Monday, March 15, 2010


Life, by nature, requires us to redefine ourselves regularly. For quite a while, after each of my babies was born, they seemed to be here and not here at the same time. They aimed those deep black newborn eyes right at their new mama, but it seemed they were looking right through me. Their little brows wrinkled with interest, as if they were holding silent conversation with the angels. It took weeks, months, even years for them to come fully to the earth, and while I wanted them to be mine completely, there was a part of me that ached for them, knowing the weight of humanness and feeling sorry they had to carry it.

I’m not exactly sure at what age we first realize for ourselves that we’re individuals. I do, however, remember the moment I consciously and completely landed in my body. I was five years old, and we had just moved to Pittsburgh. There was an old rock YMCA building behind our back yard. Beside the building was an orchard of dwarf apple trees. Their branches hung low enough for me to stretch my neck and bury my nose in the pink tinged snowy blossoms that Spring. The aroma was intoxicating. I recall being conscious of my chest rising and falling as I inhaled deeper and deeper. In almost an instant I drew a deep breath and held it, my eyes open wide, and I looked down at my body. I lifted my left arm and grabbed it with my right hand. Held it there and stared at it. I am doubtful that I said any words, but I know I thought them: “I have a body!” The thought and the touch ignited such a joyful emotion I shiver thinking about it. In a flash of time I was back to being a child, running down the path toward home when Mom called me for dinner. I think that was the first day I let go of my heaven home and allowed my spirit to fill my body, all the way down to the tips of the toes. I could define myself as a little girl from that very moment.

At pivotal times that self-definition changed; when I crossed the threshold to young womanhood; when I got my first regular job; when I left home; married; bore children; raised children. I adjusted the description as I went.

The hardest adjustment, so far, came when the rooms to this house began to empty. One by one the children who had been such a part of my self definition; whose laughter and tears and arguments and cheers had reverberated through these walls, pointed their feet away from the back door and flew to their own destinies.

Empty. It’s a powerful word. It sounds like it feels. Empty rooms, empty chairs. Empty hours late at night, when the silence was deafening. I struggled to re-define who I was and what my role was now that the big busy was over.

What I discovered was the man sitting across the dinner table from me. He was not the man who slid the ring onto my finger all those years ago. His self definition had changed as well. Of course we knew each other…we lived together, slept together…we had raised children together, run political campaigns, lugged equipment to and from musical gigs…together. And yet I wondered if we knew, deeply, who it was we were bound to forever.

All of our children had graduated from high school except for Annie. She was a Senior. That’s when Guillain Barre Syndrome hit me. In a matter of days I was paralyzed in my legs, arms and part of my face. It was moving into my vital organs when it finally stopped. I don’t know why it stopped, whether it was Dr. Ericksen giving me massive does of steroids or not, but I did not end up dead or on life support. However I did end up spending quite a bit of time in hospitals and Dr offices. My sister Libby was constantly at my side while I underwent test after test to determine what was wrong. They drew 37 vials of blood, took samples of everything, pushed me into CAT scan and MRI machines, stuck needles into my wrists and feet then fired electrical currents through my body. They tapped into my spine, rapped my unresponsive reflexes over and over. Lib was a gift of a companion to me then, since Dave was out of town at the time. He was with our friends Mary and Gary, out on their sail boat in the middle of the Caribbean. When we finally reached him he found the first airport they could get to and flew home. For the next few months Dave lovingly and tenderly nurtured me. He did for me what I could not do for myself. And I had to let him. He filled the need with such love and devotion that it sealed our hearts together all over again. This was a gift. A gift from a divine source.
Dave and I have common history. We have common children, common family ties, common living quarters and a common faith. They all led to an uncommon love. I love him with all that is in me…down to the very tips of my toes.

When I wrote Common Ground, a love song for the father of my children, I thought about the Potter Brothers farm, right here at the bottom of Somerset Street. We passed by it every day for all the years we have lived here. It was just a common piece of earth. When the alfalfa was high and the Potters started up the engines on their tractors, the fresh aroma of new hay caused me to inhale…deeply…like I inhaled the smell of the apple blossoms in Pittsburgh. I felt the thrill of young love when the hay was cut, reminded that such amazing scents and sights came from a patch of common brown earth. The song opens with a young couple confessing their love for each other in that field, on that piece of common ground. The song progresses though the natural stages of a couple’s love…through marriage and child bearing and child rearing and then to this…the place where we sit across from each other and see only ourselves and no one else. When I say “there is no one else around” I mean the children, but I also mean that there is, and never has been, another man who has caught my eye or my interest. My love grows in this patch of life which is his and mine alone.

My favorite lines in this song are:
We gave our word (marriage) then gave it flesh (children)
Endured the worst, embraced the rest.

I’ve been told to embrace all of what life gives us. I tried that. But some of it is just plain not embraceable. Those are the things we simply endure.

When we were recording this song I teased Carla and Mark, who were at the sound board. I sang these words:

We gave our word, then gave it flesh
And you’re the worst, and I’m the best

Makes me smile remembering that.

So many of my songs are about the past, about things that have moved me or charmed me. Common Ground is one of the few that speaks my heart at this very moment. It makes me long for Dave, even if he is just in the other room. I thank the Lord of all good things for blinding him all those years ago, just so he might look my way.

Common Ground

The night was young
The moon was up
The truth was out
We were in love

The field was thick
With autumn wheat
Your lips were warm
And soft and sweet

CHORUS: Oh I am there again with you
And there is no one else around
Where harvest wheat and passion grew
On common ground

We gave our word
Then gave it flesh
Endured the worst
Embraced the rest

And babies came
And babies grew
But they had wings
And off they flew

Now I am here again with you
And there is no one else around
Where love was born and where it grew
On common ground

BRIDGE: Between the place where we began and where we’re standing
There’s been a lot of common earth beneath our feet
And though the ground is worn, it still receives the planting
And offers up extraordinary wheat

The nest is large
And we are small
The nights grow long
But through it all
I feel your breath
Against my skin
And what was old
Is new again

Oh I am here and you should know
That there is no one else around
Oh my love will always grow
On this, our common ground

When I opened the files on my computer to retrieve this lyric I found this note about the day this song was completed:

Sept.7, 2003 4:22 AM Timothy (our first grandson) was blessed today; David was baptized 29 years ago today; and all of our children left for college this week.



  1. it is reassuring and inspiring to have two good people have such sure footing on common ground!

  2. Thanks for sharing. We've been away so long I had no idea of your trials. Steve and I love your music and it is so great to make contact through your blog.

  3. I just love, love, love this song..and the story...and you...and Dave.

  4. I never did land in mine. I wonder why. Or I haven't yet. Spiritually retarded, at best.

    But I know the feeling of rooms emptying. Nests breaking and all the birds leaking out.

    I do not know about having the body freak out like that. Although it puts my weird faciitis and pinched nerve into stark perspective.

    And I think I probably love everything about you.