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Unpolished and Earthy (Blog Tour) – reblog

runningonsober:

Be sure to stop by Michelle’s to read more about her current projects and writing process. She also takes a badass photo with a chainsaw. ;) She sure has come a long way since her first Braveheart post on RoS! Congrats Michelle, we love you!

Originally posted on MamaMick:

Hey friends,

Welcome to the unpolished, earthy leg of the Blog Tour happening right now in my neck of the woods. No hiking gear required though we might need a mower (and strapping hired hand) to get us out of the weeds. More on that later.

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A huge and humble thank you to Karen at Mended Musings for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

Karen is a wife, mother, business owner and writer who inspires me daily with words of wisdom about raising a family, overcoming obstacles and doing so with love and grace. She is self-compassionate, kind and an inspiration to anyone who reads her. She writes from the heart–a Heart Teller–and she felt like an old friend the moment we connected several months ago. All of her prose is beautiful, but Buzz is my favorite. Thank you again, Karen, for including me among many other talented writers and friends.

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So…

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Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 21 (Maedez and Paul)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Maedez from A Small Press Life and Paul from Message in a Bottle. I met both of these kind, intelligent and talented bloggers when I first came into the WP space. Be sure to stop at Maedez’s space any time you want a dose of classic literature, art and interior design.You’ll be pleased with the diversity. I am so happy that I persuaded her to submit her songs. Note: she was a bit distraught about having to leave some out! Many of you already know Paul and you’ll see that his stories and songs match the wonderful man we love. I could tell immediately that he put a lot of thought into this series and he gave me some songs to add to my own playlist. I’m so happy to have Maedez and Paul here today! Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello.

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

Guitar Blues by Delade via DeviantArt

Guitar Blues by Delade via DeviantArt

~~~

Maedez (from A Small Press Life)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Papa Loves Mambo” by Perry Como

My early childhood was full of second-hand treasures, all unintentionally curated by three generations of my elders. From art to food to movies, and beyond, their wildly diverse preferences were all I knew of the world. It made for a peculiarly varied but harmonious upbringing. This was never more apparent than when it came to music. Everyone had such divergent tastes, that just flipping through their albums was an education. Mostly, I loved what they loved simply because they loved it. It was different with Perry Como, and “Papa Loves Mambo.” I listened to this song over and over, repeatedly. Obsessively. Enthusiastically. I’ll never know how many miles I covered dancing to this in my grandparents’ living room in the late 1970s. The steps were ephemeral, but I still have the memories.

Song #2:

Call Me” by Blondie

Thanks to the radio, Blondie was the first band I discovered for myself, at the ripe age of six. Whilst my mom was firmly on Team Pat Benatar, I wanted nothing more than to be Debbie Harry when I grew up. More than three decades later, not much has changed. I’m older and blonder, but Debbie is still my definition of stylish, no-holds-barred, fearless creativity.

Song #3:

Pictures of Matchstick Men” by Camper Van Beethoven

Camper Van Beethoven was the first concert I saw unencumbered by a chaperone. The blurry “under 21” stamp on my left hand looked like freedom. The legendary campus venue was as loud, dark, crowded, and dirty as I’d hoped it would be. I was sixteen, and spent the evening drinking glasses of Coke, staring at college boys, and listening to a great live set by one of my favourite bands. Alas, leaving early, like an underage Cinderella, was part of the bargain I’d made with my mom. It didn’t matter. I was cool.

Song #4:

Doll Parts” by Hole

Hole was the first band that I related to in a direct way. Courtney Love was loud, feminist, raw, and unapologetic. Her fury was like my fury; her concerns were similar to my own. She didn’t back down, and she didn’t care what anyone thought of her. The conversations she started in her songs were ones that young people my age needed to have.

Song #5:

Clash City Rockers” by The Clash

When I heard the news on the radio of Joe Strummer’s death, I wept so hard that I had to pull my car to the side of the road. A world without Joe made no sense. Like millions of other fans, The Only Band That Matters shaped me into a better person than I would have been if I’d never heard their music. I’m more aware, more compassionate, more political, and more open-minded than I was before. I’m more. As for Joe, he was more than the front man, lyricist, and rhythm guitarist of my favourite band. He was their heart. Eight years after his death, I walked out on my wedding day to “Clash City Rockers.” Another lesson learned from Strummer and Company: stay true to yourself, or don’t even bother.

Song #6:

Terms of My Surrender” by John Hiatt

John Hiatt is my big musical crush. Like my husband, he’s intelligent, witty, erudite, subversive, tall, and a bit goofy. Unlike my husband, John’s songs have been in my life since my teenage years. They’re a real-time soundtrack to my adulthood. Musically, he defies description. When someone asks me what kind of music he plays, I tell them: “John Hiatt is John Hiatt. He is his own category.” He’s brilliant.

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Chains of Love” by Erasure

Why Erasure? Let me go all fan-girl for a moment or two: Andy Bell’s voice is my favourite in all of pop music. It is made of dreams and happiness, melancholy and yearning. The depth of his instrument is as underrated as it is staggering. Vince Clarke is a synthpop wizard. Erasure is also great live: entertaining, energetic, and fun. “Chains of Love” is one of their many gems, and a reminder that equality matters even more than great music.

Maedez’s playlist:

* Maedez blogs at A Small Press Life/One Track Muse. She is from the Planet Earth.

