Home to Roost

It’s Maundy Thursday in the Christian church calendar. We remember that last supper Jesus had with his closest friends, a few stolen moments in a borrowed upper room, emotions running high, all hell about to break loose.

I wrote this song in January for week 4 of #songaweek2020, but I wanted to share it here today. Whether or not, however or not you are marking this day; whatever faith or lack of it you call yours – I hope you know – and feel – that you are loved. And may you be filled with peace.

Be well my friends.

Here is my heart, look but don’t touch
unless you assume all the risk
If you break it, it’s yours, like it or not
Can you afford one last kiss?

every sparrow that falls comes home to roost

Come get warm by the fire, stretch out your hands,
Eat, drink and say what you will
If you love me at all you know who I am
Heartbroken, heart breaking still

every sparrow that falls comes home to roost

Break now the bread, pour out the wine
Share it with all who have need
Don’t we all have a need, a need to be loved?
a hunger and thirsting for peace?

Here in the dark you call my name
Whether I hear it or not
Cause I know what I feel,
I feel that I’m loved
Before and behind and beyond

every sparrow that falls
every sparrow that falls
every sparrow that falls
comes home to roost

New Songs, Autumn, Fires

First snow this morning. Just a dusting, on the first of November. I turned 44 last week. And there are three people I’m holding in prayer right now – something I wouldn’t have believed I’d ever say again only a few years ago.

Also I started doing #songaweek2019 in September, and have skipped one week since then – a radical departure from the all-or-nothing way I previously approached it.

In other words, change. Impermanence. Flow. Autumn. I noticed the light is lower in my kitchen this week. I raked a million leaves yesterday. I have little brown spots creeping into the backs of my hands, new wrinkles on my neck.

The song I wrote this week was partially inspired by the California wildfires, and then I read this article today and felt it could have almost inspired the song if time moved differently. Plus it references one of my all-time favorite reading experiences, The Tale of Genji:

We cherish things, Japan has always known, precisely because they cannot last; it’s their frailty that adds sweetness to their beauty. In the central literary text of the land, The Tale of Genji, the word for “impermanence” is used more than a thousand times, and bright, amorous Prince Genji is said to be “a handsomer man in sorrow than in happiness.” Beauty, the foremost Jungian in Japan has observed, “is completed only if we accept the fact of death.” Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.

Here’s where I’ve been posting new songs recently – https://soundcloud.com/julia-tindall-bloom/tracks. And here I’ll feature one of them, also about impermanence:

 

No Hard Feelings

This is one of those songs I’d categorize as a cautionary tale, a vision of what the wrong thing looks like. I think it’s about apathy, about what we stand to lose when we choose to stop caring. Maybe a nod to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”

Except, of course, for the moments I quoted in the second verse – Neil Armstrong’s moon walk, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech envisioning racial harmony, Woody Guthrie’s song about roaming and rambling freely across the land, Carl Sagan’s poetic musing about our fragile home. These are moments of vision, passion, generosity – moments where people cared.

More of that please.

All we ever were
All we can become
Wrapped up in a moment
Setting with the sun

No hard feelings
It’s as easy as walking away
It’s the kind of simple stupid thing
That people do every day
No hard feelings
They just flow with no effort from me
Down the river of what might have been
Out to the salty sea

Small step for a man
I have a dream
This land is your land
Suspended in a sunbeam

No hard feelings
It’s as easy as walking away
It’s the kind of simple stupid thing
That people do every day
No hard feelings
They just flow with no effort from me
Down the river of what might have been
Out to the salty sea

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

 

 

Decembrance

In the season of shortest days and darkest nights, I like to write songs like this. Winter can be a soul-sucking time of year, or from another perspective, it can be a time to slow down, pull in, lay low, and breathe.

As I was writing this song for week 49 of #songaweek2018, I was aware of the following influences: the feeling of an Irish blessing we sang in choir when I was in college; Handel’s Messiah (I love the way the word “comfortably” is sung in “Comfort Ye My People,” so I did it too); and the Christmas song “Oh Holy Night” which is referenced in “harmonies and holy nights.”

And still, on my mind throughout the year and now more poignantly as the year draws to a close, my Grammy, whose health continues to decline as we await her departure into deepest rest.

