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Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

I started writing this song for week 25 of #songaweek2018 from the center of a Nerf gun battlezone. I was the lone adult at home while my son and three of his cousins took up their battle stations and went at it. That morning was the lull in a busy week, and the best time I could find to work on songwriting.

Earlier in the week, the amur maple in our front yard broke irreparably in a summer storm. The next day, my brother-in-law and his family came to visit for several days, and one day we all went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. My kids were eager to show their cousins a certain painting I’ve previously showed them, where if you look closely enough in a dark place in the woods, you can see the profiles of two ghostly faces, the remnants of another painting underneath the more visible one.

And running through everything last week, the horrendous news of my government thinking it’s a good idea to separate children from their parents – and doing it, to thousands of families. I haven’t had anything to say because it feels a little like saying the earth orbits the sun, or things we drop fall because of gravity, or everyone needs food, water, and sleep. Children belong with their parents. Tearing families apart is abominable immigration policy.

I wasn’t consciously thinking about this news story when I wrote this song, but it was keeping me up at night, throbbing like an unnoticed alert at the back of my head, a perpetual lump in my throat. I am both a child and a parent, and this action of my government leaves me breathless.

So as my mind and heart were processing all that in the background, I wrote into this song a baby, a tiny hand, the trusting heart of a child, the courageous heart of a parent embarking on an impossible journey into a better day for their children. What’s happening at our southern border isn’t what this song is about, but the heartlessness of my government towards people trying to cross that border has directly and indirectly added countless lives to the numbers of the fallen, the fading, the lost. (And it’s been going on a long time. Start here for an introduction to the US Border Patrol’s scheme of “Prevention Through Deterrence.”)

The very last line of the last verse, “into the fray,” was inspired by my friend Jen Bluhm’s song “Into the Fray,” which I learned was taken from a poem which came from the movie  The Grey. Which relates a bit to the line about the painting as well – that so much creative work exists, and has existed – so much good work that will never hang in a museum or get a million views or a thousand plays or even a second glance. So much is fading, so much is lost – and yet, it all – all of us, our works and actions and interactions – are expanding this mysterious circle of life.

All of the above are my reflections on what was influencing me as I wrote this song. I’ve been using these blog posts expressly for that purpose – to talk about the background of the songs I’m writing – but sometimes I think talking too much about the origin of a song can take away from the experience of listening to it with your own ears and perspective.

So here’s the song, in its own words, for your own listening ears and thoughtful consideration.

I held the edge of the universe
It sighed like a baby
And slept in my arms
I heard the very last note of the concert
They played at the end of all things
Then I lifted my voice

How many the fallen, the fading, the lost
Expanding the circle of life

The tree that broke in the thunderstorm
Will crumble to soil
And grow living things
The painting speaking to me from the wall
Keeps past lives under its skin

How many the fallen, the fading, the lost
Expanding the circle of life

The morning holds out her tiny hand
And begs to go walking
Into the day
You know you never can tell what’s beyond
the horizon but you go willingly
into the fray

How many the fallen, the fading, the lost
Expanding the circle of life

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Last Sunday we trekked over to Minneapolis to see my daughter and her friend – and lots of other revellers – in the annual MayDay parade put on by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. While watching, I thought, this might be Bloomington Avenue’s favorite day of the year, when for a few hours cars aren’t allowed and the street gets to feel dancing feet and music and laughter and the best things about the people in its neighborhood celebrating the return of spring.

Then later that day I looked up the suggested theme for week 19 of #songaweek2018, and lo and behold! it was “streets.” And so I wrote this song and made a video with footage I took while watching the parade. I’ll probably never actually perform this song, may never even revisit it, but it was fun to put it together.

Well aint you the lively one
Aint you the lovely one
There is something different about you today
The people of the city look good on you
Extracted from their cars

Bloomington Avenue look at you shine!
decked out in your Mayday finest
No more snowy white coat
And just for now
For a couple bright hours on a Sunday afternoon
Filled with dancing flowers, stilt-walkers and balloons
We can hear your heart beat

beautiful feet dancing over you
Drums reverberating off of you
Music and laughter and color everywhere
The only tires are bicycle tires

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I started writing week 8’s song for #songaweek2018 while standing in front of my son’s middle school as school let out and crowds of vibrant young people walked past me, just days after the latest mass shooting, which once again happened at a school. I thought, “let all these children be healed.”

