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

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

It’s Alright Now

In a very real sense we are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them. We shall go down, but let it be in a manner to which we may look forward as worthy of our dignity.

This little passage from The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, written in 1950 by mathematician and philosopher Norbert Weiner, caught my attention recently when I read about it in my favorite newsletter Brain Pickings. (https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/06/15/the-human-use-of-human-beings-norbert-wiener/)

The suggested theme for week 36 of #songaweek2018 was “strength.” I wasn’t trying to use it when I started writing my song. I started with a couple lines I had jotted down in a flash of inspiration a couple weeks before: “the first thing I can think of is the last I want to talk about / how whenever you walk in the room it turns me inside out.”

A favorite part of the writing process for me is feeling partially in control, and partially along for the ride as I work on (with?) a song and it takes its shape. I thought this was going to be some sort of love song, but it became more of a hope-in-humanity song.

It wasn’t till I was working on the third verse, at the line “so your heart won’t sink,” and I was thinking through the next line which became “even if we’re bound to drown” that I remembered the Norbert Weiner quote I had copied and pasted into my notes for later meditation. I pulled it up and let it guide me through the end of the song.

And so, I came around to singing about strength after all. The strength of being kind and decent human beings even if and when all seems lost. Our future – individually, as a species, as a planet – is and has always been uncertain, clouded in possible catastrophes. I hope we humans can be wise and motivated enough to do the good we know to do regarding environmental degradation, military oppression, human rights violations, racism, etc., etc. – all the problems clearly leading to a bleaker future.

And at the same time, I hope we can be good and decent people in our everyday interactions with each other and all living things, that we could take each moment as a gift and seek to live it as a blessing, no matter where we seem to be headed, no matter how grim the outlook.

I think a musical influence on this song is Patty Griffin’s “One Big Love,” which I had been listening to as covered by Emmylou Harris on her album Red Dirt Girl not long before I wrote it. And which is one of my all-time favorite albums, in case I haven’t mentioned it before! Oh, wait, I guess I have. Oh yeah, more than once.

As per usual these busy days of late, I would have loved to give this song more recording attention. But at least I was able to give it the writing attention it deserved. Maybe the future will hold enough space for a better recording.

The first thing I can think of
Is the last I want to talk about
How the ghosts of old romances
Can turn me inside out
I can’t recant my faith in
The way we used to be
Young and foolish
Starry-eyed and free

But it’s alright now
It’s okay
We’re alright now
For another day

You’ll never hear me disagree
That there’s no time like today
To do the good you know to do
And give your love away
Cause when you let it flow you’ll find
There’s more where that came from
Like a winding river
Like the shining sun

Down in the hollows of my heart
A thousand love songs ring
We’ll never finish everything we start
But we have our whole lives to sing

So tell me all your troubles
And I’ll pour you a drink
Something stiff and bitter
so your heart won’t sink
and even if we’re bound to drown
we can still be true and kind
One brilliant second
On the face of time

No Strings Attached

These days it feels like everything’s for sale and getting more expensive. Even as some things actually get cheaper financially, we’re all paying higher prices with the health and well-being of our shared life on this planet.

But that’s not entirely true. So much around us is just given, generously and constantly, day after day, night after night. No strings attached. And yet we would benefit by paying something for these gifts – attention.

This song (for week 29 of #songaweek2018) was partially inspired by my reading of Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction, as well as Episode 313 (“Right to Roam”) of the podcast 99% Invisible.

The sky’s all yours for the looking
The birds all round you are singing for free
No strings attached
No strings attached

The ground’s all yours for the walking
and running and jumping and kicking up heels
No strings attached
No strings attached

Fly . . .
Fly . . .

The night’s all yours for the dreaming
The moon and stars keep shining for free
No strings attached
No strings attached

The rock’s all yours for the climbing
The trees and mountains and fences and walls
The world’s all yours for the wandering
Your life’s all yours for the living
No strings attached
No strings attached

Uncle Benny’s Building Supplies

Day 36 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

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This place is amazing. Used/salvaged building supplies galore! We’ve bought and sold and donated more than a few things here since we bought our house three years ago. Fancier stuff is kept in the building at the front, and out back are sheds and sheds of materials – each one filled with similar items (all the storm doors are together, all the gutters, all the countertops, etc. etc.).