~~~

Paul (from Message in a Bottle)

Song #1: Nessum Dorma” by Luciano Pavarotti

My father loved opera, specifically the Italian masters – Rossini, Puccini, Bellini, Verdi, etc. And the late, great tenor Pavarotti was his favourite singer. I recall my father’s record collection, and how he would play the classics every weekend. I didn’t understand the lyrics, but I was always drawn to the romping overtures, the robust arias, the enchanting choruses. There was a vibration that my young mind and body picked up on – an unspoken alliance. It was like there was this connection to something greater which I couldn’t put my finger on, but it drew me closer to it whenever I would hear the singers’ voices and the cracking of the booming orchestra. Pavarotti was my way of connecting with my father as well, as many years later as a teen, I would come back from my worldly travels with some Pavarotti album to give to my dad.

I chose this version of the popular aria (from Puccini’s Turandot) because I just love the unbridled passion that Pavarotti exudes in this performance. I don’t recall ever seeing him smile so much while singing this, and it continues to bring me goosebumps no matter how many times I watch it (and if doesn’t do the same for you, then off thee to a nunnery!) This represents the hum of innocence and pleasure of my childhood.

Song #2:

Bring The Noise” by Anthrax with Public Enemy

Picture this – teen angst already in full gear (complete with goth-like poetry to prove it), confusion, misaligned hormones and energy, all wrapped up in a ball of fear and long black hair and jet black clothing. That was me in my latter high school years. Bad dance music and 80’s pop may have ruled the airwaves, but your intrepid anti-hero here was head banging to death metal, punk and blistering gangsta rap. Like most teenagers, I had both everything and nothing to prove. I was already starting to feel isolated and ostracized, and my music choices tapped into my inner anger and my ever building resentments to everything and everyone around me.

Loud, heavy, angry and polarizing music gave me a voice, made me feel alive and hashed out what I couldn’t feel. Getting pissed off at Da Man and raging against myself was easier than looking inward and seeing the lonely hurt boy there. Years of bullying had brought me to a place where music was my numbing agent…and alcohol wasn’t far behind.

When I heard two of my favourite acts, Anthrax and Public Enemy, collaborate on this original PE piece, I almost lost my mind. It represented sheer and mammoth potential, energy and the thought that things maybe weren’t lost and hopeless as I imagine it. This song, along with it’s pounding vibes, made me forget myself. It brought me a strange serenity.

(Two points if you see a pre-Law & Order: SVU Ice-T in this video)

P.S I found out recently that Chuck D from Public Enemy is now following me on Twitter. How bleepin’ cool is THAT?

Song #3:

Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” by Blue Rodeo

The seeds of malcontent, fears and shattered self-esteem started to blossom into a finely disguised alcoholic life by the time I hit my 20’s. I used alcohol to do the things that I always dreamed of doing – talk to girls, feel normal (-ish), be social, and generally be a part of the human race. But when the buzz went away, I found my self stuck with me again. And that was horrifying.

I found myself drifting in my 20’s, in all ways. I bounced from school to school, program to program, country to country, seemingly trying to outrun my self, trying to change my environment, because I couldn’t stand being me. I hated me to the core and punished myself by drinking and wallowing in self-pity and self-loathing.

