We were getting ready to move from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to a smaller house in central Oregon. So we trimmed our possessions. I consolidated the contents of two filing cabinets, two cardboard boxes, and three small bookcases into two filing cabinets. I investigated what I was packing in more and more detail, and that thorough investigation took me away from getting ready for our move.
I found a folder with about 30 songs that didn't become songs I play. Now, more than 20 years after I set them aside, I page through them, asking myself why they didn't become part of my repertoire.
I uncase my guitar, and I play and sing the first song. I remember the melody as if I'd written it yesterday. It's a truck-driving song. Maybe I put it away because I was never a truck driver. Then again, I've written plenty of songs about things I have never actually done. That's the way of songwriting. It sounds to me like a good song, but I need to revise part of it. The paper the song is written on shows its age and tears easily.
I sit down and keyboard the song into my computer, so it doesn't crumble into dust, and I revise it as I go. I pick up my guitar, play and sing part of the song, make some changes, and play it and sing it again.
I proofread the song onscreen, singing as I go, and then I print out a copy. I put the copy on my music rack, pick up my guitar, and sing the song again. "I been drivin' since this road began./ I'm so tired of traveling,/ but I will get there if anybody can...." The song sounds right, more complete than it did when I put it away years ago, and maybe that's why I put it away. It needed to rest until I was ready to add finishing touches.
The strings on my guitar don't sound as full-toned as they could. I have new strings in my guitar case, so I replace my guitar strings and tune the instrument. This is a beautiful instrument, mellowed by more than 35 years of use. This day, heavily overcast, with more rain coming, needs the rich tones this guitar projects.
I open windows and the sliding doors. The big Gibson and my voice blend with the sound of hummingbirds humming and chirping at the feeder on the deck, with the sound of wind beginning, with the sound of rain blowing against the house in the wind and washing the forest.
After several songs, I sit, my guitar quiet on my lap, and I listen to thunder on the mountain. Clouds that brought us much-needed rain begin to break up and dissipate into bright blue sky.
We find time to go at a careful pace through the processes necessary to move house. Music, renewing old memories, revising old songs, adding human songs and guitar tones to bird songs and the sounds of a summer storm become a creative part of our move. Moving becomes a creative part of progress toward our future.
Too hot to sleep
I sit in the cabin door
and watch for falling stars -
their brief bursts of beauty as cool
as the notes of this night-singing bird
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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor