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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The fitful alternations of the rain, indeed


The fitful alternations of the rain,
When the chill wind, languid as with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here and there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.
     - Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Fitful Alternations of the Rain
The rain this morning was fitful, yes, but of alternations, less so.  A steady torrent of large obsidian agates hit the windshield and flare across its surface before being swept up in the next pass of the wiper blades. The sort of heavy rain that plays tricks with the many sources of artificial light that penetrate the early morning darkness: headlights, tail lights, street lights, porch lights, store signs, bike reflectors, etc.  The light gets bounced around by the palpable volume of falling rain drops, making peripheral vision a kaleidoscope of sparkling distractions.

Reminds me, though I'm not precisely sure why, of a lyric from a Bruce Cockburn tune that wasn't part of today's playlist:
Ice cube in a dark drink shines like star light
Starlight shines like glass shards in dark hair
And the mind's eye tumbles out along the steel track
Fixing every shadow with its stare
     - from Night Train
Thursday has arrived and spirits are raised a bit by his coming, even though we know his ruse.  The joke's on him this time, though - today really is my work week's Friday.  It will be a long Thursday, with an evening board meeting, but then a day off to work on some community projects I've not been getting to lately.  Good stuff.

A great, short, mix of tunes this morning, too.

Today's full playlist:

  • In The Days Before Rock 'n' Roll, Van Morrison
  • Use Me While You Can, Bruce Cockburn
  • Carpool, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
  • Who Painted the Moon Black, Hayley Westenra

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A thousand dreams blur my vision

Tuesday, no.. wait, it's Wednesday.  As I back out of the drive the soundtrack shuffle kicks off with Confusion, so at least there is symmetry for the drive in to work.  It's still dark, but warmer this morning (6° C, 42°F - it's all relative), so I crack open the "sun" roof a tad.

Monday was, or would have been, my mother's 81st birthday, the first she wasn't here to celebrate.  As luck would have it, this past Sunday I was sampling "new releases" of music and saw that Enya had a relatively recent album out.  I started to sample some of the tunes and hit the second track on the album, So I Could Find My Way.   Apart from a simple but incredibly beautiful melody hauntingly sung, the lyrics simply broke me open from the opening verse:
A thousand dreams you gave to me
You held me high, you held me high
And all those years you guided me
So I could find my way

How long your love had sheltered me
You held me high, you held me high
A harbour holding back the sea
So I could find my way

So let me give this dream to you
Upon another shore
So let me give this dream to you
Each night and ever more
    - Enya, from So I Could Find My Way (link to YouTube video of a live rendition)
The parent/child relationship is, of course, always complicated.  There is no single model of what that relationship holds.  I was fortunate, though, to have a mom who did love me and who, especially in my formative years, did everything she thought was best to enable my success, whatever form that would (or wouldn't) take.  So, yes, this verse did speak to me.  I have no idea if Enya was thinking about a lost parent when she wrote this song, and others may see different voices or faces in the lyric.  For me, this past weekend, though, the song was very prescient.

Fast forward back to this morning, and Cockburn also sings of love:
See you standing in the door against the dark
Fireflies around you like a crown of sparks
You blow me a kiss that blurs my vision
Blurs the human condition

You're the ocean ringing in my brain
You are my island ripe with cane
Catch the scent of strange flowers when you pass
Fluid motion like the wind in grass

It's your eyes I want to see
Looking into mine
Got you live on my mind
All the time
               - Bruce Cockburn, from Live On My Mind
December marked 34 years with my own beloved partner-in-life, and she still blurs my vision!  I am very fortunate.

Today's full playlist:
  • Confusion, ELO
  • Live On My Mind, Bruce Cockburn
  • Federal Funding, Cake
  • Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take), Miles Davis

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

More little knots to untie

Tuesday, any day.  Early morning phone call while I am in the shower, voicemail waiting.  My cousin's voice, letting me know that, "...mom passed in the night."
I do not deny that a man who reaches a certain age
can no longer hope
that those from whom he came will remain
still alive with him, as my mother once
     -  Avot Yeshururn, from Memories Are a House
Mom passed away in April of this past year.  Her younger brother, my uncle, passed away this late fall, and this morning her older sister, my aunt, passed away.  All three siblings passed within 9 months of each other.