I recall hitting lots of bars in those days, not just to drink, but to listen to music. Music always seem to be my constant companion. This Blue Rodeo song seemed to strike a chord in me. It was one of those songs that I would listen to over and over again, tears in my eyes, wondering where it all went wrong. I wondered why I felt so overwhelmed, so insane, so hurt. This song was like a requiem – to me, for me. A song of loss. It was like I was mourning me, or at least, the me that was trapped in a towering inferno of beer, remorse and bitterness…a young boy still hiding in the corner. This song still haunts me, and yet, these days, brings me hope. It’s about moving on.

Song #4:

Cosa Linda y Clara” by No Te Va Gustar

My parents are from Uruguay, and until I went there with my wife years ago, I never felt a connection to my history. I wasn’t interested in knowing my roots, and yet I was. When people would ask where I’m from, I would reply “Toronto”. But they would ask where I was “really” from and I would offer up “Uruguay”, and yet I felt like a fraud for saying so. I had not real connection there. It wasn’t until our trip there and meeting some extended family did I feel something. When I saw the high school that my parents met at, and other places of their childhood, did I finally start to understand where they came from, literally and figuratively.

You see, as the years passed, my life started to disintegrate. The good times became fewer and far between and my ill state of mind / emotions and abuse of booze ensured that the bad times became more the rule rather than the exception. I didn’t know the authentic me, or what I wanted. My people pleasing was at its height and I was a factory of fear and resentments. I hated you and much as I hated me. So not having anything to chain myself to, either country or state of mind, felt normal in a way.

This song is from a Uruguayan band – No Te Va Gustar. They’re one of the biggest and more popular bands there. The bass player is an extended relative, who I had never known about until later on, so that was very cool to hear. The concert DVD (where this clip is lifted from) was a gift, and was something I played over and over again in my latter drinking days. I think it was because it represented to me a connection that I never felt I had, the connection to a homeland or some sacred ground.

This song also represented to me male camaraderie, the type I never had and still feel outside of at times. So watching this build up of the songs (it’s a combination of two songs) to the crescendo of beautiful male voices and watching the young men in the crowd be affectionate really struck home with me. It gave me hope and yet yearning. Push and pull. And it’s a wonderful song to boot.

Song #5:

Dauðalogn” by Sigur Rós

When my life came crashing down, finally, with 25 years of alcoholic drinking causing the damage that it did, I was broken beyond measure. As I started to heal in detox and treatment and finally into recovery, I allowed myself to be helped. For the first time I was letting others into my life for the sake of assisting me and getting me back on my feet. I opened myself up spiritually. They say religion is for those who fear hell, and spirituality is for those who have gone through hell. And I certainly had been to hell.

This song was released about a year or so after I got sober. I was always drawn to the song’s powerful aura, its bitter-sweetness, its symphonic inflections, its ability to stitch its way in and through me. There is a calming effect to it that attracted me. And when I saw this particular video version (there are several different ones), I practically broke down in tears. I saw myself in that one man – naked, stripped of all old ideas, bedridden, crumpled up. I saw him being resurrected, brought back to life, the stillness of the waters healing and carrying him. The blonde man, to me, represented the Light. Be He the Creator or the other men who helped me, who held my hand as I started my journey into healing, He is there. Always has been.

“Yet the noble believe
People may show hope
Through the flames I see
Now a dark boat wonder into the hope”

Song #6:

Lighthouse” by Future Islands

One of the men who helped me almost near the beginning has been my mentor and sponsor James. We couldn’t be any different, on the surface, and yet we are so very much alike. He helped me move through the recovery work and knows me like no other. And I mean that. He knows everything I have ever done in my life – bad and good. Especially the dark, disturbing, and ugly stuff. I had never talked to anyone about my life in the way that I have with him (and still do). He hugged me until I could start to like, and eventually love, myself. He moved me through trying times and always pointed me to where I needed to go. And always with respect and love, never speaking to me from a lofty place.

This song speaks to me about James, and our relationship. James and I used to have our hours long discussions on park benches, at night, usually watching kids or couples hanging out. We’d watch the leaves rustle in the wind, hear streetcars whizzing by in the distance. I disclosed my darkest secrets to me and he still stayed with me. He made me see that I wasn’t a bad man getting good, but I was a sick man getting well, that those things I did and said in the past and weren’t the real me. I was not an evil or horrific man. And that is something I needed to hear, as I told myself I was crap all my life. James was my lighthouse and has been since. He has taught me to shine as well.

