After Dinner Music

I’m sitting at the dinner table at Peter and Isaaca’s house.  The dishes have been cleared away and the table is a clean slate, ready for song writing and fresh ideas.

I am in Byrdlandia and the hookah has been brought out and those around the table sip their wine slowly as Jeremy gets out his guitar.  The bowl of flavored, molasses soaked tobacco (and really, it is only tobacco) begins to burn slowly as they pass the pipe around and music starts to flow out of Jeremy’s guitar, bathing us in the potential of a hit song. I am an observer, only a witness to this creative session.

The girls wait for their cue and Jeremy looks up at them and words and phrases begin to float up above the table, waiting to be plucked out of the air and put on the invisible “Scrabble Board” of lyrics, with the cords that to me, sounds like something with a 1950’s vibe.

They struggle with the concept of the meaning of their creation, the chord progression and how to resolve it.  Finally, because I can’t contain myself any longer, I lean up to the table, (I, the one who doesn’t write music), ventures out boldly to put in my two cents worth of opinion.  “At this point in the song, you don’t want to be asking…you need to be begging.  That’s what people relate to.  That hooks them.  That’s money.”

Jeremy painfully argues with me.  “Mom, don’t critique my musicianship, my art”.  He winks and smiles at me.  Oh, he smiles at me but I really know that his porcupine hide has surfaced to protect his fragility.  Musicians are sensitive and the purity of their craft is their creed and a matter of pride. They are producing their musical children, conceiving and creating them, hoping that the muse will breathe life into them.  If he does, they name their baby and it’s theirs to raise and introduce to the world.  They will have to live with their created child forever.  Alright….I will defer to them.  I won’t be there to raise their children but I will be able to enjoy them as a grandparent.  Instead of pictures in my wallet, I’ll carry my iPod and throw the tunes out for anyone who will listen.

The smoke from the hookah curls up over them like a muse caressing their imaginations.  All of a sudden,  a look of inspiration moves across them like a bow coaxing sounds out of a violin and they add another line to a chorus.  They sing a few more unfinished songs, working on rough spots and I listen to them, thinking that if they finish these songs, they would have have another record.

“Good Lord, you guys.  How many new songs are almost finished?  If you had more time together you could knock these out and just keep producing new stuff.”

I said what they had all been feeling and complaining about. They came to Nashville to write and sing…to create.  But things kept getting in their way, like rent, food, waitressing jobs, social lives, bills…life.  I wanted to turn back the clock for them.  Take them all under my roof and support them so they could be musical purists, tour relentlessly and pursue music 24/7. They did that for several years when they first started their careers.  They lived under our roof and we paid for their musical dreams.  It was our duty as parents.  We were dream enablers and it was our pleasure to be so.

Natalie grabs the guitar and starts to play a rift, closing her eyes and brings up a song almost forgotten to her.  “Remember that song I wrote when we lived in Alabama and were just starting”?  She plays a few chords and then sings the chorus to a song about them not having quite enough money to travel to play a show and my motherly, “I couldn’t for the life of me help myself” response to their chronic monetary woes:

“Go down to the back room, into the closet.
open my shoebox. Take all my cash.
All the cash.
Then hit the road ’cause
it’s a long way to Mississippi.
Call me after the show.”2012-03-06_14-20-26_146

Creating an atmosphere for a visit from the muse

I smile.  I do remember that song.  How many times did I give them my secret stash?  Yes, indeedy…I did have interest in The Bridges and special bragging rights to each and every song.

Jeremy takes back the guitar.  They begin to play  stark naked country songs that are classic and simple.  Hank Williams’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Bill Monroe’s version of “In the Pines”. The pure heartbreaking, melancholic sound wraps us up in it’s pale, slender arms and strokes our souls. She then massages our hearts and connects us to a creative flow that circles the earth like a heavenly river flowing high above us. I realize that melancholy is the muse in this instance, and she pours the water from the river over us like a priest baptizing us with holy water from the creative fount of blessings.  They become, one for that moment with the Spirit of the Ancient of Days.  Only that spirit can make melancholy a thing of utter beauty.