Slow dance of the winter, deep sleep of the snow
Clear light of the night sky keep you as you go
Soft blanket of crystal, beasts nestled below
Still evergreen branches, lone call of the crow
All of the fragile ones have flown

Winds wending through treetops comfortably sigh
Rivers rest, insects hide
Memories and melodies murmur in your mind
Harmonies and holy nights hold us all through time
All through the night beyond our sight

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

It’s Just Life

[Don’t forget to vote!]

The chorus of this song was a random idea I’ve saved for a couple years. I didn’t have a sudden burst of inspiration for week 44 of #songaweek2018, so I went back over past notes and found this idea saved as a voice memo. The only thing I changed for this song was “why we carry on” which initially was “why you carry on.” Otherwise the words and tune you hear in this chorus are exactly the original idea around which I built the rest of the song.

So many influences here. The general political climate in our nation. The mass shooting in Pittsburgh. A moment at a stoplight with a homeless man. My plodding through a volume of famous and obscure works by H.G. Wells. The Pale Blue Dot poster that hangs by my desk – a cherished gift from a friend.

This song is constructed slightly differently than my – and many songwriters’ – standard format of multiple verses, a repeated chorus, and one bridge somewhere after the middle to break things up a bit. You could say it either has two different verse formats, each repeated once; or one verse format repeated twice (“So talk to me . . .” and “oh sing to me . . .”) and one bridge repeated twice (“what a waste is there . . .” and “if I hadn’t rolled my window down . . .”). And a single repeating chorus.

The tune for what I’m calling the bridge (“what a waste is there . . .”) actually grew from another quote that didn’t make it into the final song. It came from a G.K. Chesterton book I’m also plodding through, the Father Brown mysteries. (Why am I such a sucker for books by dead Englishmen with initials for names? Besides H.G. Wells and G.K. Chesterton I’ve also read nearly everything I can find by P.G. Wodehouse. And then of course there’s J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. Apparently a trend of their time and culture. Along with the cringey moments of racism and sexism their readers must stumble through.)

But the Chesterton quote – I loved the way it flowed so much that I copied it into my notes for possible later use: “I knew Jupiter Jesus out in Denver; saw him for weeks on end; and he was just a common crook.” (from “The Miracle of Moon Crescent” in The Incredulity of Father Brown).

I sang those words till I had a tune and chords I liked for them. Then as I worked further on the song, I tried to keep them intact as my first bridge, but eventually had to “murder my darlings” and let those words go from this song. Maybe they’ll show up elsewhere someday. I just think they’re too good to only be used once, now that they’re in public domain!

Not much more I want to say about this song except an emphasis of one main idea in it – that sometimes when everything feels dark and wrong and impossible to set right, it’s good to step back and look at it all from a wider angle. In the grand scheme of things, every atom matters. But I can’t see or feel how much it all matters until I roll down the window, put down the phone, embrace life with an active presence and all my senses. That’s when life feels more approachable, manageable, liveable, too.

The videos are all from the International Space Station, downloaded from this website – https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/BeyondThePhotography/CrewEarthObservationsVideos/. I didn’t set out to do this, but I think you won’t see any views of the United States here. That feels like a timely reminder for me and my fellow citizens, that the world doesn’t actually revolve around us.

So talk to me
So tell me how it goes with you in these dark days
Before the dawn
And stay with me
Believe me when I say to you it’s coming soon
Keep holding on

There must be a reason why we carry on
We’re here a little while and then we’re gone
There, there, it’s alright, it’s just life

What a waste is there of exquisite things
The young are the food of war
We are just a mote of dust

Oh sing to me
Open up your soul and let the truth fly free
Into the night
Be not afraid
The killers have no power over shining stars
And rising suns

There must be a reason why we carry on . . .

If I hadn’t rolled my window down
I’d never have seen his smile
And he was just a homeless man

There must be a reason why we carry on . . . 

Normal

I’ll be 43 this week. And still, I’m writing songs like this one, processing my childhood and the life that grew from it.

We are all shaped by histories we had little to no control over. Our agency grew as we did. Looking back at my history, some things seem especially strange now that felt completely normal then, as that was the only reality I knew in my short life span.

But of course I’m not unique in this. It’s a human thing.

There are several facets to the idea of “normal” in this song. There’s what I mentioned already – that what feels normal when you’re born into it can look anything but normal in retrospect.

Another facet for me, because of my particular history, is that I’ve struggled with feeling like a normal person much of my life – in two very different ways. First, when I was growing up inside fundamentalism, I learned that we the faithful were the chosen ones. We were “a peculiar people” and that wasn’t supposed to sound funny – because it was in the Bible, King James Version, which was the most highly regarded and the one I grew up with.

