
And shards of broken dreams
The waves of time smooth and reshape

It’s all right here
Right where nobody’s looking
It’s all right here
And you and me’d best be looking
The beautiful mundane

 

 

Cold Night In (Lovely Lost Cause)

Week 50! This is one of those songs where the suggested theme (from #songaweek2018) actually caused the song to be written. I wouldn’t have gone this direction at all if it weren’t for the suggested word, “metal.”

Not much I want to say about this song – I think we’ve all been here from time to time and know something about it. The cycle of love, the journey of living well. The bridge (“thieves break in and steal . . .”) comes from Matthew 6:19-20, that little passage about storing up treasures in heaven rather than earth. I interpret that not as sacred versus secular; but cosmic, big-hearted wisdom versus short-sighted, me-and-mine foolishness.

My heart’s made of metal
invincible steel
that’s why when you hold me
there’s nothing to feel

It’s a cold night in
It’s a lovely lost cause

I swam in the ocean
I crawled up on land
but there’s no harder journey
than the one to your hand

It’s a cold night in
It’s a lovely lost cause

Thieves break in and steal
Moth and rust corrupt

Come light your best fire
to melt me all down
I’m sick and I’m tired
But I’m coming around

On this cold night in
For this lovely lost cause

Ride That Chariot of Fire

Oh this was another hard week for songwriting. Getting a moment to myself, and getting that moment to align with a moment of inspiration, just didn’t really happen this week. I like the first line, I think the chorus has something I can work more with, but other than that, this was an exercise in getting things done. I wrote and recorded and submitted my 48th consecutive weekly song for #songaweek2018, and I’m content with that.

Where have the years gone honey, did you hide them in your heart?
Come here, let’s just see what we remember starting from the start
Lake breezes, apple blossoms and happy holidays
Summer nights and winter morning blankets holding in the blaze 

Take each chance, children, that calls you to fly higher
Seize each moment, ride that chariot of fire

Blue skies were never promised us but they keep showing up
Life may be full or empty but we’re never left without a cup
Once we tossed those rose-colored glasses we began to see the light
And all that we’d been missing from the deeper beauty of the night

So many miles we’ve gone, so many roads left to explore
So many songs we’ve sung, and waiting in the wings, so many more

Know You

I wasn’t consciously thinking about #MeToo or the conversations we’re having around consent in this cultural moment, but as this song took shape I can see its influence.

Just this morning I finished the last in a three-part Radiolab podcast called “In the No.” Which I did not enjoy but forced myself to listen to for my own good, like going to the dentist or cleaning the bathroom. In general I don’t like talking about sex or seeing/hearing it reenacted (all of which happens in this series, including both staged and real audio recordings of sexual encounters), let alone discussions of BDSM (a main topic of the last episode).

But I’m trying to parent two humans who mean more than anything to me, and this is their world. I won’t – and don’t – always understand, but I want to be engaged and informed.

Though there were important moments of insight and perspective throughout the series, all my discomfort in listening was worth it for the very last few minutes of episode three, starting at 24:35, when Michael Lissack, director of Empowering Victims, said this:

“Unfortunately, [consent] frames the entire question the wrong way. Consent means that you’re giving someone permission to do something to you. We don’t do sex to someone else. We have sex with someone else. . . It’s the wrong word.”

And the very last words of the series, from an unnamed woman discussing her current relationship:

“It’s so nice to have a partner that can read your body language and be like, this doesn’t feel right, are you okay?”

“Consent” is legal language and an obvious and irrefutable baseline. It’s unconscionable that it’s taken us this long as a society just to get to the point where this is an expectation for everyone, including men in positions of power.

But as a measure of a meaningful relationship, consent is much too low a bar. I want to know my partner, in every sense of the word. And I want my partner to know me, and to want to know me. This is what I hope and pray for my children too, as they grow into adulthood and seek out life partners, to love and be loved, body and soul, heart and mind.