Natalie begins humming one of my all time favorite songs:  “Shenandoah”.  I am always drawn to it’s simplicity and beauty.  We google the lyrics and they sing them.  Jeremy strums the guitar and my daughters sing it tentatively, tears thickening the sound of their voices. I hold on to that moment  for dear life.  Time travels to allow someone’s pain from another era grab our hearts and we are caught up in music’s magic moment of transcendence.

The moment doesn’t last long but it is a perfect moment, brought to us from a creative child of a bygone era.  I wonder what grandparent held the bragging rights to that haunting beauty. Will my children leave such a glorious legacy?  I hope so.  My iPod is ready!2012-12-11_16-27-16_409

Where creative children are born… around the table.

Here’s your song, enjoy!

The Present Part II

Two weeks ago, I posted “The Present” on my blog. I promised to give you part two this week. If you didn’t read my last post, please read it before reading this. It will make much more sense to you if you do. Thanks for waiting. Hope you enjoy it.

“Here, let me take all of this for you,” God offered, scooping the music and lyrics out of my hands and putting them back into the box. “You don’t want to lose this song. You may need to pull it out of the box later for a special occasion.” The tiny bits of paper were sticking to his hands like they had static electricity in them. He had to peel off more than a few clingy notes left on his fingers.

“So, you have questions? Let me hear them,” he prompted.

“Ok…so what you are telling me is that YOU are music and YOU write all the songs?” I ventured out a little bit further. “Even the wild and crazy stuff?” I thought about how a lot of people would be shocked if they knew about that.

“Uh huh. I write it all. All different kinds of styles…just like languages…well, it is a language. It’s one way I communicate with people even though most of them don’t realize it.”

“But how does it happen? I thought that PEOPLE write music…” My voice trailed off as my mind made room for an epiphany.

“And they do! Don’t get me wrong! When someone opens themselves to creativity, I take over and most of the time they are totally unaware. They get the ideas and subject matter all from me.”

“But how?”

“When a writer sits down to write a song, I don’t care who it is…a portal from heaven opens directly above them and I just inspire them to write exactly what I want to convey to the world. They usually think that they are writing a love song about someone or a situation they have been through – and it is, but it’s also me singing a love song to the world, to the church, or to a specific group of people that needs encouragement. Sometimes it’s a heart-felt song that becomes a prayer that the world is singing to me. It can be about anything, really. It’s one of my ways of communicating. It’s a language from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven…’It’s from me. It’s for you. It’s from you. It’s for me.'”

My heart shot a message to my brain and told me that it was true. I felt that I was being “let in” on a huge secret and that I was about to be educated in a way that only a hand full of musical scholars had been educated. The great creator of the heavens and the earth, and all that they contained, was about to explain a hidden truth to me. I was about to be taken “behind the curtain” of written music and lyrics to discover what happens that makes us love and relate to music so much.

I pictured a writer sitting down at a table, head leaning back, staring up at a blank ceiling while waiting for “inspiration” to pay him a visit. I then saw through the ceiling, up through the roof and then up into the heavens. All of a sudden, I saw a light come down from the sky, as if heaven had pulled back a dark curtain and opened a small window. The light poured down into the sky, onto the writer’s house, cutting its way through the roof and down into the ceiling, illuminating the writer in a golden pool of words and musical notes. It was as if the music box had spilled out from heaven and rained down a song over the willing writer. The writer, bathed in the swathe of creative light, all of a sudden, picked up a pencil and began to write, relief spreading across his face as the words tumbled onto the lined notebook paper. His writing session would be productive, after all, because “inspiration,” that illusive muse, had chosen him, out of every other songwriter creating at that moment, to write the one song that needed to be shared.

I gasped. “You just did it, didn’t you?”

