The Ups to Today’s Downs

Thanks to Sarah for bringing this to my attention. I may have elatedly sworn when she told me about it.

Follow these instructions:

1. Click on this link.

2. Notice the photo credit. Follow the link to flickr if you want.

3. Listen to Meg Hutchinson. She’s got some great things to sing. And say.

(optional)
4. Read the story around the photo.

May’s Song Review: “Home” by Meg Hutchinson

May’s synopsis: It’s winter. It’s time to feature a song about depression.

May’s rating scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

 

It’s a grey day. A steady rain showers the city, and traffic skis through the puddles. The air is heavy, thick. The sun doesn’t rise as early, and it sets sooner. It seems colors are muted, lights are dimmed; all that remains are the smoldering wicks of just barely snuffed candles. It’s very easy to feel depressed.

The grey, the darkness and gloom and suffocation are all one experiences when she is depressed. Meg Hutchinson masterfully presents and demonstrates the difference between depression and living a full, productive, present life. Depression is a place, but it isn’t only an institution where you’re committed. She won’t tell us where she’s been, because to retell is to relive, and she would rather talk about how it’s so good to be home. Depression isn’t home, and home isn’t only those four familiar walls with a roof on top.

She definitely knows who she was under ever cloudy skies and who she is now, and who she has to thank for helping her through the dark times. She’s become healthy again; enough time and experience (and perhaps medication) has healed her, and she’s using her experience to reach out to those who might relate, to create awareness, to let others know they’re not alone. Depression affects everyone. Did you go there too? Was it dark for you? Were you thinking self-destructively? Were you a patient or a loved one? Did you wait there too? Did you find a cure, too? The world might pale and darken, she knows, as you may know. But, it gets better.

I love this song, because it’s about getting better. It’s a song about overcoming this particular hardship. The tune is catchy, especially the chorus, and it rings repeatedly throughout the song, like a mantra. “I’ve been getting better these days. I’ve been sleeping in my own bed again”: Life is new, life is hers and is no longer as much of a struggle with a clouded perspective and heavy heart. “I’ve been dreaming in full color”: Can you imagine, colors popping in your dreams, the world coming alive around you? “Goodbye sorrow, I’ve found another way to stay”: Another way to deal with sadness. Another way to stay home. It’s so good.

Here’s the song. Hover over the link, then press “play” in the pop-up, or just let it download. Lyrics below.

Home

I won’t tell you where I’ve been
Only that it’s so good to be home
It’s possible to go so far down
As some of you might already know
Did you go there too?

I won’t tell you what I’ve seen
Only that this world can be so mean
Brave souls shuffling up and down the halls
No one visits no one even calls
Did you wait there too?

But I’ve been getting better these days
And I’ve been sleeping in my own bed again
And I’ve been dreaming in full color
Goodbye sorrow I’ve found another

I won’t tell you what I would’ve done
If not for my dearest ones
Chemistry can sorta leave you in the lurch
I’m just glad they found a cure
Did you find one too?

But if the world should really pale
Dark night of the soul is real
Let me offer I’ve been there
And one day that darkness clears

May’s Song Review: “Climbing Mountains” by Meg Hutchinson

May’s Synopsis: I’m a sucker for simple, repetitive melodies with interesting turns, strong imagery, and human potential. Climbing mountains? I have that dream all the time.

May’s Rating Scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

 

I’ve been listening to Meg for a few months now, and I really like the way she chooses her words. She has become one of my favorite singer-songwriters. She usually doesn’t rhyme to keep her songs interesting. I’m no songwriter, but this seems difficult, because when you rhyme, at least you tend to maintain the same meter for every line.

Dreamt last night I was climbing mountains
Way beyond the earth’s strange pull
Dreamt last night I was climbing mountains
Way beyond love’s fierce hold

The beginning of the song starts with a single strum right before she sings. This reminds me of dreams I have that carry the urgency to be shared, especially the dreams I remember vividly. Here, the immediacy of the lyric’s entrance matches that of the feat she’s dreamt about. She introduces repetition of the main idea of climbing mountains, like it’s something new to her, a realization of something she could actually do. She dreamt it. Last night. A new dream. Fighting gravity, fighting love.