It reminds me of that beautiful quote from author Anne Lamott: “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining”.

From the song:

And this is where we were, when I showed you the dark
Inside of me, in spite of me
On a bench in the park
You said to me:

“This is not you.
This is not you..
This is not you…”
~~~
I showed you the dark
And you said to me:

“You know
What you know is better
Is brighter”

(Excuse the Star Trek version of this – I love it. It might take away from the emotional poignancy of the song, but then again, it’s Captain Kirk and the gang. Don’t dispute the Captain!)

Bonus song #7:

I Believe” by R.E.M

You know what’s worse than when things stay the same all the time? It’s when things change. I know, silly, but that’s how my mind works at times. Recovery, in all the manifestations of the word (living, loving, learning) comes down to change. I hit a point in my life where change – from within and without – was critical to my living and being happy. I had to change my playgrounds and my playmates. I had to change how I thought of myself and the once big-and-scary world. I had to change my entire perspective. And I still have to continue that to this day. Nothing changes if nothing changes, as they say. Today I can choose misery or serenity. I can choose to do the things that bring me towards the light, or towards the darkness. I can choose to change so that I remain connected to the Earth and the Creator’s people.

Like you reading this right now.

R.E.M’s “I Believe” puts it in perspective for me. Hopeful, forward, cascading. It represents to me the changes that I have put into my life, and the ones to come. Even when I am resisting, I know it’s because I am fearing change. But change is how I grow. How we all grow. It’s a the reserve within that flourishes amidst the darkness and doubt. Deep down changes lets me re-write my history and future, while grounded in the present.

“Trust in your calling, make sure your calling’s true
Think of others, the others think of you
Silly rule, golden words make practice, practice makes perfect
Perfect is a fault, and fault lines change.”

I Believe…indeed.

Blessings to all – thanks for letting me share (and big thanks to Michelle, my wrangler in this process, and of course Christy for sharing her space!) Paul

Paul’s Playlist: 

* Paul blogs at Message in a Bottle. He is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada (eh?)

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Maedez and Paul!

Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 20 (Liz and Teresa)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Liz from Living With Autism and Teresa from Grateful Rider. I met Liz last year after she stumbled across my “Grace” post. I clicked with her poet’s soul immediately, and I still marvel at how lucky I am to call this brilliant, soulful and artistic lady, a friend. I’m very grateful to WordPress for allowing our paths to cross … and I am glad to have crossed paths with Teresa too! She and I have a lot in common, (recovery, the South, and a love for animals) but I think we truly bonded over our shared love for Lyle Lovett; we’re both still peeved at Julia Roberts for breaking his heart all those years ago. (Let it go…I know…but still.) Please take some time to get to know both Liz and Teresa. You’ll be glad you did!

And . . . Join me in congratulating Liz on six years of sobriety! While Liz doesn’t self-identify as an alcoholic, she writes candidly–and oh so beautifully (Caroline Knapp, anyone?)–about the reasons she quit drinking six years ago, including health, care-giving, anxiety and what she called her ‘freight train’ days, in her July 19 post: “Autism and Alcohol: reflections on an anniversary.”

Drinking and smoking were part of an identity I had constructed; this was about being young, free and creative. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I might be using it to assuage anxiety or relieve stress.

It’s one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve read in a long while; I know you’ll agree.

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

"Lady Sings the Blues" by Anni Morris (avail to purchase via RedBubble)

“Lady Sings the Blues” by Anni Morris (avail via Redbubble)

~~~

Liz (from Living With Autism)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond           

I’m going to kick-off as the 1970s open at an (English) football match. After she left my dad, mum started taking me to watch Sheffield Wednesday on Saturdays; this was something she had done with her dad as a child and I think was a way of reclaiming her identity. Going to football matches was not something I wanted for my life, however; the only thing that made it bearable that summer was Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” playing over the loud speakers at half time. Something in the lyrics made me long to escape:  Ain’t nothin’ here that I’d care to take along (maybe a song).  I would be 18 before I could get away, but when I did, it was in a battered Renault 4 I named Rosie.

