go read my 29 september 2002 blog entry. then come back, please.
lucy kaplansky. i never thought i'd forget the moment i wrote down the words what i lost returns with love in time on a beer receipt, using the green pilot pen from my pocket. i needed to know those words that night, like they were a missing piece of something. something that could be whole. i wrote them in my journal, in the margins of appropriate books. i sang them to myself in my own melody, since lucy's didn't stick after just one listen.
for a long time after, i scoured the web for those lyrics, yet the only link i could find was my own blog as a reference for them. this mysterious song was nowhere to be found. i listened to every recorded lucy kaplansky song i could find.
the song found me recently. it's called "i had something", and it's on lucy's new record. for the first time in nearly two years, i heard her sing the words that i had all but forgotten in these past months. and i remembered that they are my one-liner Gospel. what i lost returns with love in time.
i am reminded every day now, as the song is featured on the newest starbucks mix cd. i stop steaming milk to listen. and then i finish the latte at hand.
we are a forgetful people. i sat by the window at jacksons on saturday afternoon, in a tanktop for the first time this year. the strings on my father's guitar were being changed across the street and i was reading anne lamott's joe jones. with the breeze of an 80 degree day brushing across my shoulders, my body remembered the coziness of a warm spring day that it had stored away for winter. and as the inevitable tennessee storm clouds came rolling in, bringing with them powerful lightning that downed a blossoming cherry tree in my neighborhood, all the people sitting outside came running in like they'd never seen a storm before. like they were cats being doused with a hose, incredulous. i just watched it all go down with wonder, blinking at the lightning, startling at the following thunder. and for a moment, i couldn't believe that spring really has come back again, just like it always does. but the dandelions in the yard are winking at me with their bright yellow faces. they've returned.
so i was listening to patty griffin's a kiss in time cd tonight, the one she recorded live at the ryman last year. the applause after each song is thunderous, with feet stomping on the floor for more. i remember the energy of the audience. i was there, seated next to marlei. we sat there silent, taking in the magic of a perfect night, of music that makes you know you're alive. and then we drove home. we contemplated what it meant to take in such wonder, and realised that we are each responsible for reckoning with the beauty on our own. what happens after the last note is played? we asked. does it all disappear into oblivion? i said that i wanted to bottle that night like the tears in God's own bottle.
and i have.
the bottle poured open tonight as the audience clapped and stomped again. patty with her red dress on once again sang mary. sang rain. all in my car and in my memory. all that silence marlei and i feared has just been the space between songs.
i am writing at all tonight because i recognize the connection between then and now. i recognize that i have somehow been carried from 2003 into 2004, these memories and songs still inside me, with the space of silence between.
maybe i cling too much to moments, but moments are all i've got. there was a moment, in the middle of all this music and memory, that i decided i really want to live. because, in this hardest year of my life, i have not heard my own heartbeat. and, no, this isn't drama: this is the truth. i have woken up most mornings with a leaden despair of having to do another day, again. there has been no release, no easter. my reasons for living have been all external--ie, i could never be so selfish as to end my life and leave the people i love with the aftermath. never.
but it hasn't been enough. as marlei puts it, in the depths of depression, sometimes you lose the sense of having your own soul. it's like being underwater, doing somersaults till you're dizzy. you can't tell which way to swim, to surface. you can't trust your own instincts.
but. inevitably, everything comes to a head. no one can flounder forever. and i came up for air on thursday. it was an unseasonably warm day and windy. i had spent most of it crying and paralyzed. i had to go to work, though. had to get my shit together enough to be (or at least, seem) competent. and so i swallowed and swallowed my tears as i drove down the highway. patted my puffy red eyes dry. chain-smoked. out of nowhere, all the swallowed tears began to erupt in my throat as screams, as the barbaric yawp we all learned about in our highschool english classes. (we had to stand on our desks and practice in mine.) with all the windows down and my hair blowing every which way, i screamed down I-65. i yelled to God that i can't do this anymore. that my life is not being lived with any sense of myself. in an uncharacteristic move (because i was raised to have a wholly walk-by-faith-not-by-sight perspective) i told God that if He wanted me to live, He would have to give me a sign. and not one of those subtle, squint-and-you'll-see signs. i was asking for a george burns in the oh God movies kind.
as i was yelling this, while driving 85 mph in the left lane next to a wall, the car next to me (also going 85) decided that it should be in my lane, in my carspace. i watched it move in slow motion toward my car: bumper toward my passenger door. i saw the scratches on its hood, felt myself resigning that this might just be it, thinking "i die on my way to starbucks??" and then, as the inches diminished between our cars, my hands found their way to my horn. i jerked left, the other car jerked right. i skimmed the shoulder, and then i was driving straight ahead again, alive.
that's my sign? a near death experience on the highway? i guess so. because, in retrospect, i realise just how precarious that particular moment was. my life hung in the balance, with the space between two cars keeping me from crashing. and i was spared. easter hasn't come just yet, but i was spared.
i put my hand on my heart now, feel it beat inside me with a rhythm like the constant applause to patty griffin's music. i'm still alive underneath this shroud, she sings.