Dreamt last night I was climbing mountains
Way beyond the sad remains
Of this wild wild world that was never ours
That somehow we had the need to claim
Nothing but the wind and sky
And this impulse to survive

This stanza has a different structure than the first. This exposits the character of the song a bit and leads into the chorus. This stanza relates the task of climbing mountains to surviving in this world. The will one needs to have to climb mountains has to be stronger than the forces grounding her, holding her down. I get the impression of certain aspects of life being purely stifling, and whatever mountains she actually steps onto she can conquer. She can’t take credit for the world, but she would like to lay hold upon the air that moves and the sky that gives perspective: elements the mountains seem to belong to. Meg employs half-rhyme here – remains/claim, sky/survive – which implies a not-quite-there-ness in the process.

But when dark falls behind windows
See these tired eyes bathed in blue light
Watch the world turn watch the heart find
Comfort alone won’t keep us alive

It feels like she’s setting up the dream, here. It’s nighttime, twilight. The melody takes an appropriate chorus-like turn, because she’s not telling us about the dream: she’s keeping us conscious. It’s a great contrast.

Dreamt last night of your Irish eyes
Of your teeth shining in the dark when you smile
Of your solitude and your even keel
Of your steady gate
[sic] and the loss that you feel
Nothing but the love remains
The rest it seems to always fade

This stanza picks back up the beginning melody, but the rhythm of the first four lines is different. The song gains momentum. The dream of climbing mountains includes or relates to or pertains to relationships. She dreams about loss someone else feels. She empathizes in her dream. Also, I’m not quite sure what Irish eyes are, but I see them quite clearly in my imagination, as well as the smiling teeth in the dark. That’s quite a palpable image. She further develops the other character in the notion of “us” in the song. Compare the sad remains in the second stanza to the love that stands alone here. What aspects of love motivate us or hold us back? What’s temporary in this world?

But when dark falls behind windows
See these tired eyes bathed in blue light
Watch the world turn watch the heart find
Comfort alone won’t keep us
Keep us

Only one stanza this time between choruses. Starting to wind down, or wake up. Doesn’t anyone else get the impression the song itself is a scaled-down version of climbing a mountain? Does climbing mountains have to be a dream?

Imagine a whole country asleep at the wheel
Inventing so many new ways to avoid what we feel

Ah, a rhyming couplet. We’ve made it. The summit. The click. The message.

But when dark falls…
Dark falls, windows, tired eyes, blue light
Dreamt last night I was climbing mountains

This fade to the end features images in the song from the highest consciousness, before any dreaming happens. Meg uses metaphors well. She employs powerful images that fuse seamlessly with catchy melodies. I could continue to explore the layers this song has, and I’m sure I’d love the song even more with every discovery. I can’t say enough about the way it’s written or how it sounds or what it means to me. She has raised my awareness and love for life by sharing a powerful REM-sleep epiphany. I want to put on my hiking boots. She has done her job.

War Songs

 

“Making Pies”

-Patty Griffin

It’s not far
I can walk
Down the block
To TableTalk
Close my eyes
Make the pies all day
Plastic cap
on my hair
I used to mind
Now I don’t care
I used to mind
Now I don’t care
Cause I’m Gray

Did I show you this picture of my nephew
Taken at his big birthday surprise
At my sister’s house last Sunday
This is Monday and we’re making pies
I’m making pies
Making pies
Pies

Thursday nights
I go and type
Down at the church
With Father Mike
It gets me out
And he ain’t hard to like
At all

Jesus stares at me
In my chair
With his big blue eyes
And his honey brown hair
And he’s looking at me
Way up there
On the wall

Did I show you this picture of my sweetheart
Taken of us before the war
Of the Greek and his Italian girl
One Sunday at the shore

We tied our ribbons to the fire escape
They were taken by the birds
Who flew home to the country
As the bombs rained on the world

5am
Here I am
Walking the block
To TableTalk
You could cry or die
Or just make pies all day
I’m making pies

 

 

“Song for Jeffrey Lucey”

-Meg Hutchinson

You would’ve made a great dad
If you’d lived that long
Your eyes are warm and kind on the evening news
There was a big celebration when you walked off that bus
With all your limbs intact we thought you’d made it back to us
And no one knew, what you’d been made to do over there

You were almost twenty-two when they shipped you out
With the sixth motor transport battalion
Operation Freedom, also known as the war
No place for a good kid just trying to pay for school

And no one knew, what you’d be made to do over there

Yellow ribbons still fluttering from the trees beside the house
Memory was a cancer that you could not live without
But you could not live with it
Oh… no you could not live with it

In the dark you held your flashlight, still listening for spiders
In the days you drank alone in your old room
Haunted always by the voices, by the jingling of the tags
Holding on to one little corner of that flag

And no one knew…

Yellow ribbons still fluttering from the trees beside the house
Made a pillow for your head and they laid you down
Oh they laid you down
Oh… oh they laid you down

And no one knew
What you’d been made to do
And all their love couldn’t keep you

 

War is an interesting animal. It carries a variety of symbols. Its images are powerful. Patty sings from the perspective of a loved one, first person. Meg takes it to the second person, as if conversing with the returned soldier who took his own life. Both artists incorporate ribbons. Reminders. Both remind us of the feelings involved, that human beings fight in wars and they confront other humans, many of them innocent. And how do people deal? How do they handle the loss, the trauma, the agony? Go and type. Make pies. Self-medicate into a funnel of depression. The woman feels helpless. Jeffrey Lucey felt helpless.

