Week 514 // Watch the Center

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All by myself
I believe what strangers say
All on my own
I’d believe most anything
Down in the soil
Beneath the arrowheads and glass
Down for a while
Beneath assumptions that nothing lasts

I been waiting
I could wait on anything
I’m a number
I’m a ticket
Wait for me

All of my time
On the edges I could dwell
All through my life
Watch the center doing well

I been waiting
I could wait on anything
I’m a constant
I’m rhythm you’d believe

There you are

You’re a moment in a moment
Now I see
I’m number
I’m a ticket
Wait for me

Here we are

Notes

This song came quick and easy. To some degree, I feel like the entire exercise had escaped my lungs before I knew exactly what I was going on about. Sometimes I find myself in this space attempting to interpret, rather than explaining what I’ve written.

In this song, I think we’ve got somebody trying to be steady in a world of impermanence; a character whose Identity is wrapped up in an instinct to be patient, to wait, to last, while the dominant impulse is the opposite. I think patience is proving to be a virtue in our current predicament. We control so little outside of our willingness to hold on.

~M.E.

Week 513 // Sunflowers in New York

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Down the block
In a garden
Growing tall as the sky
See sunflowers in New York
They are bowing
Losing their heads
As summer ends

And it’s fine
The dark arriving
Sooner every night
Like a friend
A shadow moving
Closer all the time
Once again

Down the block
All the voices
Sing in the night
Like church choirs
After dark
There are angels
Wherever you are
Once autumn starts

And it’s fine
The dark arriving
Sooner every night
Like a friend
A shadow moving
Closer all the time
Once again

Notes

On my street there is a garden that grows tall sunflowers each summer. I don’t think I’ve seen them growing elsewhere in Brooklyn, although it’s likely I just haven’t been very observant over the years. They grow and grow throughout the summer, as sunflowers do. They are like skyscrapers over the bushes and flowers and pedestrians below. When summer nears its end, as it is doing just about now, their heads droop solemnly, as if they understand their time is nearly up. Eventually some gardener comes along and clips their heads clean off. It’s a stark moment to announce the end of a season. But just then, the air turns a bit cooler and something new and wonderful begins. Autumn is my favorite. I always announce it prematurely with a song, but today I felt it. It’s on its way.

~M.E.

Week 512 // Keep the Light

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All kinds of walls outside
I take my time
In the dark
Travel by moonlight

All the stars might align
I beg for signs
Through the night
Tend the fire
Keep the light

Touch
It’s real
It’s flesh and bone
Sleep and dream of home
We recall the way to go
I hope

Notes

I had a bunch of plans for this song that I didn’t get to try. Just as I was hitting my creative stride, it became clear that a pretty big sound system was being set up directly across the street for a sidewalk party. I raced to complete the song as it became increasingly impossible to keep the neighborhood festivities from bleeding into my microphone. I’m not a professional, and I don’t record in a studio. When these things happen, I try to take them in stride. Ultimately, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got here. This is a 2020 song, by which I mean it’s a song about striving to counter the darkness. It’s a song about holding onto hope.

~M.E.

Week 511 // Bells on the Wind

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These bells on the wind
Greet this old world
Morning to you

I’ll call you my friend
I’ll tell you what I
Know to be true

I’ve seen the strength
Your Mom will give to you
It is the truth

Old trees on the hill
They’ll watch you grow
Wiser in time

I’ll draw them with you
We’ll make them strong
And color them fine

I’ve seen the love
Your Dad will show to you
Patient and kind

Notes

Wow! For the second week in a row I have occasion to write a song to welcome somebody new into the world! This is a pretty rare and splendid occasion. Eneko Paz is the excellent son of Tama and Miguel, my dear old friends and sound making buddies. His parents have graced many of these songs with their bountiful musicality, and now they get to make a whole new kind of harmony as Mom and Dad.

