My fingers will be sore in the morning. In fact, as I type this, I can already feel that tips of my left hand fingers are tender. After singing at the end of yoga class tonight, I had the urge to create music myself. So, for the first time since September, and who knows how long before that, I got out my guitar and started playing.
After Brandi Carlile’s big night at the Grammys, I’ve been listening to her music more the past few days. So, I opened my notebook to The Story — for the first song on the guitar in 6 months, this probably wasn’t the best choice, but I went with it anyway. Once I finally got the strings in tune, I started and right away my fingers were screaming at me!
Up next was my go to Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. I wonder how many times I’ve played that song? It’s one of the few I can play without looking at the chord sheet. Surprisingly, Denali sat next to me as I played — she’s never been a fan of the guitar. Steve, on the other hand, who has very little experience with such things, kept his distance. As he stood at the door asking to go out (asking to get away from this!), I sang right to him. Eventually he settled down.
I knew what was next… my songs. I used to write music quite a bit, especially in the mid-2000s. I even recorded some at one point. I kind of cringe at that statement. I’m not sure my music was CD-worthy, but I was clearly confident enough to make it happen back then. I think my brother must still have those recordings because recently my niece told me she heard me singing. That’s actually kind of cool and maybe justifies my self-confidence back in the day!
As I started playing my own music — just words and chords on pieces of paper — I was surprised at how much of it came back to me, and pretty quickly. Once I remember the strumming patterns, I was able to sing and play as if it hasn’t been many, many years since I last sang those tunes. Some of them are actually kind of catchy!
They are simple songs, but most songs are. It’s when you layer on background vocals and bass and drums and piano that it starts to have more live and texture.
I lived in Austin, TX for a brief time and while there I played my guitar quite a bit. I wrote a song about my friend Katy who passed away a few years earlier. I sang wishing she were with me:
“I’d take you to the playground and we’d talk we swing through the air
I’d show you my new place and the picture frame of you sitting there
We’d walk through the park and I’d hold your hand
If only you could be here with me now.”
I wrote that song in 2006 and tonight it flowed out of me as if I wrote it yesterday. I know exactly where I was sitting when I wrote it. I can see where I played it for someone else for the first time. I remember wishing I could tell her about this new town and how I was excited and scared and just wanted her to be with me.
Around that same time I wrote a song called Something Greener referring to the grass is always greener on the other side. The closing verse is:
“What would we see if we all got something greener
There’d be no blue skies or the orange falling down from the trees
We’d miss the beauty if we all got something greener
Like rainbows and stars and the color that fills all of our lives”
I wish you could hear the melody that goes with it — alone the words don’t reflect what the music intended. But, I’m not that self-confident 20-something rushing out to record new music!
I think the most recent song I wrote was over seven years ago. As part of my Psalms class in seminary we had to do some kind of creative response to a psalm we chose. I didn’t write the words, but I did create the tune and set it to pictures that I had taken. I got an A on that 😉
One of my favorite songs that I wrote I didn’t play tonight because the words were printed out, but there were no chords. I was really bummed with my past-self about that. I’ll do some searching around, I know there are chords somewhere.
I wrote the song Landed just a few months before my boyfriend and I drove out of town in an RV headed for adventures on the road. This song was born just a few weeks after Katy died (I am grateful to my past self for noting the date that the song was written). It was a hard time for me — I was mourning the loss of my friend, I was navigating a sometimes tumultuous relationship and I was eager to branch out of my youth ministry work (the first time) and find something new.
I’ve played this song in several different settings, including my Grandma Moman’s memorial service. Maybe someday I’ll get brave and find the recording and share it with the world (again). Until then, I’ll close with these words:
“I am watching and waiting for the time to spread my wings and fly
But what if something should happen to get in my way
What would I do then
Like a cloud or a bird or the sun blocking my view
What would I do
I’d think of you
I’d remember the look on your face when you told me you loved me always and forever
I’d never forget those words and what
They mean in my heart
I love you too
So if I start to fall or drift away
I know there’ll always be someone there to catch me
And if it’s you, I will look into your eyes
And I’ll say
Look at where we are, isn’t the view amazing
Sometimes it takes a fall to see just where you should land
And from up here I know it to be true
I’m so glad that I landed here with you”