I guess you can push through the day until enough time passes and it doesn’t hurt as much. I guess you can write songs and sing sadly. I guess you can petition the military mental health organizations to improve their PTSD programs. I guess you can mourn for the little bit of yourself that has died inside when someone you love has died way too young fighting a war that seems to have no end. Pies were her end; getting to the end of each day moved her along. Jeffrey Lucey, though, he could only see one ending. It had gotten to be too much.

When I went to the Pomegranate Gallery to look at Iraqi art, my mind spun with curiosity and a strange sympathy. Almost all the art were portrayals of war and divided nations. All dark, solid, jagged lines and aggressive strokes with thick, unhampered textures. A lot of intertwined themes involving the colors of Iraq’s flag and the idea of stitching together the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds. Walking through that gallery moved me. I couldn’t understand the history and the bloodshed and the tradition. I don’t get the oil and the power and the politics. This isn’t going to end anytime soon.

mind procession

looking back

following the trail

looking down

they keep attacking

looking out

but we bury those

looking up 

My Backup

That photo is linked to the site I got it from. (Austin City Limits) Trying to remember to give due credit and not break all the fun copyright laws.

I listen to other stuff, too. I always fall back on this girl. I have planned write-ups on why I think “Heavenly Day” is the perfectly structured song; the instrumentality of “Nobody’s Crying”; the pure rawness of “Every Little Bit” and “Sweet Lorraine.” I’ve mentioned before that my degree of fanhood has never elevated to obsession, but in this case, I have to make an exception. I told a friend whenever I’ve recommended Patty to someone else, and he/she isn’t as enthusiastic about her, I get a little offended; a little bit of myself holds a grudge, and a little bit of that someone else is dead to me. Of course I open my mind and appreciate other artists and different types of music. Some people are completely closed off to country, but there really is some good country out there. Some people detest rap, and granted, while that takes a while longer to sort through, you can find some decent stuff there, too. Patty herself interviewed that some of her songs have even fallen by the wayside, but since I’m a fan, if Patty were a genre all unto herself, I’d have my favorites, for sure, but I have definitely picked something from each of my non-favorites that I really like. Sure, some songs aren’t as brilliant, but I would submit that they’re all good. Probably everyone’s least favorite album of her is Flaming Red. “Mary” is on that album – it’s genius. Here’s another song, “Goodbye” I especially connect with:

Occurred to me the other day / You’ve been gone now a couple years / Well I guess it takes a while / For someone to really disappear / I remember where I was / when the word came about you / it was a day much like today / the sky was bright and wide and blue / 

(chorus) And I wonder where you are / and if the pain ends when you die / And I wonder if there was / some better way to say goodbye

Today my heart is big and sore / it’s trying to push right through my skin / I won’t see you anymore / I guess it’s finally sinking in / ‘Cause you can’t make somebody see / with the simple words you say / all their beauty from within / sometimes they just look away 

Chorus

When I hear this song, I think of all the people who I’m no longer in touch with. People I miss. People who were close to me. Patty doesn’t personally know May Anderton, but she knows that May Anderton is not the only one who’s experienced this kind of loss. And Patty put together a simple, powerful lyric and a simple, powerful melody and all of sudden May has found a friend in Patty Griffin, or at least in her music.

Okay, enough of that. I’ve listened to Meg Hutchinson about 10 times. But I mentioned she reminds me of a few other artists. So, it’s time to break out Damien Rice’s O, Dar Williams’s Mortal City, and Gillian Welch’s Soul Journey. I might dig up Ryan Adams’s Heartbreaker or Love Is Hell, but then that reminds me of Jeff Buckley, then Rufus Wainwright. Then for some reason, I think of old Feist or Sarah Slean and I think of Sarah Slean at the piano, and that reminds me of Tori Amos and that takes me back to Sarah McLachlan. And don’t even get me started on classical music. Oh, man. Looks like it might get a little overwhelming, but if it does, what’s really so wrong with having too much good music to listen to?