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

Come Home

Friends! I’m still here. I’m very much here. All the time. You know what I mean, cause it’s likely you, too, are spending more time at home than you’re used to. And I’m used to quite a lot.

I’ve still been writing a song a week – started up again last fall, but haven’t been posting them on my blog much (or at all in 2020 it seems!). You can find them all here – soundcloud.com/julia-tindall-bloom/tracks and here – youtube.com/juliatindallbloom.

It would make a whole lot of sense for me to get back to blogging regularly again right now. I just might do it! We shall see . . .

But today I wanted to share this song I wrote a few weeks ago, which a fellow song-a-week-er beautifully embellished. My original recording was just vocal and guitar. Nik Newark (www.niknewarkmusic.com) took that original recording and added an orchestra. I wrote the song before things in the US were shutting down and “shelter in place” started to become normal life for so many here. In fact I wasn’t totally sure what the song was about or why I felt so driven to write it. But listening to Nik’s version today, I find it very comforting, and I think we all could use some comfort right now, so I wanted to share it with you:

When it feels like you can’t do anything right
and you would cut your hand off
just to spite your fist
When all you know is everything’s gone wrong
you try to keep your head up
you’re fighting to exist

Come over here child
Come home to me
Come on back now baby
Come home to me

When you hold out just to watch it burn down
and everything is ash now
dust to dust
When you’ve waited all your life to make it
and everybody’s gone now
dust to dust

Come over here child
Come home to me
Come on back now baby
Come home to me

When you were quite sure you knew just where things stood
and then they just lay down
and died

Come over here child
Come home to me
Come on back now baby
Come home to me

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

 

 

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

The Last Rose of Summer

Today my youngest went back to school, so for the first time in months, it’s just the dog and me at home. Which means I’m looking forward to giving some more focused attention to songwriting and recording for the remaining weeks of #songaweek2018.

And it also means that for last week, week 35, in which only my son was home because his sister had already started at her school, I took the quick and easy route for my songwriting so I could spend more time with him. We played a lot of Doctor Who Fluxx and then on Friday we packed everybody up and drove out to North Dakota where we camped with family at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the badlands of NoDak, which is a long desolate drive from most anywhere people live but worth it. Beautiful and even on Labor Day weekend, not too crowded. (Also we witnessed a bison stampede while hiking, with wild horses just meters in front of us!)

But I digress. The quick and easy route for songwriting means I pick a public domain poem I’ve filed away for possible future use, and I write a tune for it. The title of this one by Thomas Moore made it the obvious choice! (If you follow the link on his name, you can hear a recording of another song made using the poem and recorded in 1914. Makes sense that I’m not the first to set it to music.)

Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone:
No flower of her kindred,
No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie wither’ d,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

The Demented Ice Cream Truck

So it all started when my husband Nathan put on an album our daughter Luthien made when she was maybe seven, with her band “Luthien and the Awesome Band.” While now-teenager Luthien groaned with embarrassment, we her proud parents reminded her she was only seven and this was a very fun glimpse into the beginnings of her creative life (check out this song she wrote and performed entirely by herself last week!).

When the album was over, my younger child Silas said, “hey Mom, let’s start a band! I’ll sing and you can write songs for me to sing.” Realizing this could dovetail nicely with my #songaweek2018 project, I agreed.

I’m not sure I had ever written a song for someone else to sing before, and it wasn’t easy. I think I was too focused on Silas himself, his personality, his likes and dislikes. So I wrote a cheesy-silly song for him to sing about being a vegetarian (a decision he made on his own when he was five) with a little bit of running thrown in.

“Mom, I’m not going to sing that,” he responded.

To which I sheepishly replied, “yeah, I don’t blame you.”

Then I asked him, what if we write a song together? He wasn’t sure about that. Wouldn’t it take a long time? No, I told him, if you’ve got something good rolling, it doesn’t often take more than an hour, might even be more like twenty minutes.

“But I don’t know what to write about,” he sighed. “How do you get ideas?”

