Tag Archives: Emmylou Harris

Lucky Seven

Last page of the poem "Us Two" from PW's mom's childhood copy of A.A. Milne's "Now We Are Six"

Note: I posted a lot of this last year under the title “Now we are six” for PW’s and my sixth anniversary, but I’ve made a few changes for Lucky Seven.

When I was first starting to come out to people in the early 1980s, two of the laments that I often heard were that I’d 1) never be able to have children and 2) never be able to get married.  Well, never say never to a Bull Girl. GForce is closing in on 15, and PW and I are celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary today.

Truth be told, it took me a long time to figure out how to get here, and like so much of life, some of the getting here happened while I was headed in the wrong direction.  I have needed massive amounts of patience, help, and luck along the way in order to hit this double jackpot at the end of my double rainbow. I still need massive amounts of patience, help, and luck to become both the mom and the wife I want to be.  Simply put, I always want to be better than I am so far at both of those roles.

I often marvel at the unrelenting surprise of getting to be married to PW. “Thanks for being married to me” is something we say to each other a lot. We’ve known each other for more than 22 years, we’ve been together for more than 12 years, and yet I continue to feel surprised after seven years of marriage.  Is it a constant state of grace, or an early sign of dementia?! Maybe there are cases where there’s no difference between the two and maybe this is one of them.

In the wee hours of the night, my Bull Brain is prone to some pretty goofy maneuvers — things I’d never let it try in the light of day.  What I wrote down some time last year — in the dark — was that marriage is like being pregnant with a child while you are raising it.  I would never have remembered this thought if I hadn’t been able to decode the scrawl in my bedside notebook, sandwiched between similarly scrawled lines of Lily Tomlin’s character Trudy from her one-woman show “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” and a reminder to look something up on the Internet. [Last year after the “Now we are six” post, a childhood friend mailed me a pen that has a light at the end of it. No more writing in the dark! Thank you, Saundra, for helping to light my way.]

The idea of marriage as an exercise in being pregnant with the child you are simultaneously raising seems so much more appropriate to me than the metaphor of building a plane while we’re flying it, or of making it all up as we go along, both of which have their moments of truth as applied to the enterprise of marriage.  So much of the growth and development in marriage, or any covenant relationship, happens under the surface, deep in the bones or connective tissue of the covenant itself.  And sometimes it’s possible to see external evidence of this growth and development, but not always.  At least, not for me.

When I was pregnant with GForce, I remember being deeply curious about the baby girl who did her first bit of growing up inside me.   Would she be cute?  Would she have a distinctive personality?  Please, God, could she at least be funny? I know now that these are all check, check and check.  But as my pregnancy wore on, the whole mystery of this individual who was living inside me but whom I did not know was increasingly preoccupying.

Somewhere around the sixth or seventh month, I dreamed that I got out of bed, went into the bathroom and delivered the baby in a dream-enabled no-muss-no-fuss kind of way, right there on the 50s era pink and black tile floor.  As I sat there looking at her, I felt a deep sense of dream-calm wash over me.  In that same moment, the newborn in my dream looked up at me and said, “See, Mom, everything’s okay!”  Then she crawled back into my body and I went back to bed.  My waking anxiety about who this little sprout was dissipated, probably supplanted by the growing dread of, “Oh my god, this huge thing has to leave my body through THERE?!?!”  But I digress.

Sometimes my marriage is like that dream.  I’ll be chewing on some baffling mystery that’s taking up an increasing amount of space in my Bull Brain, and PW will call to check in, or I’ll come home to a bunch of flowers on the dining room table, or she’ll reach over wordlessly and rest her hand on my leg, and there will be some sort of silent, psychic shift that creates space where there wasn’t any before.  I don’t know how that happens; I just know that when the two of us stick together, as Pooh says above, amazing things happen.  Plus, we both love soup, and we could talk or not talk forever, and still find things to not talk about. To ask for any more than that seems downright greedy.

Today’s musical offering is an interesting twist on the traditional love song, as one might expect from the singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith. I was first introduced to the song “Hard Bargain” on Emmylou Harris’ album of the same name, which was released earlier this year, so I’m using a video of one of her performances. “Hard Bargain” seems like the perfect love song to celebrate the seventh birthday of our marriage. The line “How’s a girl supposed to fail/with someone like you around?” really says it all.

Thanks for driving such a hard – and beautiful – bargain, baby.

Lyrics to “Hard Bargain” by Ron Sexsmith

I’m a bit run down, but I’m okay
I just feel like calling it a day
But you send me back to the start
You drive a hard bargain

Each time I’m heading for nowhere
Doomed and determined to go there
It seems I never get far
‘Cos you drive a hard bargain
You drive a hard bargain

How’s a girl supposed to fail
With someone like you around?
I’ve tried and tried to no avail
You just can’t seem to let me down
You drive a hard bargain

How’s a girl supposed to fail
With someone like you around?
I’ve tried and tried to no avail
You just can’t seem to let me down
You drive a hard bargain
You drive a hard bargain

So I’ll keep on playing that old song
‘Cos for all I know it’s where I belong
When the world is breaking my heart
You drive a hard bargain

You send me back to the start
You drive a hard bargain
You drive a hard bargain
I’m a bit run down, but I’m okay


Psalm/Psong for April 22 – “Darlin’ Kate” by Emmylou Harris

Here’s a Good Friday-themed psong from Emmylou Harris. In this psong, which will be released next Tuesday on her new record “Hard Bargain,” Emmylou sings farewell to her beloved friend, Kate McGarrigle. McGarrigle died last year from cancer, leaving behind a rich musical legacy and a bunch of heartbroken family members, friends, and fans.

