Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is the first draft of a narrative essay I'm writing for my English class. It felt like a blog post, so I'll post it.

When I stick my head out the window of a moving car, I hear classical music in the wind. Of course it has been years since I sat in the backseat and leaned my head out the window, trying to catch the summer green leaves that grew so close to the driveway leading up to my house. I sometimes wonder if it was the car radio - ever tuned to Classical 99.5 - that I heard. But always when I heard the strains of music in the rushing air, I would duck my head back into the car to compare the melodies. And always they were different. Not that I could ever be sure. When I heard music in the wind, it was impossible to hear clearly. It would come to me in snatches that slipped through my memory like the air slipping fast through my playful fingers.

It seems the music never really left me, though. The fragmented symphonies I snatched from the wind are now parts of the songs I write. But something is always lost in translation. Like the wind imperfectly brought out the music inside my mind, my ability to write imperfectly puts down on paper the unearthly symphonies bottled in my brain. My childhood friend and band-mate, Andrew, a far more talented musician than I, is frustrated by the dissonant differences every time he tries plays the piano to the tune of the music in my head. But sometimes, if I tune my guitar just right and play in the key of C. If there are six voices around mine singing in four part harmony written by the brother who studies Latin and Economics in Michigan. If the bass walks its line like a drunk ballerina and the strings section sounds under the inexperienced hands of a pianist who hasn't played in four years and the drums play a four/four syncopated rhythm with a double bass hit. If all these things happen at once, one strain of the symphony comes bursting out like a butterfly kept too long in its chrysalis, wings wrinkled but soon spread and beautiful.

The word "inspiration" in Greek literally means "breathed upon." Maybe it wasn't the music that meant so much, as ten year old me stuck his bowl-cut head out the window to grab at the branches of passing trees. Perhaps it was the wind. With every creative project I put myself into, the struggle is with translation. The struggle with words and their meanings, pigments, hues, and mental images conflicting, and the dissonance between the song I hear and the song I play. I am the sleepy scribe who mis-copied the document, I am the inattentive art student who did not notice the particular shade of green in the eyes of the model. I have two harmonica's, and no matter how hard I draw my bent breath through the second hole of either, the only sound produced is that of a train passing West. It is West because all my travels from home have always taken me West. West because that leads away from home, on to new and frightening things. Robert Penn Waren wrote, "West is where we all plan to go someday, it is where you go when the land gives out and the old field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying flee, all is discovered.'"

But in Andrew's basement, my voice straining and calloused fingers dancing to the rhythm of my heartbeat, I have never felt more at home. There is a connection, between finding home and seeing the wrinkled wings of a butterfly. The songs I hear have been inside me for so long, waiting their turn to boil over and out of me. My songs are about places - people - I call home. They are about the truth and uncertainty of watching the train pass West and knowing that it will soon be my train. For we all must go west, eventually. And when my time comes, I will stick my head out the window and sing into the wind the songs of home, so that in the car behind a child will hear me.


  1. [get it published so you can make money over how lovely it is.]

  2. I'm almost tearing up in the library at school. You are one of the greater writers and thinkers I know. Keep finding meaning in our imperfect songs, and know that I love walking our drunken friend home every night.