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

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

Save Your Sadness for a Sunny Day

I feel a little like a cheater. And a lot like privileged. I spent Easter Sunday afternoon stretched out in the sun on my brother-in-law’s deck in Denver. No jacket, bare feet. I got a sunburn, so I guess there’s some justice for you.

But now, I’m dutifully back in Saint Paul, under gray skies, watching snow pile up outside, thankful for a few sunny days stolen in Colorado, where some of my March-in-Minnesota melancholy did indeed melt away.

My inspiration for writing this song (for week 13 of #songaweek2018) was taking a walk on a gray day, thinking about the cliche “save it for a rainy day” – and how that doesn’t make much sense here where gray/snowy/rainy days can be so common, so maybe it’s better to save up something for a sunny day – and since lots of gray days can bring on sadness for me, maybe I could save up that sadness, push off the full feeling of it till a sunny day when I could let it all hang out and see it melt away. (I think I sort of inverted the idea of the Jayhawks’ song “Save it for a Rainy Day”!)

Save your sadness for a sunny day
Hang your heartache out in the breezy blue
Let the melancholy melt away
Lift your lamentation off your chest

Whiteout
Hard-nosed ice
Steely sleet
Driving rain

Save your sadness for a sunny day
Hang your heartache out in the breezy blue
Let the melancholy melt away
Lift your lamentation off your chest

Gray skies
Paralyze
Heavy light
Leaden limbs

Save your sadness for a sunny day
Hang your heartache out in the breezy blue
Let the melancholy melt away
Lift your lamentation off your chest

Birds sing
Anyway
Branches reach
Treetops sway

Love’s Gonna Rise Again

Be the love you wish to feel in the world.

I believe in the infinite power of love, and I also believe that I can’t just wait around for love to rise and save the world. Love will always rise again. And I can be one of many who give it legs. Even when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Especially then.

Here’s my song for week 47 of #songaweek2016. Apologies for its very rough draftiness. I wanted to finish early this past week so I could enjoy my parents’ visit for Thanksgiving (which I did!).

When the ugly words of angry men come screaming on the wind
Love’s gonna rise again
When the comfortable complacent ones keep keeping quiet
love’s gonna rise again
when you can barely believe it, keep singing anyway
love’s got to rise again
when you can’t really feel it, keep hanging on anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

out of the mud, out of the ruins
out of the rotten remains
love’s gonna rise again

when you lay her down into the ground and feel your heart stop
love’s gonna rise again
when days are dark and nights are long and cold sets in
love’s gonna rise again
when you can’t see the point, get out of bed anyway
love’s got to rise again
when all seems lost, keep reaching out anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

love paints the world in vibrant colors and sings in many voices
love’s gonna rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

One Year in a Minnesota Prairie Town

This is a cycle of poems I wrote while living in my hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota, a few years ago. Today, a snowy gray day in February (my least favorite month, even here in my new town in Colorado), I found myself thinking of the winter poems here, and hoping in the spring and summer – thankful for the continuing growth and change of seasons.

One Year in a Minnesota Prairie Town

Early Winter

George MacDonald said

“Winter is only a spring too weak and feeble for us to see that it is living.”

So where is the end of the year?

The seasons, like space,

Appear to have no boundaries

But, turning and turning,

Move all life along some invisible thread.

Mid Winter

I almost forgot

And nearly remembered

In between sleeps

Late Winter

Hoary white

Frozen forgetting

Pewter-skied afternoon.

A filmy burning eye

Distant low

Blurs unfeelingly

To darkness.

Underground

Embryos stir

Ever so slightly

Unfolding.

Early Spring

Before departure

The snow expands

To jagged chunks of salt and sand.

When it recedes

Instead of seashells

We find

Trash and lost things.

Mid Spring

There’s an afternoon time and a garden place

Where the sun warms me well

Well,

The sun,

And you –

Peeking up at me

Poking through soil

Perennial but new.

Late Spring

Might be the last morning this yellow-haired girl

Pushes this primary-blue baby doll stroller

Might be the last day she calls this woman mommy

Buds and branches

Are opening to flowers.

Blossoms and baby fat

Are ripening to fruit.

Early Summer

Now the serpent was subtle

The woman was stupid

The man was absent

And that’s how the world went to hell

They told me.

Here

In the sunlight

All the colors weave a mothering warmth

I believe I’m being born again

Don’t tell them.