Song #2:

Isis” by Bob Dylan

When I left, at the end of the 70s, I was escaping a man as much as a place; looking back I am amazed at my younger self for having the wit and strength to run. What the relationship had gifted me, however, was Bob Dylan; while my peers had been pogo-ing to The Stranglers and The Damned, I’d been listening to Dylan’s back catalogue and poring over his lyrics. I would carry this legacy of music and poetry for the rest of my life. For years I assumed Johanna (after “Visions of Johanna“) as a middle name and I would call my son Dylan partly as homage. My son is 20 now and severely autistic without speech; I blog about living with autism at dylanandliz.wordpress.com.  I could easily write my life in seven Dylan songs but have limited myself to just this one:  for my daughter, Isis.

Song #3:

Shipbuilding” by Elvis Costello

At the start of the 1980s a friend played me Elvis Costello’s Get Happy.  I loved the album’s energy and Costello’s clever word play; with Steve Nieve on piano, EC and the Attractions were something special.  Costello did self-deprecation and joy but didn’t shirk from social commentary; Thatcher’s Britain may have been politically and economically challenging but it was exciting musically. I couldn’t find a clip I liked of “New Amsterdam” – my iconic Get Happy song – so here’s a version of “Shipbuilding,” from slightly later in the 80s, showcasing the dazzling Nieve.

Song #4:

I’m Lucky” by Joan Armatrading

As well as getting happy I got lucky in the early 80s, winning a one year scholarship from London University to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. As I walked through the departure lounge at Heathrow airport in September 1981, Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me was playing over the speaker system. Human League were from  Sheffield; I had danced with them at the Crazy Daisy (a city night club) as a teenager. Now they were famous. When I arrived at UMass no one had heard of Human League. I had to re-tune my ear that year; my new friend Roberta and I listened to Joan Armatrading’s “I’m Lucky” over and over in her room (I can’t find an 80s clip but this is a good one).

Song #5:

Kitchen Man” by Bessie Smith

At the end of my year at UMass I got a job with a social change organisation in Boston. The work was hard but I loved the camaraderie and joy of late night dancing at the 1270 on Boylston Street (a gay club in those days and perhaps still). (Ed. Note: Looks like it closed in 88, Liz.) That was the summer of love as well as revolution; music, dancing and partying on the beach.  By the end of it, I’d fallen for one of my co-workers:  we quit our jobs, loaded our few possessions into his Volvo 65, and set off for California.  Of all the songs we listened to, this is the one that brings it all back.

Song #6:

Wild is the Wind” by Nina Simone

No I couldn’t stay, I was told; I’d been given the scholarship with the expectation that I would return.  I had a hard time raising the money for the flight back, never mind saying goodbye. The night before I left, in a restaurant in San Francisco, I heard Human League playing on the radio; so they had made it. Back in London, embarking on graduate study, I met a musicologist; that relationship had a profound effect on my musical landscape, introducing me to Bach and Scarlatti. Listening to classical music altered the way I thought about music generally; I realised that what I was really interested in was the way women sing the blues. This, in turn, would influence my writing and my development as a poet. How to choose between Nina’s “Lilac Wine,” “Four Women” and this?

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Wickerman” by Pulp

And how about this for a bonus?  At the beginning of the 90s work had taken me to the south coast where I met Dylan’s father. When the relationship broke down I accepted a temporary post in Sheffield to be near family while Dylan was young.  Another child, a marriage, an autism diagnosis and divorce later, those three temporary years have become 20. Some days I remember that I didn’t mean to be here – what happened to “Cracklin’ Rosie”? Mostly, I can’t imagine myself elsewhere. History repeats itself; I found my way back to where I started and in the process discovered why mothers leave marriages and daughters leave mothers. One of the delights I have taken in my return is the music of my home city; here is Jarvis doing it proud. “Wickerman” features my childhood landscape where, against all expectations, I live happily in the valley of the ridiculous toy horse.

Thank you for reading and to Christy for hosting. (Thank you, Liz! Readers, don’t forget to check out Liz’s beautiful post: “Autism and Alcohol: reflections on an anniversary.”)

