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I Could Be Wrong

I used to scoff at my brother-in-law for being a vegetarian. Now I mostly eat vegan.

When Bill Clinton was elected president while I was in high school, I was afraid the world might end. In 2016 I voted for Hillary.

I’ve argued about all sorts of theological and philosophical points over the course of my life, most adamantly against some of the very things I used to believe myself.

I changed my college major three times.

I planned to not have children. Now I have two.

For a while I thought I was done with organized religion. Now I sing in my church choir.

I used to wear my hair like this:

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As Paul Simon sang, “I was wrong, and I could be wrong again.” (“Sure Don’t Feel Like Love,” from his album Surprise which that girl in the photo may not have liked but I happen to love.)

“Family” was the theme for week six of #songaweek2018. I didn’t have much interest in working with that theme, as I feel like already half my songs are family-related and it’s not even anyone’s birthday or anniversary or Mother’s or Father’s Day this week!

I built this song from the first two lines which I’ve been storing in my “scraps and starters” list for years. And now that it’s finished, I think there’s a lot of “family” going on around this song after all.

Last week the Super Bowl came to Minneapolis, and for that reason Westboro Baptist Church chose my hometown of Owatonna, which is on the freeway 70 miles south of Minneapolis, as a Sunday morning stop on their way to agitate at the big game. They demonstrated at a number of churches during Sunday morning services, including the one my in-laws attend.

I don’t agree with Westboro Baptist. I also don’t agree with my in-laws and their church on some things. But our extended family across the country joined them to pray for that morning, and my father-in-law reflected to us afterwards in a text message:

Much has happened in me spiritually through this. Pride comes so subtly. Grace comes so abundantly from God and [God] wants us to have that same grace. God is even changing me.

Do you hear that? That humble and gracious attitude? That’s the stuff that keeps extended families coming back together despite all kinds of differences.

We can always find ways we don’t see eye-to-eye with other people, including our own family and friends – and including our own past and (if we could foresee) future selves!  But if we can keep this attitude of grace, of “I could be wrong,” it’s easier to see heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, human-to-human. And that’s where and how real change happens anyway.

It’s okay to lay our weapons down. We can still hold strongly to our beliefs and values, and even talk about them with people who disagree. We just don’t really need those weapons of pride, guilt and shame, bitterness, contempt . . . they never work well at getting the point across anyway. They become the point, and everybody loses.

And besides, that thing you think and feel so strongly today, may just end up on your future self’s cutting room floor. But better that than another person.

I used to get injured more often
back when everything had a point
I went around hammering nails into coffins
at least I think I did
at least I thought I did
but I could be wrong

I used to go throwing my lot in
with the causes I fervently felt
These days I feel lots of nothing
at least I think I do
at least I feel that’s true
but I could be wrong

How many miles must I walk in your shoes
until I can feel your soul?
How many words should I leave unsaid
so I can finally hear you?

I’m starting to sense I’ve been spinning forever
orbiting the light
Sometimes I’m stupid, but sometimes I’m clever
at least I think I am
at least I hope I am
but I might be wrong

Winning the war isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
Conquerors can’t afford love
So I’ll stand in my faith and I’ll lay down my weapons
Cause I could be wrong.

 

 

 

 

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Lie to Me

To be frank, writing week five’s song for #songaweek2018 was not among my favorite songwriting experiences. The theme was “lies” and I just wasn’t feeling it, but I had nothing else in mind so I decided to work with it anyway.

I did love basking in the warm sunbeams radiating through my south-facing windows as I wrote, and feeling/hearing the warm tones of my old classical guitar as I focused on more intentional finger-picking than is my usual habit.

The lyrics are only minutely autobiographical, but that’s something I love about songwriting. I’ll probably never write a novel, but I’ve created plenty of stories – and characters – through my songs. “Write what you know” is good advice, but it’s not exhaustive.

I think this may be the first time I’ve posted a video made exclusively with my phone. It was late when I was ready to record and I wasn’t feeling terribly interested in taking it further, so it was adequate for this week.

Lie to me
lay the words
down like snow
cold white melting in the light

Say you care
like you care
hold me close
locked tight secrets in the night

Now I
have had
enough
of this

Look at me
face the truth
you plus me
will not ever add up

Baptism

This year the #songaweek2018 group has a prompt word every week. For week four, I used the prompt for the first time. The word was “water.” Here’s the song:

Mother of Exiles

This is a song I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. I think the desire started about the time I realized the Trump campaign, with its hatefulness toward immigrants and others, was no joke. And it’s only grown during his presidency, which has sadly, ill-advisedly, continued that tone.

