I remember driving down the rutted roads late at night
Following the summer moon, bright as any pair of headlights
I felt the air on my face and the night pressed inside my palm
A moment captured in a place, this memory stays strong
O my darling, o my love; o my darling, o my love
O my darling, o my love…the things that we are made of…
I heard this song last week and it broke me clean in half. Music can do that, you know; any great art can wreck you, tear your soul to ribbons, dismantle you and leave you fragmented, in pieces. I read books, sometimes – sentences and paragraphs that create stories and characters and tension and sorrow and joy – and I can’t help but tumble into the world created therein. The best book, I think, is an invitation, and I readily respond.I am transported to the place where I am so much in that other world that the things that are real and tangible, the flesh and blood and work and food all around me – these are the interruptions, the false things. I become immersed.
It takes time to recover.
It is unnerving.
There are bonds within music as well; don’t we all have a song that is ‘ours’, a moment of real or recreated romance? First dances; what played on the radio during our first kiss. The song from a grandparent’s funeral that still wields great power. These are the most powerful for me, these soundtracks of the past.
To this day, one of the most powerful moments in my entire life is wrapped around a Mary Chapin Carpenter song.
Some people remember the first time; some can’t forget the last
Some just select what they want to from the past
It’s a song that you danced to in high school, it’s a moon you try to bring down
On a four in the morning drive through the streets of town
Come on, come on – it’s getting late now
Come on, come on – take my hand
Come on, come on – you just have to whisper
Come on, come on – I will understand ‘Come On, Come On’ – Mary Chapin Carpenter
Many years ago, someone handed me that CD – an offering of grace and encouragement. I had never even heard of the artist; I listened to the country pop songs with mild appreciation and amusement, even. She’s funny and many of her songs carry humor with a wry sensibility. She’s a great songwriter.
But then this final track came on, and I can tell you now just as clearly as if it is my current reality: I sat in the dark with headphones in and my portable CD player clutched in my trembling hand and tears streamed down my face. It was the story – the history and the present, pulled together; it was the way the piano was orchestrated, to pull the bottom end of the song into a solid place – the piano as percussion, sparse and perfectly timed. The whispered vocal. The connection, the assurance that I will understand; this song connected to my soul and still, to this day, compels me to stillness and something so holy that my legs tremble and my heart folds in on itself. The message I received was sacred.
This visceral, emotional, soul-filled reaction was not just the because of the impact that the song had on me as I experienced it. Because this friend had handed it to me, I took it as a message; a sort of secret, passed from one to another. I felt this song so deeply, so profoundly, and I connected it to my friend and believed that we shared something with this song – that there was a deep, meaningful truth between us that culminated in the invitation.
Come on, come on….I will understand…
That memory has soothed and encouraged me for many years now. It has been resonant, and a powerful tool to tug me towards nostalgia. It was ‘our song’; it had deep meaning and connected us on an almost cellular level.
Not too long ago I had occasion to mention this song and that memory to that friend, and I remarked upon its transcendent power and deep meaning. I don’t remember clearly the details of the conversation, but my friend replied, essentially, Huh? What are you talking about?
The Mary Chapin CD. That song! You know!
The song you gave me! You know!!!
Turns out I was alone in my deeply poetic vision of our connected souls. It didn’t happen. My friend gave me that CD on a whim; it was a slight notion, a thought that I might enjoy a female singer songwriter. We weren’t connected by the deep, hidden meaning of a song – not at all.
It was my imagination.
This really bothered me for a while – for a few weeks, in fact. I looked back on these deep feelings – during a season when I had a LOT of deep feelings – and tried to reconcile the ‘togetherness’ that I assumed with the truth that I was alone in all of that.
Then, just last week, I listened to this interview with Mary Chapin Carpenter (thanks, Mom!), and I heard The Things That We Are Made Of for the first time. It harkens back to Come On, Come On –the phrasing and the vibe of the song are so similar. I couldn’t help but connect the dots; it’s almost like chapter two of the same story.
But this time, it was just me listening. And here’s the thing: I cried anyway. I felt deeply. I was – and continue to be – profoundly moved by the lyric and the wistful melody. There’s no connection, no shared understanding; there’s just me.
And that’s enough. It’s enough to let my heart yearn so that it repeats, three times, O my darling, o my love, before the honest and open acknowledgement of the things that we are made of.
It’s enough to recognize what I am made of, and to make note of where I see it in another, and to hold this song of life and love and memory close to my heart, all by myself.