(We also believed that everyone outside our construct was destined to eternal damnation, burning forever in a literal hell. Sometimes I wonder if the “chosen people” idea was a way to help us cope with the horror of this belief. If you are constantly reminded that your “unsaved” family, friends, neighbors, grocery cashier, letter carrier, etc., etc., are doomed to that kind of suffering unless you can somehow convince them to join your club – I mean church – it might help to imagine them as somehow a lesser being than you are. Maybe they won’t feel the pain like you would. In this case I wouldn’t exactly call our outlook on “the unsaved” dehumanization because I think we were imagining ourselves as slightly above genuine humanity. We were “reborn,” “converted” – humanity plus. But it probably had a similar effect on our outlook.)

So that was one side of my struggle with feeling normal, the one I lived with while growing up in that environment.

The other side has been in the years since, exiting from fundamentalism, and feeling like an outsider trying to learn a new culture. For a long time I didn’t feel legitimate, because I had missed out on so many of the experiences that were common to my generation’s growing-up years. I don’t have memories associated with the music and movies of my generation, because I wasn’t allowed to listen to that music or go to theaters. I was married before I was even offered my first drink. The wildest oats I sowed was an all-[cis, straight] girls strip-and-run through the woods in my college years. Once. I think we might have howled at the moon for extra tension release.

Deeper than that, I just didn’t learn the everyday street-smarts that many people get growing up in a less sheltered environment. I was naive, shy, fearful. All those years of working hard to keep a long list of rules had ill-prepared me to live in a world where the rules weren’t always so clear, if they existed at all. I went into every situtation wanting to know what was expected of me, what I needed to do to make people like me, and I couldn’t always figure it out.

Only in very recent years have I learned that in most situations, there just isn’t a list of expectations for me to check off. There’s nobody standing by with a clipboard grading me. I don’t have to perform in order to be deemed a real live human being. I just am. And so is everyone else. I’m nothing special, and I’m the only me there ever was or will be. And the same goes for you.

That’s what I mean by normal, at least as I was writing this, my song for week 42 of #songaweek2018: (Wow, only ten weeks left!) The suggested theme was “socks,” so I stuck in some socks for good measure.

I used to live in Indiana
In a trailer park on the edge of town
There was a field where we ran and played
And I liked to pick Queen Anne’s Lace

It was normal, all so normal
Like shoes and socks, baby dolls and blocks
And black and white TV

I used to pledge allegiance to the Bible
And the flags of my faith and country
Every morning at the Christian school
Where they gave us all the answers

It was normal, all so normal
I was good as gold, did what I was told
And I won a lot of trophies

That was a long time ago
I still don’t know what I don’t know

I’ve moved a dozen times since then
Geographically, theologically
I own a single-family detached dwelling
And I took my trophies to the thrift store

This is normal, all so normal
I’m a bona fide, genuine
I have always been and I will always be
like every one of you looking back at me,
An honest-to-God human being.

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

Talk About the Weather

This song started with an idea I saved on my phone in August, which ended up being most of the melody and one line of the lyrics (“talk about the weather while I pull myself together”).

In trying to fill out this idea, I read back through my journal for the year and came across a dream I had shortly after being at my friend Troy’s funeral. That became the second verse.

I had a tune idea for the chorus but couldn’t come up with any words, so I searched through the public domain poems I’ve got filed away for possible writing use, and decided on “What If You Slept?” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is italicized in the song lyrics below.

This is another song that certainly needs more work, but I’m not sure whether I’ll ever come back to it. Week 40 of #songaweek2018 was a week of getting the job done, not making a masterpiece!

It has turned out to fit well with this week’s weather though. And as always, I’m glad I took the time to write.

Today I feel I’ve said it all before
So let’s just talk about the weather while I pull myself together
My big ideas are a bigger bore
But how bout all this rain that’s falling?
Is it cold enough for you?

I dreamed my heart got buried with my friend
and that I didn’t even know it but that’s why I was stoic when they
Laid him down in the April ground
And how bout all this rain that’s falling?
Is it cold enough for you?

What if you slept and what if
In your sleep you dreamed

And what if in your dream
You went to heaven and there plucked
A strange and beautiful flower . . .

Some days all we can do is make it through
Just smile and talk about the weather try to keep it all together
Why is it home looks better when you’ve left
And how bout all this rain that’s falling
Is it cold enough for you?

. . .and what if when you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?