Mid Summer

Barefoot

Pregnant

In the garden

She is not holy,

She is living.

Late Summer

Late summer is ragtime

The ragweed is a woody-stemmed shrub

The flowers sprawl in their raggedy gardens

The air is ragged with rasping cicadas

What was delight in spring

Sweet satisfaction at mid-summer

Now is overkill

A glaring beauty with too much makeup

Overpowering perfume

Gaudy clothes

And weary eyes.

If it didn’t all fall down

And sleep a while

Life would never last.

Early Autumn

Come in, come in.

Time to wash

And undress

Time to fire up the stove

Simmer down slow

Time for your bath.

All summer

You’ve been out in the sun

And the rain and the wind

Now it’s time to come in

Time to snuggle down

In your jar in the pantry.

Mid Autumn

Breathe

Remember

Hope.

Let fading leaves fade

Let dying light die

Embrace this moment

Though it chills and darkens everything.

If you hold the fire of summer’s sun

In the pit of your soul

You’ll survive

Till it warms your face again.

Late Autumn

This is where we have trouble with names.

Beyond the harvest holiday

We sing of jingle bells

Demand snowflakes.

Autumn shrugs, sighs

And leaves the room.

Children and Snow

On this first day of spring, my brother’s wife is laboring to birth the last of my parents’ grandchildren. This child will probably get a new name today, but for the last nine months he has been Baby Omega.

On this first day of spring, I am bundled in layers and confronted with a cold snowy world outside my window.

These things have me thinking about how children are like snow.

Both children and snow are a beautiful inconvenience. Both are a gift that comes when it pleases, or when God pleases, or the forces of nature and life, or random blind chance, or some crazy-quilt mix of these, depending on who you ask.

Both start as romantically anticipated events, at least to some of us – those who wish for white Christmases, those who dream of a baby cooing in the cradle in the new house we just bought.

The first snow is magic and mystery, and so is each new baby. The world hushes, slows, becomes one eternal sacred moment.

Then the snow hardens to ice chunks, soils itself with sand and salt and animal droppings, and generally gets in our way. The baby wakes us up every night, spits up on our clothes and our furniture, grows teeth and bites us.

The winter wears on and we settle in to the new reality. We read more books, go skiing, build snowmen, drink hot cocoa. We wake when the baby wakes, which is no longer a shock to the system. The babies grow, and we accept the relentless school-night routine (dinner, clean-up of kids dishes table floor, bath, storytime, prayers, kisses, lights-out, drink of water, lights-out, comfort for nine-year-old’s existential fears, lights-out, comfort for six-year-old’s scary dream, lights-out . . . ) as our basic reality, just like we accept that we can’t run barefoot outside in the snow (though our children don’t always concur).

We dream of summer. We dream of empty-nest years. Middle-aged couples in the child-free restaurant booth near ours (the one with children chattering about Phineas and Ferb and parents droning, “sit down!” and “say ‘excuse me!'”) look as exotic to us as the posters for Jamaica hung in the icicle-bedecked windows of the travel agency downtown.

The snow is going nowhere, though the calendar says it’s spring. The children seem to be in no hurry either.

But every day has moments that catch us off-guard with their goodness. The color of the light on the snow at sunset, the waking adult we glimpse in the graceful stride of our golden-haired daughter.

The days and the years carry on. One day the snow is more absent than present, the child’s life is lived more out of our home than in it. All of us are refreshed by the spring, with its sprouts and sunshine, this new season of our lives ripe with energy and possibilities.

But then winter, with its gifts we never asked for, gifts we never did experience as well as we could have, softens in our memories, and we are just a little sad that we never officially said goodbye to the snow, even as it faded right in front of us.

The Dark

Time for some poetry.

the dark
© 1/28/09 Julia Tindall Bloom

here comes the dark
warm and womblike
out pop the stars
above our heads
we sip our wine
sing a little more
kiss and settle in

here comes the dark
a blanket wrapped around us
we light candles
around the room
make hot cocoa
read stories with the children
drift drowsily to dreamy sleep

here comes the dark
a hungry wolf outside these walls
i plod to bed on heavy feet
weary of all these clothes
escaping to dreamless sleep
holding out

in my mind’s eye
sunlit green
in the earth’s heart
wrinkled seeds
kept for the moment

here comes the sun
a little earlier each day
lingering longer every night
i hear a low far-off train whistle
remember robins
and smile.