09 December 2009


It is snowing again, tiny fast flakes that blow in all directions, make a shhhhhhh noise as they blow across each other and off the roof, not so much falling as spiraling.

This is not sticky snow, this is sugar snow and the trees are wondering where it is going, why it is not piling on their branches, why it is leaving the bark bare. It is just not that kind of snow.

I have been in a funk I guess, a musical memory this weekend raked coals for me, got me down into my raw places where I hang out with various forms of regret and nostalgia in some sort of nearly unavoidable self-archeology.

When jeff died, I listened to music a lot. I lived in a small place and I would lie there and watch the sky out of the windows and listen to music. It's how I made it through those nights that first year. I listened to some great music, but I listened over and over. Patty Griffin, Deb Talan. Oh, Deb was my constant companion, a great songwriter, a voice that could be a friend's, and lyrics that caught me up in story and felt familiar.

I stopped listening to music after that for a long, long while, stopped the deliberate listening of singer songwriter stuff, instead I was all npr all the time. Music was too evocative and I simply avoided it in some harebrained attempt at keeping it together.

Then, like all evolution, I slowly started listening more, but have not sought out my own. I listen to what is playing or change the station if I have to. And then two friends sent specific songs for me to listen to in this past week, songs that really mattered. And another sent a wonderful playlist from the art workshop last summer. And then, I started to download some music. Started to listen a little. Trying to open myself up to that true and deep pleasure. My writing has always benefited from music, it is as if it pulls words out of me, helps me with rhythm... And so....

So last weekend, I was playing with Pandora, and a Deb Talan song came on that was one from back then, and I said to myself I am a grown up, I can handle this, it is beautiful, it is music. But I was wrong, it is not just music. It has been playing in my head in an endless loop since. And with it, up comes this buried (not so deeply apparently) sadness and loneliness and regret as if I had saved a pocket of it just for this moment.

Oddly, I never read the lyrics until just now finding it for you. I just listened. I guess now that I read it, it is not at all surprising I've been laid out by it. "makes you limp and sway". Yes, yes it does.

Deb Talan, Unravelling
You tie your shoes too tight, you know
cause it feels better that way.
And when you don't, all night you are dreaming
you walk, laces streaming down the street behind you.

A river of tangled string
you are unraveling
and no one else seems to mind.
You keep it to yourself, stay numb and act fine.
You wear the truth under your sole, like a pebble
it makes you limp and sway
but it will out someday.

Take it from me it is no use
washing your hands so often they are clean and cracked.
You never get your old skin back
once you have loved like that
you're a river of tangled string...

He is inside you, he loved your marrow.
You think you could cut him out with a knife
if you went deep enough
I don't think so.
Maybe sing him back to living
'cause he might rise like a snake in a basket
or he may close his eyes
and wait till his life is a full-fledged casket, floating on
a river of tangled string...


B. said...

Music has always been the big memory-prodder in my life. Good and bad experiences come to life in my mind's eye when I hear the soundtrack of those days.

I don't know what to say, but hope you let yourself be soft for a moment.

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Dirk said...

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

John Cusack (High Fidelity)

Sarah said...

wouldn't it be nice and tidy if that whole "closure" myth was a real thing, and you could just grieve, get it over with, and move on? or maybe that's a sad idea, and there is something about the doors that open to the pain through memories and music etc. that allow it to continue to mean something? i don't know which is worse sometimes.

Pundelina said...

oh Kate, that song is so so sad. No wonder it loops in you.

I wish grief was easier and sometimes, but not often, I wish music were less evocative. Like now.


Michele said...

Music has such a deep impact on our psyches I think... I know for me, one song can evoke a lifetime ago.

Sending hugs...

Jem said...

Deb Talon really sums it up. Thanks for turning us on to such a beautiful musician!

It's okay for you to wallow a bit. Be good to yourelf. Ooops, I meant be good to yourself! Freudian slip?

Anonymous said...

musical memories can be so intense...

Mad Hatter said...

That song goes right to the core. I felt raw just reading it.
Take care of you.

IF Optimist, then... said...

I think that music is one of the few things that can both take us to the pinnacles of joy--raised hairs on the back of our neck with goosebumps blazing, and also strip us bare--exposing everything, raw, leaving nothing but bones and sinew.

Using music to meditate, to hypnotize yourself, to calm your soul is so right during your tragic time. It shows me yet again the wonderful person you are. I'm not actually familiar with the artist you mention, but her lyrics are haunting. It's good that her song was a companion for that time. It is also completely understandable that it is still too strong for your heart now.

May I suggest a few things to listen to this week to lift your heart?

Beethoven's 9th symphony
"The Firebird Suite" by Stravinsky

With much love and admiration--Traci