Friday, January 07, 2005

Maybe ... it's alright.

Something as simple as boys and girls
Gets tossed all around and then lost in the world.
Something as hard as a prayer on your back
Can wait a long time for an answer.
Can wait a long time for an answer.

Maybe it's alright.
Maybe we won't fight anymore.
Maybe love is waiting at the end of every room.
I don't know.
I don't know.
But maybe ... maybe it's alright.

Patty Griffin, "Mother of God"

Cold, wet, dismal day here in Central Texas, following on the heels of a miserable night's sleep. Driving into work this morning, through the light misty rain, eyelids feeling like they're made of steel wool from the goddamn cedar pollen, feeling so damn tired, listening to a CD I burned yesterday. Just an assortment of Patty Griffin tunes I picked from my collection, some favorites to listen to in the car.

Now, I don't know if you've ever listened to Patty Griffin. The woman is an astonishingly gifted songwriter, capable of creating the most vivid character portraits using gloriously simple strokes and lines in song. I've become something of a devotee/addict over the past 8 months or so, and now have all of her work, including a bootleg of her unreleased CD "Silver Bell." She lives here in Austin, though I've yet to catch a live performance. Her songs absolutely fascinate me, and the arrangements she uses for the songs are so simple, so devoid of unnecessary embellishment (aside from "Flaming Red," a great CD that just doesn't really fit with the rest of her oeuvre), that I find her music almost painfully beautiful.

So, I'm listening, first to "Rain," then to "When It Don't Come Easy" (which is easily one of my favorite songs from the past year), and I'm getting a lump in my throat (as I typically do when I hear that song -- it's a beauty), then "Making Pies," and then it's "Long Ride Home" when I realize ... I have somehow picked every single one of Patty Griffin's most heartbreaking songs for this CD. So, I'm sitting there, trying to figure out why I would do this to myself.

And then, well, "Mother of God" comes on.

"Mother of God" is a narrative by a woman who was raised by an emotionally unstable mother, who winds up moving to Florida to wait tables for all the old people waiting to die down there, until she becomes one of those very same old people, watching the clock as the last hours or days or weeks or who knows of her life slip away, pacing the floor and drinking black coffee, talking to a picture of Mary, Mother of God. And my eyes, at this point, were welling over. I'm tired, the weather is making me moody, and the song is just so dreadfully sad, and when you jam these ingredients together and put them in this particular meat machine tears come out the other end. So, I've got a couple of tears going, and I'm listening to the song.

And then, it hits the extended coda of the song, 2 or so minutes of simple piano accompanied by mournful violin, and the last verse, the lyrics of which don't seem to fit with the rest of the song. In fact, the last verse doesn't even appear in the earlier version of this song that Griffin recorded for Silver Bell, but here it is on Impossible Dream, almost impossibly sad. Is it her dying thoughts? Is it what she's saying to the picture of Mary? Is this Patty Griffin now, stepping outside of the character and offering a commentary? I don't know. I don't know.

What I do know is, the weight of this sad, sad song is pressing on my chest so hard that I can hardly breathe, and all I want to do is howl, I feel so sad.

I'm in one of my moods, I suppose. I tend to go through cycles where I become really, really emotional. Not in any regular cycle in the way women tend to thanks to their initimate link to the Moon. My moods must be governed by some more random and unreliable heavenly body, some vast distant sphere tumbling madly through the universe, bouncing around like a celestial pinball. There's no particular pattern to these moods. They just rise up, unheralded and without warning, stick around for a few days, and then move along. And for a few days my emotions are so close to the surface, I'm so easily moved to tears, my heart feels almost as though it is pressing against the inside of my chest, straining to expand, to engulf, to explode.

I don't find any of this difficult or embarrassing. I mean, it's not like I've got some sort of debilitating melancholy or anything like that. I'm not even depressed, anything but. When I get this way, I'm as likely to feel like I'm going to burst with joy over my kids as weep over a song. I just feel way more emotionally ... vulnerable? Accessible? I don't know. But I actually kind of cherish these times, when my heart is pretty much doing all the talking.

Mood: Thoughtful
Now Playing: Ella Fitzgerald, "The Intimate Ella"


Anonymous said...

how does one find a bootleg copy of patty griffin's cd silver bell? can anyone help out?

Anonymous said...

Try a BitTorrent site like The Pirate Bay -- that's how I found mine...