“Did what?” God asked.

“Made a portal or opened a window from heaven over ME…because I just saw it in a vision. You showed me what it would look like if I could actually ‘see’ inspiration or creativity come down from heaven and touch someone.”

God smiled. “You’re quick. The vision just came to you in a flash, didn’t it? That’s how it is for any artist – songwriter, painter, dancer, poet, novelist, designer…It doesn’t matter. I give the natural talent and send inspiration to make it come alive, conveying my thoughts through them to the world.”

Wow! I had to have an example, a case study to make sure I was getting it right. “Can you give me an example of a song you wrote that I would know? So that I can understand this better? Like…what’s the saddest song you’ve ever written?”

Without missing a beat, he answered, “For YOUR generation and particular culture? ‘You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille’”.

“Really? Why that one? What sets that one apart? There are so many sad songs.” For just a second I wondered if I was making up this entire conversation with God. Was I imagining some kind of supernatural “present” from God because I wanted one so badly? My spirit must have heard my questions because immediately it said, “No! You could never make up anything this fantastic! Listen. God’s telling you something he wants you to know.” I paid strict attention and hung onto his every word.

“It’s sad on several levels,” he began. “First, notice it’s a song about someone named Lucille. That’s your first clue. Lucille means ‘light bearer’. Always look at the names in a song. It gives a huge clue to the deeper meaning. On the surface level, a man’s wife, Lucille, has left him. The one who always brought light into his life is gone.

‘You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.
With four hungry children and a crop in the field.
I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times
This time the hurtin’ won’t heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.’

‘Light’ left him at a crucial time. He’s busy with his crops and can’t take care of his children while he’s in the fields. Naturally, he’s hurt. The absence of her light leaves him in dark despair.

“Now, let’s take the song to a deeper level. Let’s say, that there are those who consider themselves in a relationship with me. They believe that I’ve let them down for some reason or another or that I’ve promised them dreams that never came true. They get tired of holding on to their dreams and they leave me, their children, destiny and purpose, and the crop in the field; their ability to change the world around them. They leave me and everything I have to offer them before the crops are even harvested.

‘When the drinks finally hit her
She said, ‘I’m no quitter.’
But I finally quit living on dreams.
I’m hungry for laughter
Here ever after
I’m after whatever the other life brings.’

Can you imagine the overall effect of all the disillusioned ‘light’ in this world, leaving me and seeking elsewhere for comfort and personal satisfaction? These disappointed ‘Lucilles’ were intended to be light bearers but instead they put out their fire, the inner light that I put in them. It’s been heartbreaking to me. If only they could have held on a little longer, they could have had everything I promised them.”

I felt his pain hit my heart and I wanted to weep…for God and for the people disillusioned with him because of their own impatience with their struggles. It WAS a sad song indeed! I wanted to go and find all the ‘Lucilles’ in the world and tell them to hold on a bit longer, that they would get every promise God had put in their hearts. I would tell them never to give up. I thought of other songs; some old and some more recent; “Candle in the Wind,” sung by Elton John, “Light the Fire Within,” by LeAnn Rimes, “Light My Fire,” by The Doors…there were countless songs about the subject. My mind was racing with the discovery.

“Believe it or not,” God was not through with his line of thought, “there is another level of meaning to this song, if you want to go there. I had a ‘Lucille,’ too. I created him before I even created man. He WAS music, created out of things that made musical sounds and things you have never even heard of. He was the most beautiful creature I ever made. His name was ‘Lucifer,’ which also, means light bearer.”

“What happened to him?” I thought that this story seemed vaguely familiar. “Isn’t he on the earth now?”