Liz’s playlist:

* Liz blogs at Living With Autism. She is from the UK.

~~~

Teresa (from Grateful Rider)

Song #1: 

Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel

I lived an adventurous, outdoor horseback riding life as a young child, an unencumbered outdoor lifestyle.

Introduced to alcohol and by 15, I was a blackout drinker.

Then my battle cry became “only the good die young,” as I justified my behavior and choices.

After all, “Only the sinners have fun.”

Song #2:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Eric Clapton

Just because I needed to believe something better existed than what I was living.

Song #3:

Mozart’s “Requiem D Minor

Couldn’t look in a mirror. Hated to hear my name.

Sleeping on a loaded revolver.

Wrote thank you notes to all who had been so kind to me through my difficult childhood.

It played over and over.

I could not, not drink.

Song #4:

We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

A group of drunks loved me back to life.

I discovered my Family of Choice.

We sang this song on the bus rides to meetings from the treatment center.

Song #5:

Ordinary Miracles” by Barbara Streisand

I could not believe how sweet life became.  I could cherish a smile from a stranger, find delight in the smallest unexpected places.

This song absolutely touches my soul for its celebration of the ordinary things I hope never to take for granted.

Song #6:

Natural Forces” by Lyle Lovett

Living a life in recovery has enabled me to make deliberate choices, to not sit on the fence and be passive about my world.  So after 24 years,  I chose a divorce and my horse. Grateful for choices, strength, and wisdom.

Yes, home is where my horse is.  God willing I will always have a horse to ride and love and a dog to trot along beside me.

Bonus song #7:

You Put the Flame On It” by Charles Bradley

Until this past May, I had not considered I would ever love again.
This song captures my great surprise at falling in love for the first time in over 30 years!

 

Thank you so much Christy for hosting this fantastic journey through our lifetracks, and thank you for inviting me to share mine. (Thank YOU, Teresa!)

Teresa’s Playlist

* Teresa blogs at Grateful Rider. She is from the coastal south of the United States.

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Liz and Teresa!

Tangerine

Dipping my toes into reverie and free writes and peach ice cream on this beautiful summer day, and wishing each of you a day just as beautiful. – Christy

Tangerine Sky by lislazuli (via)

Tangerine Sky by lislazuli (via)

Stop.
Dry your eyes,
go sit on the porch
in your favorite rocking chair
The one that reminds you of
tangerines and peach ice cream
of Nina Simone and mandolins
of her.

Drink in your sorrow from a paper cup
and watch as the sinking sun
slips away into an infinite pool
of cloud and sky
Streaks of orange and red as rich as the
over-ripe peaches you would pick
with her
for ice cream.

Look into your cup
See the deep orange swirl of the sorrow you drink.
Notice the taste on your tongue
Sweet like a juicy tangerine.
Feel the evening breeze against the fine hair on
your bare arms and
on your sun-kissed shoulders.
Breathe in
and then let it go.

See the breeze blow specks of orange and gold
like tangerine dust
into the world around you.
Look into your cup of sorrow
Once full, now empty.
The air smells sweet
Like Tupelo honey and sunshine
Like mandolins and peach ice cream
Like tangerines.

Does she still remember times like these?

 

Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin

Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 19 (Matticus and Archita)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Matticus from The Matticus Kingdom and Archita from A Journey Called Life. I’m a long-time follower of both Matticus and Archita; I love them both and am thrilled to have them join us. Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello (hit “follow” while you’re there!).

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

music_energy_by_1mudkip88-d4n770f

“Music Energy” by 1Mudkip88 via DeviantArt (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

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Matticus (from The Matticus Kingdom)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel (1964/original version)

We were a traveling band, er, um, clan… um, family.  Yes, that’s it.  We were a traveling family.  I grew up in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and it was a 90 minute car ride to the nearest big town (an actual shopping mall), a 2 hour drive to our nearest family, and a 3 hour drive to the family we visited most.  So, we spent a lot of time cruising the deserted highways listening to music.  My dad, my main inspiration for music, had created a mix tape (yes an actual tape) of good songs for the family to sing along to on those long rides.  The Kingston Trio, The Mamas and The Papas, The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Simon and Garfunkel.  I loved that tape.  I can remember singing along to every single track, but the one that always resonated with me most was “The Sound of Silence.”

“And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains, within the sound of silence.” 

There was something about the harmonies of the two voices that I loved and still find myself drawn to all these years later.  The song is a bridge across my entire musical experience, from my earliest memories of singing along in the car, to my discovery of other songs with harmonies, to seeing the world for how it truly is and finally understanding the message in the song in its optimism and cynicism.

