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

 

 

Little Brother

I’ve written songs for both my parents, my husband, both my children, my brother’s wife and all of his children – but until week 51 of #songaweek2018 I still hadn’t written one for my one and only sibling, my brother Jeremy.

I’d been wanting to write a song for him for years, even attempted it a couple times before, but until this week I never had anything worth finishing. Thanks to my parents sending me some old photos, I was even able to put together a video collage.

Life without you well I don’t really remember it
It’s like you’ve always been around
Climbing trees and making faces at me

Little brother I once held you all inside my tiny arms
But now I look up to you

We rode our big wheels in the trailer park
Played GI Joe and Barbie dolls
Super Breakout and Super Mario

Little brother I once crushed you playing football in the yard
But now I look up to you

You got the chicken pox and I was jealous
Until I got it worse than you
And while I suffered, you learned to ride a bike first

We played in puddles and danced to records
And explored the woods out back
I guess we were best of friends

And now we’re grownups with families of our own
We send our kids to cousin camp
and barely remember what life without them was like

Little brother I once bossed you all around in every way
But now I look up to you

 

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

The Lake Where the Loons Are Laughing Low

My father-in-law’s cousin owns a cabin on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota, not far from the Boundary Waters and the Canadian border. It was built in 1932, which seems a strange economic time to build a vacation home, but reminds me a bit of the Civilian Conservation Corps projects that began the next year.

This past week twenty of us – my husband, his parents, his three brothers and their families, and his honorary sister – all gathered at the cabin, converging from California, North Dakota, Ohio and Minnesota for four days together at the lake.

I love seeing and hearing the loons on the lake – in the day you can hear them laughing, at night their mournful calls float through the windows while I fall asleep.

I wrote week 26’s song for #songaweek2018 in the gazebo behind the cabin one afternoon while the cousins played in the water. The first lines came from the weekend before we were at the lake, when we took our kids sailing for the very first time, and I pointed out the sunlight glinting on the water. No camera can do it justice. The same is true of the sunsets over Lake Vermilion (or anywhere really!).

That evening I played the song a couple times for Nathan and his brother Micah while we sat around before dinner, and then asked my daughter to record us playing it.

Don’t take my word for it, you should go and
see for yourself how the sunlight glints on
waves of the water all around
your boat on the lake where the loons are laughing low

Breathe with the trees and the birds and the insects
so many creatures you never noticed
different from you but all the same
it’s life on the lake where the loons are laughing low

You can’t stay forever but you can drink it
deeply enough that you could keep it
down in your soul where you can always
feel the lake where the loons are laughing low

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.

Cody

Day 23 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

Not everything I love about Loveland has to stay behind when we move. One Saturday morning in November 2015 this sweet guy joined our family after we met him at an Animal Rescue of the Rockies adoption event at Loveland’s PetSmart. (He came from a shelter in New Mexico and was being fostered by a woman in Denver but Loveland brought us together!)

DSC_0206.JPG

Cody inspired a couple of my songs of the week last year (“Cody’s Theme” and “Black Dog Road“), and brings calm and play and warm snuggles to our little home. And I’m looking forward to turning him into a Minnesota dog!

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!

Leaving Loveland

There’s a line from a Rich Mullins song that has been haunting me the past year or so – “lonely even here in paradise.” Not that he came up with the “lonely in paradise” phrase, but the song (“Land of my Sojourn”) especially connects with me, with its images of roads and mountains and traveling and song.

For nearly four years our family of four has lived in what feels like paradise, where gray days are few and even many of those still have moments of sunshine. Where, when the trees aren’t fully leafed out, I can see snow-capped mountains from my back door. Where my man and I can walk to our choice of three really good microbreweries for a little after-work date and be home in an hour for dinner with the kids. Where we can get to world-class vacation destinations like Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park just by driving 45 minutes through the breathtaking Big Thompson Canyon, sometimes spotting big-horned sheep and elk along the way. Where winter doesn’t overstay its welcome, and snow melts in a day or two under the mile-closer golden sunshine. Where cars don’t rust from a six-month bath of road salt.

Yeah, yeah, you get the idea. It’s beautiful here. It’s been a four-year working vacation – emphasis on the “working” for my husband Nathan, who has worked full-time all four years we’ve been here in Loveland, something neither of us had done for nearly ten years before moving here – and something we are very excited for him to be finished with NEXT TUESDAY!! when he moves to part-time for a couple months while the kids finish school and we prepare to move back to Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota. Oh, Minnesota. I didn’t know I’d miss you. Colorado has delivered on the rugged-yet-hip mountain man image it’s been given, but Minnesota, you are my boy next door. I just didn’t realize how much you meant to me, with your green growing everything and your ten thousand lakes and your rivers and prairies and woods.