Eneko Paz, I wanted to tell you a few things with this song. The first is hello, I am your friend. I’m going to be nice to you and help you understand the world as best I can. I’m going to do fun things with you and tell you dumb jokes, sing silly songs, and draw pictures with you.

The other thing I want to tell you is that you hit the jackpot with your parents. Trust in their love and goodness. Their love and goodness will be here for you forever.

I don’t know when I’ll get to see you for the first time, but I can’t wait to meet you. When I see you, we’ll sing in the sunshine and our song will carry like bells on the wind.

~M.E.

Week 510 // Once or Twice

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Once in a while
You’ll wonder
Where did it start?

Once or twice in a lifetime
You’ll understand
And set yourself apart

Once in a while
You’ll ponder
Ever greater things

Once or twice in the meantime
You’ll blink your eyes
Amazed what morning brings

It’s new
All the empty pages
The all expanding ages and you

Once in a while
You’ll find someone
Who sees into your soul

Once or twice in a lifetime
You’ll marvel how
The part exceeds the whole

It’s new
All the empty pages
The all expanding ages and you

Sun on the horizon
And all the endless sky
The light and you

Notes

This is a song for a baby! Evan arrived last week to very dear friends, and I already promised his parents that I would send him presents. This is the first one (unless the comics-accurate baby-sized Wolverine costume has already arrived??).

I love writing songs like this. Sometimes they are lullabies. Other times, they are musings on the world as it expands before somebody totally new. This one falls into the latter category. I love finding the opportunity to speak directly to somebody whose whole life still lies ahead, whose entire experience is discovery.

Welcome, Evan. You were born during an unprecedented time instead of an easy time. Your world is exciting. Don’t let anybody tell you that it isn’t also beautiful.

~M.E.

Week 509 // What Do I Know Anyway?

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Is this the rain we hoped would come?
Is this enough to make it?
All the ways that time has gone
All the thoughts I waste it on

Is this the rain we begged to fall?
To clean away the worst of it
All the edges are built up walls
And all the kids seem melancholy

But what do I know anyway?
What have I seen of it all?
What do I know anyway?

Is this the way we meant it to go?
Apart from all our senses
And when they leave us we cannot know
The chasm it creates in us

But what do I know anyway?
What have I seen of it all?
What do I know anyway?

Notes
New York is not so bad these days. Still, as I touched upon last week, it isn’t quite how I left it. The subtle and obvious differences in how people behave and get around are still making themselves evident to me. They underscore the crisis, even as I see evidence everywhere that people are coping and finding ways to reassert their agency.

Simply being reminded of the pandemic as I try to readjust is enough to make me feel more maladjusted than I might really be. It’s a feeling of being a bit off. Sometimes I think things are really bad here, and then I remind myself that I was nowhere near this place when things got bad. I hear beautiful music from down the block. Frankly I know very little — certainly not enough yet to form an opinion about how good or bad things are. This is a song about assuming and learning.

~M.E.

Week 508 // Back in Town

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Looks like I’m back in town
Where’d I run off to?
I’ve been around
I’ve been off hiding in outer space
I’ve been avoiding
The human race

What if I’m not the same
As I was when I left this place?
And all I was made of
Has vanished without a trace
It’s a funny thing
‘Cause I don’t know

About my mother
She’s seen it all
And see my father
He’s standing tall
I’ve got their footsteps
I’m standing in
And I’ve got constants
Where I begin

What if I’m not the same
As I was when I left this town?
And all I was made from
Is scattered all around
And out on the sidewalk
I’m hoping for solid ground
It’s a funny thing
‘Cause I don’t know

Notes
To begin with, recording a song is incredibly more difficult in my Brooklyn apartment than it is in a New Hampshire basement. The very moment I hit record on the first guitar take, a car alarm sounded outside my window and continued for four solid minutes. Patience is ever a virtue in New York City.