Song #2:

Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen

From that original mix tape, we graduated to rock and roll: guitar riffs and pounding beats.  I can still vividly remember my dad drumming on the steering wheel and when the song demanded more emphasis on the center console, as we drove to scouting events in the nearby mountains.  With just the boys in the car, the tunes were cracked up, our voices were raised, and the songs fueled our adventures.  The most poignant of these was “Born in the USA.”

“I’m a cool rocking daddy in the USA.”

I latched on to it probably mostly because I thought it was a song about national pride and at that age (the tail end of elementary school) I’d had six years of saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and six years of being taught that the US was the greatest country in the world.  I was in love with our country.  And, even though the song may not actually be preaching that, it still does remind me of how great a country it is.

Song #3:

Black Gold” by Soul Asylum

The Grave Dancers Union album was the first one I picked out on my own, without influence from either my dad’s or my brother’s choice of music.  I had selected it for the song “Runaway Train” which was getting a lot of play on MTV as I entered Junior HIgh, but it was the song “Black Gold” that I ended up loving the most.

“Two boys on a playground, Tryin’ to push each other down.  See the crowd gather ’round.  Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.”

Junior High was a very tough time for me, I was bullied nearly every day.  I never felt like I belonged.  I didn’t enjoy any of my classes.  I didn’t want to be there.  The angst in the song, while not a direct correlation to my own, the feeling of it, the passion and despair matched my own.

Song #4:

Best of You” by Foo Fighters

In college I was in a turbulent relationship.  We courted each other, the idea of being a couple, pretty much our entire Freshman year.  She was unlike anyone I had met before.  She was something (someone) new to reflect the new person I wanted to be after having a rough go of it in Junior High and High School.  The summer before our sophomore year we official became boyfriend/girlfriend and for the next three years we were inseparable.  Our senior year, I proposed and she said yes.  And then we graduated, entered the real world, and things fell apart.

“Are you gone and onto someone new?  I needed somewhere to hang my head without your noose.”

Our relationship lacked the key ingredient of trust and when we transitioned from spending nearly every waking moment together to working opposite shifts, it tore us apart.  While I original identified with Blink-182’s “I Miss You,” over time my sadness morphed to anger.  “Best of You” allowed me to scream along in my pain and passion to the unresolved feelings of sadness and rage.

Song #5:

Seven Cities (V-one’s Living Cities Remix)” by Solarstone

The years following my broken engagement were spent lost in a jumble.  I was trying to find myself again, trying to find what I needed in my life to be happy, and trying to come to terms with being in the real world.  I spent a lot of hours every day with headphones on, beat matching, mixing tracks on my turntables.  (Hello…DJ!)  This wordless song was one of the first electronica songs that I fell in love with.  It was one of the reasons I started dj’ing in the first place, and its quiet buildup, its progression, to a frenzy of fat beats amidst a beautiful melody are a wonderful mimic of my journey to self discovery.  The joy in the song is the joy in finding those couple of things I need to be happy: my family and time in the mountains.  That’s it.  It’s that simple.

Song #6:

Everything” by Michael Buble

A college roommate’s sister’s friend (did you follow that) walked through my front door one night and changed everything.  My first thought on seeing her and being introduced was, “Who is this girl?”  We’d only been dating for 2 months when I told my parents, “There is something about this one.” 

We dated long distance for 18 months, with one or the other doing the 180 mile drive (door to door) nearly every weekend.  I think we only missed two.  Then when there was an opportunity for me to move (my job was displaced) I moved to be with her.  Another 18 months of living together and I proposed.

“And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times, it’s you, it’s you, you make me sing.”

“Everything” was the song we danced to at our wedding, and it was that line that really sealed it for us as the perfect choice.  Our life together has been one adventure after another, and there is no end to that in sight.  We are crazy about each other.  We are crazy together.  Calling her The Queen fits nicely in with the theme I have in The Matticus Kingdom, but she truly is my Queen.  It feels wrong to have this song in my 6, it isn’t a rocker, but the dj in me knows that there is a song for every mood, moment and audience.  And you have to play the right song even if it seems wrong to you.

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Just Be” by Tiesto featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw

“Just Be” is a perfect little wrap up for my life story.  A trance song as homage to my dj days, and Tiesto is one of my favorite music producers still.  The sound of the song seems depressing but the lyrics are uplifting.  It has moments of calm and moments of frenzied, driving, beats.

“I was lost and I’m still lost, but I feel so much better.”