Just then we heard the ice cream truck coming up the street, playing “Lullaby,” its pitch shifting as it drove past and away. My kids (and probably most kids!) have always thought that Doppler effect makes ice cream trucks seem a little creepy.

“What about the ice cream truck? How about we write a song about that?” I suggested.

Silas looked at me a little dubiously and then almost instantly launched into, “here it comes, down the street, the demented ice cream truck,” to the tune of “Lullaby.”

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “That’s perfect!”

“But we can’t steal that tune,” Silas said.

Oh but we could. And I explained the glories of public domain to my middle-schooler.

So with the frame of an old tune, Silas set to work writing lyrics. He sat at the computer and typed in the lyrics while I sat behind him and played the song on the guitar to help keep him on track. I contributed some of the lines and ideas and helped massage some lines to fit, but the general thrust of the song and most of the lyrics came pretty directly from Silas.

And it all took about twenty minutes!

So here it is, my song for week 33, cowritten with my fun-loving wordsmith son Silas Bloom:

And here are the lyrics exactly as he typed them:

Here it comes down the street the demented ice-cream truck
Selling kids icecream shaped like cartoons. If you stray too close they will suck out your soul. But other wise it’s a jolly good time.

There it goes up the road making boat loads of money.
Be careful they’ll get mad if you stand there too long. Then they might leave the block cuz time is money and there rent on the truck is almost overdo.

It’s not even a truck it’s really more of a van
With some speakers and a freezer and a driver slash cashier you may call it what you like but you better beware they will catch your credit card and will make you go broke.

How Many the Fallen

I started writing this song for week 25 of #songaweek2018 from the center of a Nerf gun battlezone. I was the lone adult at home while my son and three of his cousins took up their battle stations and went at it. That morning was the lull in a busy week, and the best time I could find to work on songwriting.

Earlier in the week, the amur maple in our front yard broke irreparably in a summer storm. The next day, my brother-in-law and his family came to visit for several days, and one day we all went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. My kids were eager to show their cousins a certain painting I’ve previously showed them, where if you look closely enough in a dark place in the woods, you can see the profiles of two ghostly faces, the remnants of another painting underneath the more visible one.

And running through everything last week, the horrendous news of my government thinking it’s a good idea to separate children from their parents – and doing it, to thousands of families. I haven’t had anything to say because it feels a little like saying the earth orbits the sun, or things we drop fall because of gravity, or everyone needs food, water, and sleep. Children belong with their parents. Tearing families apart is abominable immigration policy.

I wasn’t consciously thinking about this news story when I wrote this song, but it was keeping me up at night, throbbing like an unnoticed alert at the back of my head, a perpetual lump in my throat. I am both a child and a parent, and this action of my government leaves me breathless.

So as my mind and heart were processing all that in the background, I wrote into this song a baby, a tiny hand, the trusting heart of a child, the courageous heart of a parent embarking on an impossible journey into a better day for their children. What’s happening at our southern border isn’t what this song is about, but the heartlessness of my government towards people trying to cross that border has directly and indirectly added countless lives to the numbers of the fallen, the fading, the lost. (And it’s been going on a long time. Start here for an introduction to the US Border Patrol’s scheme of “Prevention Through Deterrence.”)

The very last line of the last verse, “into the fray,” was inspired by my friend Jen Bluhm’s song “Into the Fray,” which I learned was taken from a poem which came from the movie  The Grey. Which relates a bit to the line about the painting as well – that so much creative work exists, and has existed – so much good work that will never hang in a museum or get a million views or a thousand plays or even a second glance. So much is fading, so much is lost – and yet, it all – all of us, our works and actions and interactions – are expanding this mysterious circle of life.

All of the above are my reflections on what was influencing me as I wrote this song. I’ve been using these blog posts expressly for that purpose – to talk about the background of the songs I’m writing – but sometimes I think talking too much about the origin of a song can take away from the experience of listening to it with your own ears and perspective.

So here’s the song, in its own words, for your own listening ears and thoughtful consideration.