“He IS on the earth now. But he was once with me, leading the choir of heaven, writing all the music. You would be blown away if you could have seen that. It was spectacular! We had all sorts of plans and things to do but he wanted to be me. He wanted all the power. He even organized a protest in heaven and a third of the angels in heaven joined forces with him. I finally had to make them all leave. They fell to the earth and torture mankind now. At first, it angered me. I didn’t create him for that. He was my “Son of the Morning,” my Morning Star. Now, he’s so jealous of man because man can be redeemed and he can’t. He’s really jealous of musicians, by the way. They get to do what he did in heaven. He can’t stand them. But, I suppose you can see the communication coming down from heaven to earth. I know he must detest that song.”

I was shocked. I had never thought about God having “issues” with spiritual beings that I coudn’t see. I was astounded that music was a communicator between the forces of good and evil. I didn’t know what to say.

“You’re getting it, aren’t you?” God wanted to know. I nodded my head up and down. “But the important thing is that not only that you understand it, but that it causes an emotion – compassion, to well up inside of you and calls for action to help those who need it. The energy that the melody and lyrics sent out to the ‘world’, play on your emotional heartstrings and cause you to respond in a way that would help my Kingdom be established here on earth. That’s what it’s all about, anyway…establishing my Kingdom.”

I had to take a few moments to let this revelation sink into my spirit and my soul. The window of heaven must have still been shining down on me because I could actually see the white, bright light rise up to my reasoning mind so that God could saturate it a bit with more understanding. I saw it then move down to the fine, tiny bones and inner parts of my ear, where the mysteries of sound were taken in and digested as energy with communicating capabilities. The light lingered there for awhile, for it was necessary to give my ears the ability to interpret what they heard when music and lyrics had a message for someone. The light then flowed to my eyes and bathed them in the warm energy that would enable me to “see” a person or group of people that the song had been written for. Slipping down to my mouth, the light radiated a warmth that loosened my tongue, freeing up my ability to communicate the revelation of this musical language. Lastly, the light intensified and stopped at my heart, marinating it in a kind of empathy or compassion tear bath that would be activated when the song was interpreted for someone.

I stopped seeing where the light was going. It had stopped at my heart and left me with the instant knowledge of what my present really was. The exquisite heavenly music box was only part of the supernatural gift. God had taken the wrapping paper off to show me a heavenly musical language that was intended to speak on his behalf to people who needed to feel love again and become reacquainted with their purpose. It was a just another pleasant way he communicated with man. He was making it easy for us. The problem was, though, most people didn’t recognize the language on that level. They didn’t look for the higher meaning in the lyrics.

“So…I guess you’re giving me this music gift to help people with, huh?” By this time I was crying. I always cry when I feel God in such a real way. In a way, it’s always one of the signs that he is truly speaking to me about something important.

“Yes. That’s it,” he said. You will be able to look at someone and I will put a song in your mind about them and you will tell them about it. It may just be part of a lyric or phrase, but something that will blow them away just because they will know I’m thinking about them.”

“Do you have a song for me right now?” I asked. “What do you think of me?” It took only a second for the song to come to my mind…

“Unforgettable, that’s how you are
Unforgettable, near and far.
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me
Never before, has someone been more

Unforgettable, in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay
That’s why darling it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am
Unforgettable, too.”

I laid there in my bed, tears running down my face. He “had me” at Nat King Cole. I was almost embarrassed to have the God of the whole universe think so extravagantly and lovingly about me. Is this what “the gift” did to people; take God out of a box and show them that he does relate to them in a way that they could understand?

I thought about it a long time that night. Actually, I don’t think I got much sleep. I wanted to try this gift out; see if it worked. I got up and got dressed and decided to head to Wal Mart. It would be a great place to practice my “new present.”

I got a few things I needed and stood in the checkout line. There was a man standing in front of me. “Here goes nothing,” I thought. “OK, God. What about this man? Do you have a song for him?”

I didn’t have to wait. One came to mind instantly.

“This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by…”

This man was lonely and felt like he had missed the mark somewhere along life’s way! He felt like giving up! The band, America, had him pegged. I didn’t want to talk to him, though, I wasn’t quite ready for that, yet. I just wanted to see the gift work.