If you’re not familiar with the musical genius of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, it’s not too late to do some catching up. I recommend “Love Over and Over” and “Move Over Moon,” in addition to the some of their classics that have been covered by other artists, including “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” “Heart Like a Wheel,” and “Heartbeats Accelerating.”

I wish you a Good Friday that is, you know, actually GOOD. At noon, I get to read Psalm 22 for the umpteenth time this week (okay, it’s only the third time, it just SEEMS like umpteen, however many that is). That’s the one with the scintillating line, “But I am a worm, and not human.” Later, fortunately, there’s this line that I love, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.”

Here’s my recommendation for how to have a Good Friday that is really good: Think of someone who is, for you, the “sweetest note in the chord of life,” and then tell them that, using those words or ones that work for you. Even if that person is dead, say it. If anyone asks you why you’re talking to a dead person, just tell them that Emmylou does it all the time.

Lyrics to “Darlin’ Kate”:

So it’s finally come. You have left this world.
But we’ll miss our Kate, our darling girl!
We held your hand, kissed your lovely brow,
And bid farewell, you’re sailing now.
Free from the pain you lay that burden down
But your strong and giving heart,
Will surely be your crown.

As you slip the surly bonds of earth and sail away,
Perhaps we will meet again somehow, someday.
Until then, there’s nothing we can do, but wait,
To see what’s more, our darling Kate.

All those nights we sang
And talked ‘til the sun come up,
You fed our souls, you filled our cup!
With your perfect words and oh that voice,
We fell in love, we had no choice.

And I can’t say for sure where you have gone,
But in that place I’m bettin’ there’s a better song.
For we’ve all known down here the taste of joy and strife
You were the sweetest note in the chord of life.

Now you’ve slipped the surly bonds of earth and sailed away,
perhaps we will meet again somehow, someday.
But if there was one name I could consecrate
It would be yours.
It would be Kate.

"You may think this is the end, but it’s only the beginning"

In June of 2004, just shy of turning 8, my youngest daughter GForce figured out how to ride a two-wheeler.  One morning shortly after she had mastered this skill, we went out together to walk our dog at a nearby historic home that has a parking lot around it, along with a gravelly path through the surrounding woods. GForce pedaled around in the driveway for a bit, veered off into the grass, then up onto the gravelly path.  I stood back marveling at how quickly she had gotten whatever is the bicycling equivalent of sea legs. After experimenting with the variety of different surfaces available to her, she rode back towards me and came to a screeching stop right in front of me.  I chirped, “WOW!  This is SO COOL!!”  GForce looked up at me, all beamy and happy, and then got a very serious look on her face and said, “Mom, you may think this is the end, but it’s only the beginning.”

I’ve thought a lot about that moment over the past week, first when I heard the rumor of layoffs at my company, and then again this past Monday when I found out that I was among those being discarded.  It didn’t take very long for me to feel like Monday was a kind of Emancipation Day. In fact, one night over the weekend, prior to Emancipation Day, I was awake for awhile during the wee hours and I realized that I was feeling anxious about NOT being laid off.  What if I had to stay at the company while someone else got laid off??  The prospect of that was way too much to bear, thus the insomnia.

When I woke up this morning, I had the Emmylou Harris/Patty Griffin duet “Way Beyond The Blue” echoing in my head.  What’s not to love about hearing those gals’ voices upon awakening?!  Then these cascading layers of colored ideas flew through my head, about a book I could write, about a blog I could start (DONE!), about all the amazing people I’ve known at various jobs across the country, about how I could turn my resume into a show-stopper, about what if I never have another corporate job again because I’ll figure out how to do something different, amazing, and very much me.

At lunchtime, I drove into the city to hear this week’s installment of the Bach Harpsichord Partita series at my wife’s church.  As I was sitting there, in this stunning chapel,

listening to the plinky pluck of the harpsichord, I started thinking about vibrations, about how that’s all music, or any sound is, moving the air in a certain way.  Stringed instruments have to be rubbed or struck or plucked or hammered to make noise.  And what lovely noise this music was.  And then I realized my heart was thundering in my chest.  And I looked up at the rows of female saints sculpted out of marble on the altar,

and my heart pounded louder and louder and then came this sudden Aha! that made me weep:  “I’m alive!  I. Am. Alive.  So THIS is what resurrection feels like. This is what resurrection IS: that feeling of being alive AGAIN.”

You may think this is the end, but it’s only the beginning.