This world is all kinds of mixed up; there is something beautiful about accepting that as a truth and moving forward anyway.  There are so many ideals on how we should be living in this world that it can be easy to lose ourselves in the struggle to live up to the myriad of competing pressures.  I know I struggled with it for a long time, and sometimes I still do, but . . .  for the most part I have acknowledged that it is okay to be lost in that regard — I can still find moments of beauty and happiness.  Sometimes those moments last a few seconds, and sometimes they last for months on end.

Matticus’s playlist:

* Matticus blogs at The Matticus Kingdom. He is from California.

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Archita (from A Journey Called Life)

Song #1: 

Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones

I was a teenager when the song came out. I saved money to purchase the cassette because audio CD was very expensive and we did not have a CD player. My best friend told me that the CD version sounded better and clearer. I said, “Things that we cannot reach always sound better.”

I remember, my mom loved the song and asked me to start playing guitar. “You have music and lyrics in your blood,” she said.

More than a decade passed. I did not get time to go back to music class. Life is not a bed of roses still. But “Come away with me” is one of my most favorite songs, even now; it reminds me of my unfulfilled musical aspiration and my mom’s words.

I love this version more now:

Song #2:

You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

Sometimes your favorite person’s favorite song can become your most favorite. It happens. It happened to me. A decade ago someone dedicated this song “You’re still the one” to us, because most probably that person liked our love story, because most probably it was my husband’s favorite song. We listen to this song during special occasions. We hold our hands when we listen to this being played in an unknown restaurant or shop, and march on to future, happily.

Song #3:

What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

Really, who doesn’t love “What a wonderful world”! This is my most favorite song. I smile every time I listen to this part:

I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying,
“I love you”.

There’s so much hope in little things, we forget to see them on foggy days.

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Whenever I feel pretty low I replay this and remember to list down my gratitude for all the wonders of this wonderful world. That line “They’ll learn much more / Than I’ll ever know“ restores my faith in humanity and civilization.

Song #4:

Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

Whenever I listen to this, my finger touches the volume button. I don’t know why “Ho Hey” reminds me of my days in a small town for some time, a few dilemmas there, my lonely long walks in the suburbs and weekend trips to DC. I love that memory and this song a lot.

Memory is weird. It stores moments and match with a set of lyrics without giving you any logical explanations.

Song #5:

Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Judging people by how they look, or asking people’s opinions on how I look – I detest both. I want everyone to love this song, send some love to Bruno Mars for the lyrics. One item on my bucket list is attending a Bruno Mars concert. Whenever I’m not doing anything, not even thinking, you’ll find me listening to Bruno Mars. Especially this song:

Song #6:

Home” by Philip Philips

I lived a part of life crossing connecting airports. Just like every frequent flyer I kept dreaming about going home. I don’t fly that much anymore after two surgeries on my knee. I stay on road, most of the times, to photograph this beautiful world, and to connect some dots. “Home” is my regular road-trip song. It reminds me of my very special first road trip, the joy, anxiety, fear. I relive that moment every time I hear it.

Bonus song #7:

Where Do I Begin” (Theme from Love Story instrumental) by Francis Lai

All six songs that I mentioned here are close to my heart because of their lyrics.

Song 7 is the instrumental that I play in the evening when I cook happily after a busy day, or when I feel homesick or really sick. I feel content with what I have each time I hear it.

Archita’s Playlist

* Archita blogs at A Journey Called Life. She is an Asian Indian who lives in the USA, listens to songs in six different languages and tries to learn Spanish, “just because of the lovely melancholy of some Spanish songs.” Archita said. “Here though I am talking about English songs only. But if you want, I can talk about others too, including “Ghazal,”** “Baul“** and even eastern classical music.”

(** Editor note: I hope I selected good examples of “Ghazal” and “Baul,” Archita. I found the music very relaxing and meditative, and hope others do as well. -christy)

Archita was generous enough to provide some follow-up information on Ghazal and Baul for us:

About Baul: “Baul” songs are very interesting. Baul singers are mostly spiritually liberated people, they use contemporary words about rural lives of a part of India. Today I found this UNESCO link about Baul songs and those singers. I think everyone will come to know about them more from this link.
About Ghazals: I love Ghazals written by Mirza Ghalib a lot. (The link you posted is a collection of songs of my favorite Ghazal singer, I love all of them.) Here’s another link which you and other readers will perhaps love. This song is written by Ghalib and the translation is here (via allpoetry).
Thank you so much, Archita!

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Thanks again for being our guests, Matticus and Archita!