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It’s a bit hard to believe, but here I am posting the very last week’s song for #songaweek2018. Week 52’s suggested theme was “forest” and I did find a way to use it.

I stole a morning from a busy Christmas week schedule (played hooky from two of our numerous extended family events) and wrote this song, which was obviously influenced by the intense week of socializing!

Happy new year to all, and to all a quiet night 😉

I can’t see anything
Not the forest or the trees
just trying to catch my breath
And let it go again
You can’t say anything
That could make me lose my nerve
I’m just going to catch my breath
And let it go again

I’m living
I’m living
I’m living here

False starts and broken hearts
Somehow keep true love alive
You’ve just got to catch your breath
And let it go again

I’m living . . . now

Halfway to the end
think I’ll start again

Now I see everything
All the forest all the trees
just when I catch my breath
I let it go again
You can say anything
still won’t make me lose my nerve
I know how to catch my breath
And let it go again

I’m living . . . here

Each day brings songs to sing
hands to hold and roads to run
Just let me catch my breath
And let it go again

I’m living . . . now

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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

 

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

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

November Psalm 2

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted a song called “November Psalm.” Last month on a personal retreat, I reread  God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, and was newly moved by it. This month I finished listening to season three of the podcast Serial, which follows the justice system in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, for one year. And currently Nathan and I are watching Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War, which often feels like a nightmare before we go to bed.

These are all, to some extent, influences on the song I wrote for week 47 of #songaweek2018. The suggested theme for the week was “justice.” Life is – and always has been – torn up with suffering and death, so much of it senseless and unjust, so many lives seemingly forgotten, moments of agony buried beyond human memory.

But not, I believe, beyond the memory, presence, love – and redemption – of God, who John F. Haught in God After Darwin calls “the boundlessly redemptive future” (I added the bold font below for emphasis):

The fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution now appear, in the perspective of faith, to have always been seeded with promise. From its very beginning this extravagantly experimental universe has been bursting with potential for surprising future outcomes. And the undeniable fact that life, mind, culture, and religion have emerged out of the barely rippled radiation of the primordial universe gives us every reason to suspect that the cosmos may still be situated no less realistically within the framework of promise than of tragedy. Even prospects of eventual cosmic doom are not enough to defeat the proposal that nature’s present indeterminacies are the repository of promise. The so-called “heat death” that may be awaiting the universe is not inconsistent with the notion that each moment of the entire cosmic process is taken perpetually into, and preserved everlastingly in, the boundlessly redemptive future that faith names as God.

Leaves flash and fade
Trees fall asleep
Ice puts down roots
But not as deep
As my love for you
That cannot be erased
As hope and beauty
And unrelenting grace
Selah

Days come and go
Night wears on
Cold comes to stay
But not as long
As my love for you
That burns eternally
As peace and justice
That set the captive free
Selah

Worlds form and die
Stars breathe their last
Time marches on
But never past
My love for you
That never can forget
My heart holds you
And never will forget
Selah

Let the Mystery Be

Last week (week 46 of #songaweek2018) was a disorienting blur for me. My laptop – which has become a sort of exterior brain that I depend on daily – needed repair and was out for most of the week. My main guitar wouldn’t hold tune very well so I dropped it off for some badly-needed routine maintenance. These are the two solitary items I’ve actually named when asked, “what would you grab and run with if your house started on fire?”

But I still had my classical guitar and a pen and notebook, and a few hours one day to write a song. It came together pretty quickly. Not one of my favorites of the year, but I felt pretty good at the end of my writing session.

Then the next day I was rehearsing the song and my son yelled from the other room, “Mom! You’re stealing another song!” He sang back to me the exact melody and rhythm I was singing for my first two lines. They were identical to Carly Rae Jepsen’s first two lines of “Call Me Maybe.”

I already had a sense that parts of the chorus were derivative of other songs, and knew that overall, the chords and rhythm were very simple and stock. I debated whether to change the melody of those particular lines, and decided that yes, even if legally I didn’t have an issue, artistically I did. Especially when I sang the song for my daughter later (who wasn’t around when my son made his observation), and she identified the same song with no hesitation when I asked, “does this remind you of another song?”

Ugh. I’m not happy with any alternative I tried for those two lines of melody, including what I sang for the recording. Good work, Carly Rae. That’s a catchy tune you came up with.

The lyrics are about those ineffable experiences we’ve all had – dreams, visions, moments of insight – that can’t be put into words, and that call us forward into the future, outward from our comfortable existence, onward to the next and the new.

Saturday I had both my laptop and guitar back, and employed them together to make this video.

I had a dream in the dark
It made a beautiful mark
In that moment between sleep and waking
But if I try to explain
It’d come out mangled and maimed
All of the treasure consumed in the taking
Shook in the shaking out

Let it live in peace
Let it live in me
Let the silence breathe
Let the mystery be
For another day

There’s things you’ve seen and heard
Can’t ever put into words
But when you’ve talked it all through they keep speaking
There’s music nobody wrote
More than the sum of its notes
The heart of every atom is beating
Faithfully keeping time

Set the music free
To sing in you and me
Let the silence breathe
Let the mystery be
For another day

Some things I’ll take to my grave
But that is not where they’ll stay
They’ll sprout and grow
and blossom and bloom
and wither and fade away

And scatter their seeds
Beyond you and me
Who in the silence breathe
Let the mystery be
For another day