Green is finding its way back to our place. The falling away of winter replaced with the rise of spring. New growth where death slept for a spell, reminding me of the circle of things.
When January rolled around in its own calendarly circle, we were excited that our friend and spectacular human, musician, and songwriter Peter Mulvey, who we were already patrons of on Patreon, was adding a new option for his community—a songwriting club. A weekly songwriting club. Participating in two different monthly songwriting groups already, what’s another weekly group, right? More songs! Have I mentioned I have an overcommitment problem?
So we of course changed to that option, and embarked on a beautiful journey that has been a great reminder that showing up is what’s important. Continuing to do the work. Sometimes things that won’t ever be sung on a stage fall to the page, but that’s all part of it. Like water in a winter pipe, you have to keep it flowing so it doesn’t stop. There are weekly prompts of some sort, ranging in specificity and field of view, and always encouragement.
For one of the weeks in January, the prompt was “let’s pretend” and by the time I sat down to work on it, I had 4 days left, which felt a bit paralyzing. So I fell into the (bad) habit of doing something that felt more productive and possible for a few minutes…checking email and trying to clean out the inbox a bit. That led to me skimming through a weekly 5-bullet Friday newsletter from Tim Ferriss, which led to me clicking on, and then reading, a New York Times opinion piece on death that he linked to, written by a hospice and palliative medicine physician. A link to the full article it is here if you’re interested, but the part that really stuck with me was:
“But your death is not the end of your body. The chemical bonds that held you together at the molecular level continue to break in the minutes and months after you die. Tissues oxidize and decay, like a banana ripening. The energy that once animated the body doesn’t stop: It transforms. Decay from one angle, growth from another.
Unfettered, the decay process continues until all that was your body becomes something else, living on in others — in the grass and trees that grow from where you might come to rest, and from the critters who eat there…Even after interment or cremation, your atoms remain intact and scatter to become other things, just as they pre-existed you and became you.”
The thought of there being a certain number of atoms in the universe that just keep shifting between things was a beautiful realization for me. And the poetry of how he put it was a gentle nudge to get back to work.
Over the next 4 days I felt like a kid obsessed with a new game or toy or anyone unable to put a book down…captured by some external thing that corrals your brainwaves like a border collie. I holed up at my desk, space heater blasting, feeling like I couldn’t keep up with thoughts that were showing up. I just wrote them down. I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but there was a sense that I would, eventually, if I just kept letting things out. They came out in our morning object writing too—the piece shared down below was in the middle of this time. Surrounded by pages of scribbles, I did start to learn what the song was telling me, and I told it as best I could.
Songs don’t come out of me in nearly finished form that fast very often. Little changed in the lyric after I turned it in for the group, besides the dropping of a few words here and there that weren’t necessary, or changing a word or two slightly. Songs are fragile things, and it’s always important to be gentle with them so you don’t accidentally kill them with your attention, but it seems especially true when a song comes quick and deep like this one did. So we’ve been carefully revisiting it over the last 3 months to find out how it should be shaped. How it could be arranged to best tell the story. We moved some verses around, abbreviated the final chorus, changed some phrasing things, and came up with what felt like a thousand iterations of a melody line for the final two lines of the chorus. Pete did his magic with his banjo and his harmonies. And then a perfectly beautiful day fell upon us early last week, and our yard was asking to be the backdrop for a video. So we obliged.