Oh, I know about the snow – which becomes the slush and the chunks and the salty spewing splash on my car and my boots and my pant legs. And the mosquitoes. And the humidity. And the gray days, and no mountains to miss behind the gray anyway.

But I guess, after a lifetime of not really knowing where I’m from, I might just call you home. I might just say I’m a Minnesota girl after all, though I will always be eager to travel, even to leave you again and live somewhere else for a while. I’m an adventurous hobbit maybe, like Bilbo and Frodo, loving my cozy Shire, and itching for the road.

But the heart of it is, my people are in Minnesota, and I miss them dearly. It’s magnified because I have two children who are very close to their grandparents and cousins and it got harder and harder to feel so many hearts breaking each time we piled back in the car to drive 800 miles away from those people who make Minnesota home for us.

And I began to feel terribly lonely in paradise. Like living in a beautiful mansion all alone. No calling up my mom for a coffee date on the weekend, no possibility of grandparents attending soccer games or orchestra concerts. I know this is the reality for many families in our highly mobile society – it was my reality as a child – but I’ve decided to opt out, and I am grateful for a husband who is willing to leave this paradise even though he doesn’t share my feelings of homesickness. Maybe we’ll be back some day when the kids are grown. Loveland is a popular retirement destination after all! Or maybe we’ll go further west – all the way to northern California, where mountains and ocean converge.

For now we’ve decided to live in Saint Paul, because we have some good friends there, there’s more access to bike trails around the river, and we’ve already lived in Minneapolis (which was great, but why not try something new?!). It’s been eleven years since we lived in the Twin Cities (we were in our hometown of Owatonna for seven years before moving here to Loveland), and there’s a lot I’ve missed about being there. So I’m excited to rediscover the familiar, and explore the new.

But for now, I live in Colorado, and I’ve got at least two months left to enjoy this place.

Last year I wrote and posted a song a week on my blog. It’s been good to take a few months off, but now I’m ready for a new challenge, and this time I’m going for a DAILY one. I’m going to post a photo of something I love about Loveland (and surrounding area probably) every day starting today until the day we load the moving truck or unplug the wifi or whatever I deem the end of our sojourn here in paradise.

Obviously this will probably be the longest post in the series! But here we go.

Today’s little piece of Loveland is my own back yard. I just missed the full blossom, but here is our little cherry tree, next to the chicken coop (that’s our neighbor’s house in the background):

IMG_3426

Loveland has a cherry festival every summer – apparently there are a lot of cherry trees here! This one hasn’t produced all that much fruit, but we have gotten a few bright red handfuls each year, which never make it into the house – we just pick and eat!

I like to sit at that table on weekend mornings with a cup of coffee. It faces east so I drink in the morning sun too.

Our house is on a corner lot, so most of our yard is in front of or along the outside of the house, but I did make a small area between the garage and the deck into a more private nook (every introvert needs her private outdoor space!) I even dug up a spot and laid all these rocks down to make a little patio:

IMG_3429

And that’s blue-eyed grass, the first thing that flowers in our yard, the first bit of spring color we get to enjoy.

These Things Are Relative

This week in the Christian church season of Advent centers on love. I didn’t even think about that when I wrote this song for my dad’s birthday, which also happened to be this week (and for week 48 of #songaweek2016). But here we have it, an accidental tie-in:

The road you walk is a pulsing clock
Each day you live shapes the world
we are all making
These things are relative
and it’s love that moves them on

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

The faith you keep needn’t fear the dark
Each word you choose shapes the silence
we are all breathing
These things are relative
and it’s love that holds them together

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

Each moment we are standing
at a gracious convergence
of who we were and who we are and who we can be

The rocks you climb hardly feel you there
Each hand you hold will eventually
let go
These things are relative
and it’s love that outlives them all

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

I Held You First

This past week was my son’s tenth birthday, so for week 45 of #songaweek2016, I wrote him a song and made a video to go with it. Now I have no more single-digit children!

Who could ever explain how a bald-headed bundle of joy
just by eating and sleeping and laughing and learning
grows into a long-haired long-legged ten-year-old boy?

I held you first
and right through the worst of those midnight crying hours
and I’ll be the last
to ever let go of the love you birthed in me

What a difference a decade of everyday days can make
first you’re reaching, then rolling, then crawling, then walking
jumping, kicking, running, swimming, climbing, never hitting the brakes

I held you first . . .

Be brave, be kind, be-you-tiful boy

I shouldn’t be shocked that you’ve been melting me from day one
cause chocolate bars and momma’s hearts
behave the same way in the light of the sun[son]

I held you first . . .