While Uncle Sam points gruffly out from posters declaring “I want you!” to the fittest and finest, another American symbol, the “mighty woman with a torch,” invites the least and the last. Like my own mother, she’s confident that she can always come up with enough for anyone who shows up at her door – and that her home will be enriched by every person she welcomes into it.

Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty, provided the lyrics for my song this week, the third week of #songaweek2018. The images in the video are all public domain or creative commons licensed, with attributions noted in the video description in case you’d like to take a closer look or see more from any of the artists or photographers.

Enjoy this video. Take a look at America the beautiful.

This May my love and I will be celebrating our twentieth anniversary. I can still remember that feeling of terror mixed with hope the day before our wedding. Like running towards a cliff, knowing I’m going to have to jump. I read this week that Ray Bradbury once said, “go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” That’s a fitting description of marriage, I think.

My song for week two of #songaweek2018 reflects on my own marriage and any long-term committed relationship. I feel I must say upfront, this is a song, using metaphor, to describe the ups and downs of love. When I say “love is prison, love is refuge, trap and sanctuary,” I am not condoning abuse, or for that matter, the expectation that my partner will provide me with refuge and sanctuary.

It’s not the people in the relationship who create prison or refuge for one another – it’s love itself. Anytime you commit yourself to another person in love, you are likely to at some time feel at least a little trapped – not by the person, but by your commitment to them. And other times – and often even at the same time – that commitment is a sweet refuge.

I sang in the stairwell for the acoustic effect. Words are below the video.

 

Pins & needles in my chest

Love forever my last breath

We are really doing this

Strength today bright hope tomorrow

Road before us rough and narrow

Find me always at your side

Love is prison Love is refuge

Trap and sanctuary

Believe me

I believe you

Hide with me inside these shadows

Of our doubt

Richer poorer sickness health

This day forward till the bell tolls

Better, worse, monotonous

Year on year and day by day

Hearts on fire hearts’ dull ache

I am never letting go

Love is prison Love is refuge

Trap and sanctuary

Believe me

I believe you

Search with me deeper still

Wider yet, steady on

I Feel Like

I could only stay away for a year, I guess. Writing a song a week in 2016 was one of the highlights of my writing life, and now that we’re settled in our new digs in St. Paul, I decided to join again in 2018.

So without further ado, here’s the first song. (There’s a lag because we write and record and submit our songs in the current week, and then they are released the Sunday after that week. So this was my song for the first week, and I’m finally getting around to sharing it on my blog halfway through the second week! Week two’s song is written and I plan to record it tomorrow, and will shoot to post it here earlier next week.)

Okay I guess that was some further ado. *Now* here’s the first song:

It’s cold outside under old gray skies

and the oak leaves rustle alone

but I feel like smiling

I’m walking with my baby in the snowlit morning

and the lacy flakes drifting down

and I feel like singing

So I’m gonna sing

I’m gonna sing

The wind is severe with a serious chill

And the ice is hard underfoot

but I feel like laughing

cause after forty winters I’ve learned a few things

about dressing for the occasion

and I feel like dancing

so I’m gonna dance

I’m gonna dance

the sun’s going down but it’ll come back around

the light’s fading fast but not even that can last

be still be moved be part of this great whole

in space and time we’re breathing in

why don’t we sing? why don’t we dance?

life is a fleeting thing, might as well take a chance

Let the past go free let the present be

the gift that keeps on giving

 

 

November Psalm

November 2017 has been hard on some people in my life, and many more I don’t know. My beloved Uncle Bill died, leaving my dad the only surviving member of his immediate family. A few days later my sixth grade teacher who was also my friend’s dad died. And just last night I heard the news that another friend lost her mother. All of this as the world around me died too; leaves crumbling to dust, humans gathered for prayer in churches and mosques destroyed by guns and bombs aimed by other humans.

I wrote this song in the midst of all that loss, all that death. Which is why, I’m sure, the song insisted on quoting the Song of Songs, “love is as strong as death.” I’m going to keep believing that, and aiming to live like it’s true.

Night falls in the city

All the little creatures scurry home to bed

I’m out on the sidewalk

Rehearsing all my hopes in humankindness

Cold November comes again

I hold my candle in the wind and feel everything breathe

Trees lean over houses

Stripped and swaying in diminishing dreams

I’m barely believing

Keeping life like mindless habit

Old November sighs and moans

I drone a lullaby for wonder joy and innocence

Take heart, my soul, my mind

Take courage armed with love

For love is as strong as death, (as death) as death

I still carry the memories

Of the moments that I never understood

I’m not looking for answers

Just a knowing look from some other face

Scarred November’s not surprised

I feel familiar in her eyes

Hard November bides her time

I feel the weight of all the years

In her nonexistent tears