I walked to the car and saw a young woman holding a little boy’s hand in the parking lot. “What about her?” I asked God. “What’s her deal?”

“Do you know the way to San Jose
I’ve been away so long, I might
Go wrong and lose my way.
Do you know the way to San Jose
I’m going back to find some piece
Of mind in San Jose.”

“Oh,” I realized. “She wants to get out of here and leave. She feels no peace here.” Burt Bacharach had her number too.

I saw a man getting out of his car. “What about him, God? What’s going on with him?”

“I get knocked down, but I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down.”

“Chumbawamba? Now, God….that’s funny right there. I don’t care who you are…but I get it. He’s from the ‘school of hard knocks’ and he’s a tough guy.”

I began to see people through the words of songs. The same window that opened over the songwriter opened over me when I wanted “to see” into someone’s soul. Life was beginning to get real interesting!

The Magic Of Our Lives

Hi friends.  I’m glad to say that I’m back in the blog world;  happy to be here but a bit nervous!  I thought I would open my blog up to a larger audience.  “Mothers of Musicians” attracted mainy, well….mothers of musicians, and I really wanted to make this mess of my mind available to those who follow the muse or…let’s just say for accuracy, the spirit of the creator in us all.

I live now in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, three miles from the beach.  It’s always been my dream to live at the beach but lately I find myself wishing instead for green, rolling hills, rich black dirt and hardwood forests with an occasisonal  pine instead of flat, sandy land with scrubby pines and oaks bent into ghostly shapes made by harsh winds.  I have found the ocean to be loud, windy and too big to stand next to everyday.  I want to feel contained, sheltered and hemmed in by gentle hills that can help me keep my thoughts together.   Also, the sun here is not just bright, but a white bright that shows everything exactly the way is.  The kind of light artists love.  But I’m not that kind of artist.  I like the sun to be soft and the edges of my days smoothe to the touch.  I don’t have to see everything so starkly.

On the other hand…I probably just miss my children.  They all live in Nashville, Tennessee, twelve hours away from me…over the mountains and then to where overwhelming heights  mellow out into beautiful hills. My kids live in homes that dot that magical, enchanted land,  acre after acre  divided up by low, stone walls, generations old and painted fences that keep things in their right places.  Things like horses, cows, children and maybe, thoughts?   If the grass is greener, it’s because of Empty Nest Syndrome and Menopause.  (And yes, I capitalized them because they are power forces and deserve respect.)

A few weeks ago my child married in that land of enchantment.  Isaaca Joy Byrd (child number five) married Peter Allen Groenwald at a beautiful, old, historical barn on a lovely farm off of The Natchez Trace.  They were married at sunset by Izzy’s grandfather, PaPaw, and her dad, Bill.  The air was chilly and the sun set faster than we thought it would.  We were all shivery down to the core but the magic of the night was ahead and warmed us at the thought of it.  The barn was decorated with natural things, like cotton stalks we pulled right out of the fields here in  North Carolina.  (Some I must say were pulled by permission and some by the light of the moon.) 

The barn glowed with strung  lights and the tent with candles.  Tall cylinders of glass held sticks with live butterflies in them.  Some tables had chandeliers of cotton hanging from above and cotton bolls peeked out from every flower arrangement and bridal bouquet.  “The touch the feel of cotton, the magic of our lives.”  (That’s true, you know.)   The band stepped up to the stage and it was legendary,  several of its  members straight out of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The Time Jumpers…and yes, Vince Gill was there to play too. 

We danced in the glow of glass bulbs and candle light.  We toasted the bride and groom with our small fruit jars filled with wine, letting the music and the wine  go straight to our heads, giddy all because of Peter and Isaaca’s love and rosy future…and we were in the midst of history and great music and we all smelled of perfume and believe it or not, fire from the outside bon fire.   And we all knew it was magic.  The magic of our lives.

%d bloggers like this: