Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Music In Me

The first part of the lost story, mentioned in yesterday's post.  I was working on the next bit, something went wonky, and the original post from this morning was deleted.  Crap.  So, I am reposting this.  I think I said in the earlier version that I hadn't read this story in well over a decade...and could see how Rolling Stone would think it was too girlie for them.  Hmm.  I disagree, but whatever, here it is...


Heart Songs
(Part One)

I had a major musical epiphany the other night while my partner and I were driving home.  As we cruised through a dark, blustery Seattle night, quiet in our thoughts, both of us aware that sometimes there is no comfort in silence, I actually let myself think the worst: this relationship was very likely on the brink of ruin, and I was restless and unhappy.  I Can’t Make You Love Me,” came on the radio, and as I listened to Bonnie’s voice and words, I considered the magic of songs, the impact of lyrics.  I closed my eyes, lulled by the drone of the car engine,  the swish of the windshield wipers, and drifted through my past, hearing my previous relationships by the music interwoven in each.  My own Top 40 Hits—songs that take me through time, to a place and person, smells and sensations.

Music has always been a factor in my life, yet I was suddenly struck with the thought that music has directed, even altered my story; catalyst and background, if you will, to my life’s opera.  We all identify with music, in relationships and our lives, but this thought was different.  I could see where songs had forced my hand, made me choose, influenced my decisions.  What if I hadn’t heard that particular song at that precise moment?  Would my path be the same?  Would a different song have meant a different outcome?  Am I an idiot not to have realized this sooner?

Act One of my life opera.

I’m in my 20’s, my first serious adult relationship, living on a farm, managing a small chain of bookstores in the Pacific Northwest; he was doing the corporate thing, climbing fast.  The music that immediately fills my head:  Moody Blues, Croce, the Dead, Creedence, Steve Miller, toss in a little Grand Funk, can’t forget War, or the Eagles…or Janis.

It’s 3:00 a.m., a stormy spring morning.  I’m in the barn.  He was in Dallas, or Chicago, or was it New York?  Who could keep up.  I know for three out of every four weeks I’d been holding down the fort for two long years.  Been on the run since 4:00 a.m. the day before, worked all day at the bookstore, thirty-five mile commute home to the farm with six pregnant sheep, two cows, three goats, two cats, twelve chickens and one sweet little pup.  Then, timing being what it is, one of the ewes went into early labor.  I’ll omit the gory details—the minor terror when the last lamb of triplets was breech and I had to do some pretty gross maneuvering—and just say that everything worked out.  I had the barn radio going and as the lambs wobbled about, alive and bleating, I fell back against a stack of hay bales, took a good swig of Black Jack straight from the bottle—a medicinal necessity in any working barn—and burst into tears.

With the spring squall blowing outside, whistling through the chinks in the hayloft overhead, I felt achingly sure there was no one left in the whole world except me.  Then, from the radio I hear “Rhiannon.”  Don’t ask me why that song pulled the trigger; what I understood in that crystalline moment:  I wasn’t ringing like a bell in the night and neither was my life.

Whenever I hear the song, I’m back in that barn, alone, blood and baby lambs, goats and curious cows, hay and whiskey and tears all around me…and Stevie’s voice echoing, filling every part of it.

This was a catalyst song.

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