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And between the sheds, even more stuff that can handle sitting outside without a roof over it.

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Today we were looking for metal roofing for our garage, but didn’t find enough to do the whole roof.

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We did donate a couple extra cabinet doors we had been storing in our basement though. And got to say hi to the huge loveable dog who often greets us there. And spied an outhouse for $300 on our way out. But passed it up.

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We also spotted this vehicle, which is often parked downtown on school mornings, with the big dog sitting in the back. Silas and I always enjoy seeing it on our walks to school.

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Laundry Day

Day nineteen of my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

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Although the dry climate here in Colorado induces even more nosebleeds for those of us already prone to them (my son told me he had three throughout the day today!), one thing I appreciate about it is the complete irrelevance of a clothes dryer. It’s just not a worthwhile appliance to own and maintain here, in my humble (and minimalist) opinion. So when we bought this house which didn’t include a washer or dryer, we only bought a washer.

Most of the year, even many days during winter, we can hang our clothes outside, and especially when there’s sunshine, they’ll dry within a couple hours. (A high-quality front-loading washer with a high-speed spin cycle helps a lot too!) On rainy or too-cold days, we hang laundry in the basement, which humidifies the even-dryer indoor air from our forced-air heating system.

 

 

Sugar and Prairie Dogs

Day thirteen in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

And now for a favorite quirky corner of mine. Mountain views! Prairie dogs! Sugar silos!

We can easily bike from our house to Home Depot and a strip mall that includes our credit union and Jax (a sort-of Fleet Farm meets REI store). Along this route, we can view prairie dogs, get goatheads stuck in our bike tires (so now I don’t cut through the field that is now under development anyway), puzzle over strange grafitti at the abandoned sugar refinery, and treat ourselves to snow-capped vistas. All in the last bit of a 1.5-mile bike ride.

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See right there in the middle of the picture? At the end of the sunbeam? Maybe that’s the chosen one, which I’m sad to say the prairie dogs may need to have as all this development goes on encroaching their little towns. We used to go to the zoo to see these further east. Out here, just keep your eyes pealed in big vacant fields, along the road . . . you’ll find them. In the short time since we moved here in 2013, this little prairie dog town has lost much of its space to new construction and, weirdly, used cars for sale (those pickups parked along the right are only a few of many).

In the background of the photo above you can see the sugar silos, a Loveland landmark. Whenever we hike and gain some elevation and find a good lookout, we can often spot these silos, from miles away in Boulder, Fort Collins, etc. Here’s a closer view of them:

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Nathan’s friend once had an idea to build a climbing gym inside these silos! As far as I know nothing is really happening at these buildings now. The city uses the parking lot on the southeast side to pile snow plowed off the streets in the winter. Not sure when this plant officially closed, but it was still somewhat functioning as late as 1990, when a molasses spill closed roads and made a sticky mess.

And an especially strange part of this place, which the blogger who visited here in January 2016 must have missed because there was snow on the roof at that time, is this:

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Yeah, that roof has “IT WAS SUGAR STUPID!” painted on it. Apparently in 2007 a man who was living near the sugar factory was charged with making methamphetamine based on a powdery substance that field tests determined to be meth and then later tests revealed to be old sugar – and this message appeared after all that. You can read more about it here.

Just behind me as I took the photo above is Home Depot, and off to my right (the west) is this:

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That road is new and still under construction. That’s where, in our early days living here, we first rode our bikes through a rutted old field, soaking up the sunshine and the mountain view, oblivious to those demon goatheads our tires were picking up.

Oh, I can’t help myself. Here’s a grainy closeup of those prairie dogs:

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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.

Look at Those Mountains!

Day five in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

This week I’m filling in at my old job while my friend takes a well-deserved vacation, so this morning I got to ride my old bike commute. This is the view riding back from work. Nathan also bikes this same stretch of trail to and from work. This is a commute we will both miss.

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When we first moved to Colorado, I would constantly be surprised and wowed by the Rocky Mountain views, exclaiming, “look at those mountains!” It became a little joke between the boy and me, who would roll his eyes and whine, “oh Mom!”

But really. Look at those mountains! I guess in this photo they’re actually a bit hard to see, what with the trees in the foreground and the white clouds blending with the white snow. But there they are. And I’m sure I’ll be posting more mountain photos before this little series is through.