That line morphed into “let all these children believe . . .” and you can hear the rest of it below.

Often (unless I’m writing a fun/goofy song) I try to spread my words in layers, make things subtle, pack the lines with depth so everything isn’t right there on the surface for an easy takeaway from the first listen. But this time I found myself bucking that habit and writing something more straightforward.

Creating art inspired by or expressing a political or controversial idea is a challenge. I want to make music, not propaganda. I want to appeal to common humanity and shared experience/empathy, not set up false dichotomies or overly sentimentalize. I want to make a case for what I see as important, but not be preachy. All of that was in my mind as I wrote this song.

Ultimately, my hope is that we as a culture will listen to our youth, and that they can be confident that we are listening, that we care, that we aren’t brushing aside their descriptions of their lived experience – and that we are willing to reconsider some things, including gun regulations, in light of what they say to us.

In the days even since I wrote this song, I’ve been encouraged by what I’m seeing and hearing in our country – a rising tide of concern from people of varying political stripes, companies breaking ties with the NRA, politicians’ feet held to the fire – and much of it driven by young people who aren’t even old enough to vote yet. Maybe these children are turning my first lyric idea for this song on its head, and by their activism, helping us all to be healed.

Let all these children believe
that when we lose them we grieve
and that we care more than we’ve been letting on

Let all their sad hearts be cheered
that love is stronger than fear
and no amusement’s too dear to be let go

But we’ll lower the flag have a moment of silence
Discuss mental illness and virtual violence
And when all has been dutifully said and done
We’ll get right back on out there and play with our guns

Let these courageous young minds
teach us to change with the times
and not be willfully blind to what they show

Let these new voices be heard
Let’s hear their hearts and their words
and not be hard and unstirred by what they say

If we just lower the flag have a moment of silence
Discuss mental illness and virtual violence
And blithely decide that our work here is done
We’re just impotent citizens with fancy guns

Let all these beautiful ones
be treasured more than our guns

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Day 43 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

In 2015 my firstborn started middle school. We’ve loved that both schools our kids have attended while we’ve lived here have been walking distance from home. We also loved that at Bill Reed, Luthien started playing cello and enjoyed attending orchestra as part of her classroom schedule every day.

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She also joined yearbook club and played volleyball this year.

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The 7:25 am start time was not a favorite, nor was the predictable middle school social drama; and we felt her sadness both years when she tried out and didn’t get into the spring play – but we still loved going to all the plays because they were so well done. All in all, these have been good sixth and seventh grade years for my girl and I’m thankful she got to attend this school.

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Day 38 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

This is my favorite thing about Loveland today.

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My parents are here! Just got in this evening for a three-day visit. Our house is one happy place tonight 🙂

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Day 35 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

 

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One Saturday morning a year ago or maybe two, we happened to be walking downtown as a family when we saw a sign reading “Stone Age Fair” with an arrow pointing towards the Pulliam Community Building. We were curious so we followed the arrows which led us to the basement of this interesting old building, a 1930s-era WPA project that has been neglected in recent years but still hosts events occasionally.

What we found was a basement full of tables filled with artifacts and arrowheads and archaeologists, amateur and accomplished alike. Enthusiasts had come from all over the country to share their finds and meet and greet one another and the public. And my kids dove into a huge box of artifacts they could take for free, which they added to their rock collection pictured above. Silas remembers that he filled his pockets so full his pants were falling down on the walk home!

The Stone Age Fair is free and open to the public and has been happening since 1934. In its second year, it was attended by 10,000 people! There weren’t nearly that many in the basement of the Pulliam Building, but it was a fun time nevertheless.

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Day 34 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

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Here’s another sculpture just around the corner from our house. This one stands facing the studio of its sculptor, Mark Lundeen. The kids like to stop and look in the cup for loose coins (there are sculpted ones in it already), or sometimes they’ll put coins in it. It’s a pretty elaborate “take a penny leave a penny” container!

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