I held the edge of the universe
It sighed like a baby
And slept in my arms
I heard the very last note of the concert
They played at the end of all things
Then I lifted my voice

How many the fallen, the fading, the lost
Expanding the circle of life

The tree that broke in the thunderstorm
Will crumble to soil
And grow living things
The painting speaking to me from the wall
Keeps past lives under its skin

How many the fallen, the fading, the lost
Expanding the circle of life

The morning holds out her tiny hand
And begs to go walking
Into the day
You know you never can tell what’s beyond
the horizon but you go willingly
into the fray

How many the fallen, the fading, the lost
Expanding the circle of life

Loveland Classic 5k

Day 22 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

Today Silas and I ran the Loveland Classic. We meant to do this other years, just never made it happen, so this year we had to do it since it’s our last chance. It’s a benefit race for early childhood education here in our Thompson School District, and it’s been going for 41 years!

Silas finished sixth in his division (males age 14 and under) and 28th place overall. His time was 25:14. I finished fourth in my division (females ages 40-49) and 53rd overall. My time was 28:07. (Silas asked me to include all of this, so my readers could be sure and understand that he crossed the finish line nearly THREE MINUTES before his mother did! That’s the first time we’ve run a race and I haven’t kept up with him. It’s only going to widen from here, I’m thinking!)

I have enjoyed running – and improving my running – here in Colorado. The altitude took some acclimating at first, but I’ve improved my pace and hope to bring all that momentum back to Minnesota with me! And it’s been fun running with my boy!

On a side note, next time I’ll be sure to bring my ID with me. I was denied my two free beer tickets because I didn’t have it. 😦  But then the sun came out this afternoon and our friend Braden came over and brought us a growler of “Widow Maker” Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout from Berthoud’s City Star Brewing, so all is well . . .

Special thanks to Nathan and Luthien for being our support team, holding our jackets, taking pictures, cheering us on!

Jeanne

Day six in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

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I took this photo from my front porch just now. In this house across the street there are some office suites, ClothRoads Studio, and a residential apartment, where our neighbor Jeanne lived until her recent death.

Although she was on oxygen, Jeanne could often be seen cycling around the neighborhood on her recumbent bike, her saddlebags loaded for the day’s errands (oxygen tank included). She told me that she really couldn’t walk around the block anymore, but bicycling was easier, so she loved to get around that way.

She gave us her kitchen scraps to feed our chickens, and loved to see what we were doing with our garden. When both our kids were in a community play last summer, Jeanne came along with Nathan and me to watch the performance. That same summer the kids went over each day to walk a dog she was sitting for a couple weeks, and she always had lemonade and cookies for them after the walk, as well as good conversation. My daughter Luthien especially was so interested to talk with her and learn about her life.

The last time I talked to Jeanne, only a few days before she died, she eagerly told me about her plans to get some chickens. She had a pre-fabricated coop all ready to assemble, and I remarked to myself how vibrant she was. I had seen an ambulance in front of her house in the early hours of the morning only a week before and wondered if it was for her, but after seeing and speaking with her that day, I assumed it hadn’t been.

The next Saturday there was a garage sale at Jeanne’s house, and Luthien came back from it and told me that Jeanne’s family was selling some of her things, because she had died. It was hard to believe, and she cried.

The crabapple tree in the photo bloomed after Jeanne was gone, and Luthien said it was celebrating Jeanne’s life – and a beautiful, generous, well-lived life it was. I’m grateful we got to know Jeanne for the short time that we were neighbors.

Chess Mom

Day four in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge. 

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Every year since he was in second grade, my boy has competed at Loveland’s district chess tournament. This is his third year. Both years past he won third place in his division, and this morning when we played a practice round he beat me soundly. (In my defense, it was 8 am on a Saturday and I had only had one cup of coffee; and in the past week I beat him a couple times too!)

Now begins a long morning of chess for him and sitting in the middle school library with a passel of other parents for me. Let the games begin!

Note: I’m calling this series of posts a daily challenge but I’ll be taking Sundays off. I like to have one day a week free of social media. So no post tomorrow. And then maybe we’ll actually get to some sunshine and mountains next week!