Here’s my song for week 43 of #songaweek2018:

Tell me all the things you think about honey
Tell me everything you know about love
Tell me all the jokes you think are funny
Tell me everything you know about love

I really wanna know
I really wanna know
I wanna know you

Tell me what scares you, what hurts and haunts you
Tell me everything you know about love
Tell me about the hands you couldn’t hold on to
Tell me everything you know about love

Tell me all the things you dream about baby
Tell me everything you know about love
Tell me what can make your legs get shaky
Tell me everything you know about love

I’m listening
With all my ears
And all my heart

Hold Out For Love

“Regret” was the suggested theme for week 41 of #songaweek2018. I took it as a prompt instead of a theme this time. Possibly the thing that makes us best as humans is also what can bring us to our lowest point, and that is our need to love and be loved. But Bertrand Russell said “love is wise” (yes I did just mention this a few weeks ago – guess it’s worth repeating), and I agree. Although much of what we call love is not actually love, in our deepest and truest reaching out to one another, love does bring us wisdom. And so regret never comes from actual love. Pain, heartbreak, grief, yes, but not regret.

My mother has been preparing for a few years now to say goodbye to her mother Thelma, who we have been slowly losing to Alzheimer’s, and it’s looking like the final goodbye isn’t far away now. She’s my last living grandparent, and has always shown a special interest in my songwriting. Even as she began having trouble remembering people, when I would make my yearly trek across the country to see her, one of her first questions to me was inevitably, “are you still singing and writing?” The last time we were together she didn’t remember me, but she did sing with me, Amazing Grace.

This year I celebrated twenty years of marriage to Nathan. Anyone who’s been married this long (okay, anyone who’s been in a relationship with another human being for more than five minutes) will tell you it’s not all smooth sailing. I’ve learned over these years that there are inevitable valleys, where one of us will feel the need to approach the other and ask, “are you still with me?” Not because of any major issue, just a long gradual slide into autopilot I guess. And so even within long-term relationships, we hold out for love, and once in a while we lock on to it, and those times are worth the holding-out times.

This is some of the landscape in my head as I was writing this song. I had extra time to work on the recording, and decided to do a photo collage for the video. I included photos of each of my grandparents, cute kids and animals, and romantic love too.

Nobody has to tell us, we already know
The road to the heart of another is hard
Nobody has to show us, we just have to go
And come back alone and wiser

All of our lives we hold out for love
Hold out for someone to hold on to
And once in a while we lock on to love
Hold on to someone who holds us too

Nobody stays forever, as everybody knows
The music we make with another must end
Nobody can prepare us to let a love song go
And come back alone and wiser

Nobody knows the reasons why everybody hurts
we wake in the darkness and can’t feel the light
nobody needs convincing that loneliness is worse
Than coming back alone and wiser

No Souvenirs

I like the word “souvenir.” I abhor gift shops, and am not one for keeping sentimental objects. But the sound and feel of the word itself delights me. It comes from French, which took it from Latin subvenire, meaning “to come to mind.”

It was the suggested theme word for week 32 of #songaweek2018, so I used it. I assembled a sad breakup song from some snapshots of my own personal experience mixed with imagination. (Don’t worry Mom, my marriage is good!)

I had a feeling it would come to this
That it wasn’t going to last
When I was dreaming of our future bliss
And you were pining for the past
And how you wouldn’t reach to take my hand
When I lay down with you at night
I had a feeling it would come to this
And now I’m sorry I was right.

I’m keeping no souvenirs
No souvenirs
From these bitter-sweetest years

You think we’ve gone as far as we can go
And now it’s time to take your leave
You think you’re better when you know you know
that you are unattached and free
I wish you all the life you’re searching for
I wish you’d search with me instead
You think we’ve gone as far as we can go
But I see so much road ahead

I’m keeping no souvenirs
No souvenirs
From these bitter-sweetest years

I’m not afraid to be alone again
I just don’t like to say goodbye
I know you’ll think about me now and then
I know I’m going to be fine
I know that love and light go with me now
I know there’s so much I don’t know
I’m not afraid to be alone again
I just don’t want to let you go

I’m keeping no souvenirs
No souvenirs
From these bitter-sweetest years

Let Love

H.G. Wells wrote more than sci-fi novels. I’ve been working my way through a free Kindle book I downloaded that contains 27 of his works, and the book I just finished reading is a novel called The Secret Places of the Heart. It’s about an Englishman in charge of the government’s fuel commission who feels like he’s lost his edge and goes to see a psychiatrist, who proposes they both take a holiday and go on a road trip together.

