Friday, July 20, 2018

Re-write Your Past or Move On?

I never set out to write a song about the tragic death of our brother, Nathan. It was too delicate. Too tragic. Too personal. I would have never thought to try to write a song about it.

But it came about because my older brother, Adriel—who I've always looked up to, called me one day in October from his home in Arizona. Adriel and Nathan were both born in October. It was also the death-month of Nathan. October is bitter-sweet.

On the phone, Adriel said, "What's the weather like there today?"

I said, "It's a perfect day.  The sky is a deep blue, not a cloud anywhere and the leaves are starting to turn."

In his warm, brotherly voice he said, "Ah....when I hear you talk of blue skies and colored leaves, I can just picture it!" 

I detected a smile in his tone.

As soon as those words came out of his mouth, I heard the lyrics and melody for the song in my head and to this day I have no idea what the rest of our conversation was about because I was already starting to write it in my head based on that one line. (Sorry Adriel.  😔) We hung up and I immediately sat down to write. 

Sometimes when I'm writing a song, it feels the same as trying to write down a dream. When I first wake up in the morning, the dream is so vivid, until I try to write it down. It evaporates as I write, though the residual emotions can last all through the day or even years.

Trying to write a song based on an idea can feel that's hard work to make the inspiration settle down and say what you want it to say. I'm sure if I had deliberately set out to write a song about Nathan, it would have felt like recording a dream.

But the one line from Adriel was all I needed to get me started. I began to think about the month of October and how monumental it is in our family history, which served as a natural progression leading to Nathan's story. 

I've wrestled with whether or not to share this next paragraph, but since I'm growing as a songwriter and sharing that journey with you, I decided to not delete it:

As I study the craft of songwriting, sometimes it bothers me that there are two lines that aren't consistent with the rest of the song's rhyming scheme, Maybe I could re-write it better now after years of distance from trying to re-write it and much more learning under my belt. In fact, when I pulled out the past notes from the song, I saw that I only have a few copies of re-writes. These days, I have a LOT more copies of re-writes per song.

The recording will always stay as it is. Perhaps that's a great lesson for life. There are many things we'd like to go back and "re-do", but there is a time to just keep moving forward and learn from past regrets. 

The only time I ever heard my Mother speak of regret as it related to Nathan's death, had to do with her realization that Nathan had just discovered the pond and she asked Daddy to consider building a fence around it. I never, ever, sensed that she blamed anyone, my Father or herself, for his death. That doesn't mean she didn't carry any regret, I just never heard her speak of it. She seemed to have learned how to remember the past and yet keep moving on.

One of my "re-writes" for "Beside the Barn".