The first day of Lent.
It is the beginning of the Holy Season.
Last Tuesday for our youth activity we spent the evening around my family room fireplace with my teenage friends, my Laurel class. We discussed the events of this sacred season as it leads up to Easter, the most holy of holy days. I told the girls about my Lenten offering of last year: 40+ days of purposeful writing. Though our religion does not practice Lent per se’, we talked about sacrifices; how some are sacrifices of omission and some are of commission. I told them about my personal commitment to write every day of Lent last year, and publish it on my blog. My writing was a commitment which required me to suffer to some degree. I made myself write at 2 am when my bones were tired. I made myself focus on unexciting words because that was the pattern of commitment I had made for myself. I still feel a sense of maturity and gratitude that I actually accomplished my little writing goal last year for Lent. It was a good thing.
So today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent 2010. We live in Utah, and I was not out much today, and I saw not a single person with ashes on their forehead. Sort of made me sad, and made me yearn for the diversity of the place I grew-up, where my friends invited me to their Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s, where the other kids who had big families were from devoted Catholic homes and they wore ashes on their foreheads on such a day as this, where our Comparative Religions class was filled with people who actually practiced those various religions.
So this year I am committing to once again do a piece of writing every day for the 40+ days of Lent. I commit to publish what I write on my blog. That decision to publish it in a fairly safe place (all 13 of you might see it once in a while) keeps me feeling obliged. Obligation is not evil, just sometimes a little hard.
So this Lenten Season I would like to write every day something about songwriting. I just finished teaching a workshop on songwriting and it’s in the forefront of my mind. I’d like to create a little personal history about the writing of some of my songs, and perhaps share a thought or two about writing in general. So here goes nothin’, as they say.
RIDE A BLUE PONY
In my late 20s we lived in what is now known as “the old house” at 1788 Kensington Street. An English Tudor home that stretches up the hill in the bend of the road as it rises toward Eastborn Court, it is the place where most of our kids’ childhood memories take place. The “old, old house” is just down the street from it, at 730 Kensington. Early memories, like the time the Simmons twins tried to buy Johnny’s salamander for 3 pennies, take place there. Annie was a baby when we moved up the street. I remember how old she was because it was at 1788 that she broke three cribs from bouncing in them. We called her Boingy Annie. She was full of energy and laughter and she loved her daddy. At night, to settle her down, Dave would bounce her on his knee. Really fast at first, then he would gradually slow down until he hit a steady pace and her heart beat would try to match his rhythm and he could lay her in her bed and read a story. The blue pony in Annie’s lullabye is her daddy’s knee covered in comfy old blue jeans.
Annie’s bed sat under the window that overlooked our back yard. The early moon seemed to sit in the nest of scrub oak trees outside her window. Here in Utah the moon is silver at night. In the east it has a yellow hue, I suppose because of the humidity in the air there. But here it is silver.
RIDE A BLUE PONY
Big silver moon out through the window
Sits in the old willow tree
Smiling on one little girl and her daddy
Tellin’ stories at her bedside as she sits on his knee
Into the night when the birdies are sleeping
And all the lamps are aglow
Papa will dust off the blue jeans he’s wearing
And will take you on a ride where only princesses go
Ride a Blue Pony out through the meadow
Over the hill to the sea
Ride to the shore where the sandman is waiting
And the breeze will strum the willow and will sing you to sleep.
Then he’ll lay you on your pillow and will sing you to sleep.
I still hear the sweet melodies through the walls of my memory, of a young dark haired daddy singing to his children at night…of David reading to his kids.
When Annie was a bit older and we had moved to the “new house” we live in still, he and Annie read Little Women every night. It remains a sweet memory. When Beth was about to die, and they knew it was coming because they knew the story, they didn’t read for a whole week because neither of them could bear it.
I recall when I wrote this song that I found the melody and chord progression first. I felt the song evolving into an AAA pattern song, without a chorus, and it was perfectly suited for a lullabye. It was as much a tribute to Dave as it was a song for Annie. Only thing was: I was miffed at Dave at the time. I don’t know why, but I do recall it was a multi-day miffed. A long-term irritation about something I do not recall. I remember the words coming, demanding to include Dave, and I did NOT want to write a song about Dave at the time. But the chords insisted on this melody, and this melody insisted on Dave. I actually think the song tried to convince me he wasn’t so bad after all.
True confessions in songwriting.
You can hear Ride a Blue Pony if you can find the red music player somewhere in this blog. Scroll down, I think. I am not the most techno-savvy, but I think maybe I figured out how to get it here somewhere. Hmmm.