I cried all the way back from New Hampshire. I haven’t cried behind the wheel like that since the last time I left summer camp. It felt good and right. It was a gift to spend the past five months with my parents, knowing them better, and learning from their generosity, humor, and kindness. It was also our great fortune to be safe from the worst of the crisis so far. It was wonderful to be someplace beautiful and simple.

This place is complicated. I mean that both in terms of the logistics of living, and my feelings about being here. I last felt this way when when I first arrived in Brooklyn years ago. Covid has rendered my city alien to me, and I’m a bit bewildered by it. That said, I’ve learned this place before and I can do it again.

~M.E.

Week 507 // Tell Me Anything You Want To

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In the country
You’re in the water set aglow
Every fine thing
See the candle burning low

All the mornings
Every arc across the sky
All the evenings
All the ages in your eye

Hold me to the light
And tell me darling
Things will be alright
And tell me darling
Anything you want to

All the wheels are turning
All our pictures getting old
All the honest moments
All the changes we behold

Turn me to the light
And tell me darling
Things will be alright
And tell me darling
Anything you want to

Notes
Saturday was our fifth wedding anniversary! We are on a well deserved getaway together in Maine to replicate our mini-moon five years ago. I have written before of the ways that partnership can be underscored by the current moment. Covid-19 brought us closer together, and we’re fortunate for that. I know we didn’t envision 2020 clearly when we spoke our vows. We never guessed that one day soon the world would be tested and we would have rely on each other in precisely this way. As we age into the next phase of our partnership, I’m grateful to have somebody who will tell me that things are going to be okay. I’m also also thankful to have somebody to say it to.

~M.E.

Week 506 // Liminal Space

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Home
The horizon is further than it looks
Know all of this will change
All of this is heading somewhere

Gone is the comet
Got swallowed by the dawn
Know all of us will change
All of us are headed someplace

And all the way
Our thoughts are fixed on silence
And all the way
We pray we’re being drawn somewhere

Gone all the pretense
We’ll utter what we mean
Though all the waves will crest
All trials cost us something

And all the way
Our path will follow questions
And all the way
We’ll pray we’re being drawn somewhere

Notes
The other day I was in the car listening to NPR, and somebody was talking about how we’re all inhabiting liminal space right now. I don’t know who she was, and I didn’t hear much of what she had to say, but I heard enough to agree with a lot of the broad strokes.

She spoke of our current existence as being situated profoundly in between what we knew, and the settled reality of what is coming, whatever that may be. God, that’s true. She had a pretty rosy outlook about what might come. We’ll be more patient, understanding, and community minded. Maybe or maybe not. That’s where she stopped reading the moment and started postulating. It’s also where I parted ways with her analysis.

I’m not saying we won’t arrive where the commentator hoped we might. I’m saying it’s not foregone conclusion, and without a lot of deliberate effort it isn’t necessary the likely outcome. We have to strive for a gentler world than the one we left. There’s a cost to be paid for that. For now, we’re still in between.

~M.E.

Week 505 // Never

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Every morning
I could reach for it
I could name it
I could strive for it
Don’t be lucky
She said be fortunate

There’s a difference
You could show it to me
Don’t confuse me
Take control for me
Don’t be cautious
Instead be confident

Know the difference
Strive for it
Think of the light
Fly to it

Every morning
I’m a portrait
I could add to it
I could tear through it
Don’t be selfish
Try self-interested

There’s a difference
Strive for
Think of the light
Fly to it

Notes
I’m slammed, you guys. That’s a big part of what’s going on in this song. I have more on my plate than I know what to do with, and it’s a drag. I’m not one to bring my work home, but sometimes I have to. I’ll often spin my wheels in these songs about how I process my relationship with responsibility and expectation. It helps me to cope.

I have to give a tip of my hat to Rebecca, from whom I stole the best line in this song. She likes to draw the distinction between luck and fortune — that luck is mere happenstance, and fortune is a force within which you’ve got agency. I agree with her and like the concept so much that I sang about it.

I’m so glad I found time to write this. Wish me luck — no! Wish me good fortune as I press on.

~M.E.