Friday, September 08, 2006

Girl Friday: Between Here and Gone


For as long as I can remember, I've drawn strength from music. Listening to and learning great songs written and performed by other women has been especially restorative. Going back a really long way for me is the songwriting and singing of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Now, she’s not really Bluegrass, but her songs have always captured me, and reflected back to me my own perspective on many things.

I find myself turning to her work and her recordings now the way I used to turn to other things for “answers.” Now that I know the only place to find those answers is within, I find her music and her singing brings me to a point where I can reflect, wait for guidance, and move forward in a conscious way.

Her songwriting is thoughtful, poetic yet direct, delightfully self-effacing. Her tunes possess a touch of humor and sadness, deep honesty, and a boldness that makes me feel at home in my own skin, for once.

When I find myself going through a confusing time, often tinged with grief and hope at once, I often catch myself deploying self-effacing humor and sarcasm. I prefer to think of this state as "good grief" -- sort of a realization that each thing in life, every experience has a shadow side, a darkness to the beauty, and vice versa. Mary Chapin Carpenter's songs are chock full of this at varying depths.

I used to be terrified of uncertainty, and tried to fill the void by planning, anticipating, guessing, dreaming about things that might come to pass. At my worst, I dreamed about things that might not come to pass, and was desperate, absolutely desperate, to know my purpose in the world. My days and nights were sometimes filled with this senseless sort of anxious wondering. I wasn't living. I was just waiting, clinging to visions or desires, while my life in the present, in the moment, barely got my attention.

I still sometimes catch myself pondering things a little too much, but now I'm conscious of it in a way that keeps me from lingering in a dream state. I'm learning to accept the difference between real love, and attachment. I'm discerning the difference between Jung's Self and the Eastern lack of self. I'm pretty clear with myself about the nature of being and the fact that it could all be over in an instant, even while I'm sitting here typing and my daughter is reading to me. But I will always be stuck on finding my little place in the world, making my life meaningful somehow, leaving things in better shape than when I got here, and knowing a sense of belonging before it's over.

I love this song. It's the title track from Chapin Carpenter's 2004 release, Between Here and Gone. It was written for Dave Carter, that beautiful, gentle soul who all too briefly gave us songs of such wit, insight, and poetry that it's really hard not to wish he hadn't thought his own death so beautiful and that he would have found a way to stick around a while longer.

Wishing, even good natured wishing, is attachment. There's nothing wrong with making a wish or two, but it's no longer the way I live. Most of the time wishes are an anxious expression of Self, a desire to make some transition easier or better for someone else or myself rather than accept and face the fact that what's real is often challenging and laborious and not what we really hoped. We find ourselves between here and gone, between this place and the next, between this life, and no life.

Last night, in my tired confused state, I walked outside, where it was quiet, and looked up at a beautiful nearly-full, low-hanging moon. The fullness of my life welled up, all the good, bad, and uncertain, and I took the moment in like a perfect kiss. Life is lived in the middle of here and gone, made up of the moments that are rich, sweaty, tearful, abundantly tiring, full of the music of our too-human hearts.

Between Here and Gone

Tonight, the moon came out, it was nearly full.
Way down here on earth, I could feel it's pull.
The weight of gravity or just the lure of life,
Made me want to leave my only home tonight.

Now I'm just wonderin' how we know where we belong.
Is it in a photograph, or a dashboard poet's song?
Will I have missed my chance to right some ancient wrong,
Should I find myself between here and gone?

Now I could grab my keys, clear out in my truck,
With every cent on board bringing me their luck.
An' I could drive too fast, like a midnight sleeve,
As if there was a way to outrun the grief.

Now I'm just wonderin' how we know where we belong.
In a song that's left behind in the dream I couldn't wake from.
Could I have felt the brush of a soul that's passing on,
Somewhere in between here and gone?

Up above me,
Wayward angels,
A blur of wings and grace.
One for courage,
One for safety,
One for "just in case".

I thought a light went out, but now the candle shines.
I thought my tears wouldn't stop, then I dried my eyes.
And after all of this, the truth that holds me here,
Is that this emptiness is something not to fear.

Yeah, I'll keep wondering how we know where we belong,
After all the journeys made, and the journeys yet to come.
When I feel like giving up instead of going on,
Somewhere in between.

Yeah, I'm just wondering how we know where we belong.I
s it in the arc of the moon, leaving shadows on the lawn?
In the path of fireflies and a single bird at dawn,
Singing in between here and gone.

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