I know I've posted this quote from a Margery Allingham novel before, but it is worth reposting whenever there is grieving over a lost loved one:
"Well, you know, it's an evil thing, this attempt to reverse the process of mourning." The Canon stepped back on to his own territory and became a different being. "Mourning is not forgetting," he said gently, his helplessness vanishing and his voice becoming wise. "It is an undoing. Every minute tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the knot. The end is gain, of course.  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be made strong, in fact."
     - Margery Allingham, from Tigers In The Smoke
I have such fond memories of my aunt.  Big family Christmas Eves in a small house, all those summers just outside of Winthrop, dancing with our son in a hospital parking lot one time when mom was in the hospital, her quick sharp sense of humor.  All knots to untie and from which to reclaim something precious.
Such are the little memories of you;
They come and go, return and lie apart
From all main things of life; yet more than they,
With noiseless feet, they come and grip the heart.
     - George McClellan, from To Theodore
Traffic was very light this morning, the commute was extra short, the playlist short as well:
  • You've Never Seen Everything, Bruce Cockburn
  • Peace Memory, Pat Metheny
  • Killing the Blues, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  • Blue Skies, Landon Pigg

Monday, January 11, 2016

Music scattered all over the streets

Monday, and the music was scattered all over the streets.  Every turn on my side-streets-route into campus this morning brought a whole new genre of music with it.  The tunes crossed times, faiths, styles, tempos.  It shouldn't have gotten along nearly as well as it did.
Once, in the city of Kalamazoo,  
The gods went walking, two and two,  
With the friendly phoenix, the stars of Orion,  
The speaking pony and singing lion.
   - from Kalamazoo, by Vachel Lindsay
One song hails from an album titled Dub Qawwali, which features the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing songs in a devotional Sufi tradition dubbed over a raggae (almost hip hop?) beat.  Nusrat, a Pakistani singer, apparently sold more records than Elvis and his music is best known to American audiences as part of the Dead Men Walking soundtrack.  The album certainly has its beauty, though the structure of the music isn't as immediately accessible or comfortable to my ears as that of, say, Henry Mancini.
Everybody wants to rule the world
Say that you'll never never never never need it
One headline why believe it?
Everybody wants to rule the world
Thank you Tears for Fears for reminding me.  I listen to music to avoid, among other things, the endless cycle of non-news silliness and affrontery of the presidential election.  What a comic farce the whole thing continues to degenerate into.  Reminds me of a delightfully insightful poem by George Bradley, Some Assembly Required. It starts out:
Standing in line at the SuperSave, it all falls  
Into place, Princess Di and the aliens and diet  
Tips from outer space, King Tut and King Elvis,  
   Out of the subfusc air, the rank urgency of dusk,  
   Among the heavy odors of differing dungs,  
   Acrid signatures of urine, the bold perfume of musk . . .
and then, later, goes on:
Attention, shoppers, there lies a veldt within us each,  
Its grasses rustle with intent, and on that plain  
Was born the fine suspicion that has carried us so far,  
   To behold the unassuming fact and comprehend design,  
   To look upon confusion and construct its plot and act,  
To leap at merest notion found floating in the mind . . .  
Has brought us to these sheltered aisles under thin gray light,  
Where in boredom and abundance we seek our narrative,
Whatever tale comes now to kill us and can creep.
Whoops!  As Patrick Cassidy pulls me softly back to the real world I wonder how I made those connections out of an old light rock classic.  It's not only the music that's scattered this morning, I guess, and I can live with that on a Monday.

Today's full playlist:

  • My Morning Jacket, Wordless Chorus
  • Henry Mancini, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet
  • Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • Patrick Cassidy, Three Carolan Pieces: Kitty Magennis
  • Gaudi with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tera Jana Kere Rang Lawe
  • Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia, It's Too Late (She's Gone) [Live]

Friday, January 8, 2016

The grace of space

Friday, the popular dude, is taut with the potential energy of cold and wrapped in the gothly black of deep winter this early morning.  He strides with confidence into the room of week-weary souls who are still tired from the recent spate of holidays and from the effort of breaking the heavier gravity of a warm winter bed.


Traffic is a bit lighter than usual, I think. Though I follow a truck towing a utility trailer full of garbage cans and scrap, moving at a crawl because their load is unsecured and (I assume) afraid to go fast enough to create a slipstream strong enough to lift and toss the contents of the trailer, just far enough to lose the honest pace of the morning commute.

In the hand of the cloud
Liquid as time
The heron's wings well
Know the grace of space
   - Bruce Cockburn, from Feet Fall On the Road

I've been listening to some pre-selected "stations" on Google's Music Play service the past few days, but this morning let the phone shuffle from my own entire library.  Fridays feel even better with comfort food and the familiar.  One song follows another, having to skip only once over an audiobook track that made its way into the mix, as I move from 4-way stop to stoplight to roundabout to campus entrance on my way in.

Stoplights edged the licorice street with ribbon,  
neon embroidering wet sidewalks.
  - Roberta Hill, from Leap In The Dark

Today's calendar looks only lightly dusted with predetermined things, so I can seize this rare gift of space to wrap up several loose ends and projects before following the popular dude into the weekend.

Further recommended poetry for a dark winter morning, though not specifically applicable to my here and now:  Winter Journal: Disseminate Birds over Water, by Emily Wilson

Today's full playlist:

  • Feet Fall On the Road, Bruce Cockburn
  • No Better Place, Fountains Of Wayne
  • Your Secrets, Belle and Sebastian
  • Write About Love, Belle and Sebastian
  • Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, Donavon Frankenreiter
  • Myrkur, Sigur Rós