Sir Richmond, the patient, proceeds to fall in love with a woman he meets along the way, after having discussed with the psychiatrist his loveless marriage and his strained relationship with his current mistress. Archaeological ruins are visited and utopian dreams for society are discussed, and infatuation for the newly-discovered woman sneaks up on Sir Richmond and puts him into a restless half-dreaming state where he considers love.

The suggested theme for week 30 of #songaweek2018 was “love,” so as I finished reading this nearly-100-year-old novel, I decided to draw from it for my song. It being a work in the public domain, I really could let Wells be the main lyricist. I was especially drawn to this idea that love can create love, that love is not just a fleeting emotion but an active choice, a force that can work for our good if we make a place for it; that can cultivate love in us when our good intentions, or youthful infatuations, fail.

Below are the direct quotes from which I wrote the song, and after that the song itself.

“Love was music and power. If he had loved enough he need never have drifted away from his wife. Love would have created love, would have tolerated and taught and inspired. Where there is perfect love there is neither greed nor impatience. . .

“‘Flimsy creatures,’ he whispered. ‘Uncertain health. Uncertain strength. A will that comes and goes. Moods of baseness. Moods of utter beastliness . . . Love like April sunshine. April? . . .’

“. . . there is something about human beings – not just the everyday stuff of them, but something that appears intermittently – as though a light shone through something translucent. If I believe in any divinity at all it is a divinity revealed to me by other people – and even by myself in my own heart. . .

“It’s only through love that the God can reach over from one human being to another. All real love is a divine thing, a reassurance, a release of courage.”

Let love make love
Trust love to hold on
Love is music
Love is power
Love tolerates, teaches, inspires

Flimsy creatures
A will that comes and goes
Love like April sunshine
April snow

Let love make love . . .
Love is patient and generous

Uncertain health
Uncertain strength
Love like April sunshine
April rain

Let love make love . . .
Divine, a reassurance

Moods of baseness
Moods of utter beastliness
Love like April sunshine
April mud

Let love make love . . .
Love releases courage

Another Spring

“Sex” is the suggested theme for this current week, 29, of #songaweek2018 (the song I’m working on writing this week). Wouldn’t you know I already hit that theme for week 28! Not that I meant to. I didn’t even mean to use week 28’s actual theme, “anniversary.” But it does seem to all relate.

I started with two lines I had saved as a random idea earlier this year (in the spring, of course). And just let it unfold from there.

A little glossary in case you need it – “hygge” is one of those newly-discovered old ideas that’s been all the rage in recent years, especially in the winter. And “alohomora” is a spell in Harry Potter books that opens things (the “unlocking charm” according to Harry Potter Wiki).

I didn’t want to take the time and effort to film myself recording this week, so I dug up a “strange little newsreel” on publicdomainreview.org. For added entertainment value, go watch it at their site with the original audio intact.

Let’s go at it now with another spring
Pull the earth closer, waken everything
Let the water fall, let the pollen fly
Let the stars get in our eyes

We’ve been keeping our happiness on ice
Frozen fantasies of life
Numbing out with chocolate and wine
Excusing it as hygge, hygge, hygge, who?

Let’s go at it now with another spring
Pull the earth closer, waken everything
Let the water fall, let the pollen fly
Let the stars get in our eyes

Throw the covers off boats and motorcycles
Dodge the dropping icicles
Everything feels magical
Hello, alohomora, more and more and more-a

Let’s go at it now with another spring
Pull the earth closer, waken everything
Let the water fall, let the pollen fly
Let the stars get in our eyes

We’ll dance ourselves dizzy
Under the rising moon
We’ll sing hallelujah,
La la la la la la, la la la la la

Let’s go at it now with another spring
Pull the earth closer, waken everything
Let the water fall, let the pollen fly
Let the stars get in our eyes

 

Yes You

This song for week 20 of #songaweek2018 probably feels a little cheated. “I really have a lot of potential,” I can hear it whining, “but you barely gave me anything to work with! You didn’t even try me on piano, which would probably sound a whole lot better than that jangly guitar you insist on strumming monotonously. And really, with all the technology you had to work with, you chose to record me late one night sitting in front of your old laptop?”

