signals

There’s a path behind the place where I live, and a black gum tree on the path. Up against it stands some big leaf aster. I don’t know if you know what that looks like, but this tall beauty has bluish flowers, and large heart-shaped leaves. It’s just a gorgeous color.

Whenever I get to this spot where this tree stands, I get a type of … signal. I can’t explain it but I pay attention, because I know something’s going to happen; I’m going to get some words or a melody, or something.

What I love most about being a songwriter is that I stand all my life in the direct path of signals, the strangest, most beautiful alphabet in the universe. I get to translate pulsations into notes and lyrics that restore and console, reconstruct and heal.

The signals don’t always quickly reveal themselves, and when this happens it’s no use blaming the walk. No matter what, I have to stay on the trail and follow the things that motion me on. They often make no sense, and I don’t always feel like following them, but they always lead somewhere.

When I pay close attention, I see that no two walks along the path are the same. Each brings a hidden blessing; a miracle which is unique to the path on that day, and which cannot be saved for later.

If I don’t notice the aster, this bluish signal, if I don’t use this blessing today, it will be lost.

horse winter walk

finder’s reward

When I’m making up a song, I keep an ear to the ground for what people cast off.

An overheard remark in a train station, the half-sentences of friends workshopping love’s particulars in the local coffee shop: They’re the finder’s reward.

I listen in like an ecclesiastic to the human heart as it bares its splendor and its brokenness.

I listen, and write. And as I write, I polish what I’ve found, and as I craft it into a tune hopefully expose a genuine, consoling truth in the brokenness.

I pick up things others don’t ordinarily notice, like the flowers that thrive by the roadside as we pass on our way somewhere else. Sometimes it’s the only way to encounter the truth.

finders reward