Well, yes. It was a busy week and my first day of songwriting was pretty much a failure. Some scattered good ideas but nothing was coming together.

Then the next day, I was walking to pick up my son from school in the intoxicating May sunshine, and it occurred to me that even though our sun is just average in brightness and size compared to other stars, it matters immeasurably more to me than any other sun possibly could. Not because it’s the brightest or best, but because it’s home to me.

Which, of course, is a very tidy metaphor for marriage, which made for a much-better-flowing songwriting session the next day, where after a couple hours I had a mostly-complete song. As another songwriter in our #songaweek group noted recently – and I have also found to be true – if a song doesn’t mostly come together in one session, it’s usually not worth going back to for a second attempt.

So by the time I got through my failed attempt and then spent another day writing this one – all the while attending to the everyday stuff which really heats up this time of year as school winds down and there are numerous concerts and activities on the calendar – the arranging and recording process had to be streamlined, meaning pretty much eliminated entirely.

But that’s okay. Unlike the writing process, if a song’s arrangement doesn’t come together right away, that can be worth going back to, and I probably will with this one.

Once again (as in “Angel”), this song takes inspiration from the reading I’ve done in astrophysics, specifically and most recently Carlo Rovelli’s Reality is Not What it Seems. The suggested theme for the week was “future,” which did get some space here.

I wake in your light
I sleep in your glow
And all the day through your love keeps me warm
Let these moments spread out
Through the hours and days
Of our lives

There’s billions and billions of brillianter stars
But the one that shines brightest for me by far
Is the one that I’ve built my whole world around
And that’s you, yes, you.

Everything’s moving
Life is a dance
We are particles weaving a field
With the speed of the light
from the fire that we stoke
With our love

There’s billions and billions of brillianter stars
But the one that shines brightest for me by far
Is the one that I’ve built my whole world around
And that’s you, yes, you.

There are days when the clouds
Hide your face in the gray
And I’m cold and I can’t feel you at all
And there’s nothing to say
And there’s nothing to do
But hold on

There’s billions and billions of brillianter stars
But the one that shines brightest for me by far
Is the one that I’ve built my whole world around
And that’s you, yes, you.

I know lovers must part
And even planets and stars
All eventually expire
But the shimmering waves
from the love that we’ve made
Journey on

There’s billions and billions of brillianter stars
But the one that shines brightest for me by far
Is the one that I’ve built my whole world around
And that’s you, yes, you.

Teeny Tiny Little Bit in Love With You

Well, at last – a happy simple song! Guess I was feeling a little drunk on spring which has finally come, in full force, to my part of the northland – and remembering the spring I met Nathan and how it felt to fall so hard in love.

Just a quick rough recording on my phone, made while facing the new sheetrock in the kitchen so I could enjoy a little natural reverb.

I don’t need to say much more about this song (for week 17 of #songaweek2018), except that tomorrow my beloved and I celebrate twenty years of marriage, and I’m thankful to be able to say, I’m still a teeny tiny little bit in love with him.

Oh, and yesterday we played it with our band and it was an instant success! I’m excited to perform this one.

There’s word going round about a woman you know
They say she’s trying to hide what she can’t help but show
so I looked her up and sat her down for a talk
But she couldn’t sit still so then we went for a walk
And the spring in her step and the thrill in her veins
And your name on an endless looping track in her brain
Told me everything I needed, yes the rumors are true
I’m just a teeny tiny little bit in love with you

She said she’d meet you tomorrow, tonight or right now
Don’t matter where or why, or what or how
It’s mainly just the who that she cares about
And you know that’s you, you’re the one who makes her shout
To the flowers and trees, to the birds and butterflies
About how you make her feel like she just opened her eyes
On a world bright with beauty and this radical truth
I’m just a teeny tiny little bit in love with you

I like to think of her and you in closer quarters
I like to think you’re thinking of that too
I hope that you and she could find a place to loiter
I hope you’re hoping for that same thing too

Well I suppose I’ll have to come down from this natural high
nothing lasts forever but the wondering why
but you could come with me on my hike back down
to my everyday life in an everyday town
And hold my hand and own my heart
and share with me a house and a car
Cause while it ebbs and it flows, this current stays true
I’m just a teeny tiny little bit in love with you