“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” – Anne Sexton
I can’t do a Top 10 list as a blog post. Or even a Top Five.
They are so ubiquitous and from people with more refined tastes than I that another one from me would contribute nothing to the conversation. Not only are we inundated with so many “how to’s” at the start of the new year, but we also are given platefulls of what to read, listen to, see, do. How do I keep up?
Instead, I like where essayists offer snapshots of what they’re into in the moment. I almost always read, “What I’m reading now” or “What I’m listening to.” One doesn’t have to wait until December or January to proclaim a series of bests—music, books, places, etc. Another example of well-crafted pieces I like to read: 36 hours in Jackson Hole Wyoming I like them because they give one a window into the writer’s life in that exact moment through what books they are reading or what music they are listening to or where they travel. It’s a connection at a specific place and time and an opportunity to see and hear what they see and hear, and, hopefully, to feel for a moment what they feel.
I have become intensely interested in the creative process and in creatives in particular—people who do art, write, make music, sculpt, make online video, do photography. That there are people living aligned with their creative cores breathes energy into my life.
Recently I waded through a playlist from The Minimalists and found a word I didn’t know that I will surely use in Words With Friends games with my daughters as well as some artists whose music resonated with me. (Incidentally, the word is “Euphony,” which in short means “a pleasing or sweet sound.”)
That there are people living aligned with their creative cores breathes energy into my life.
Here’s some music I’ve captured recently:
The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding, 2017
Kiasmos, self-titled, Electronic, 2014
Canyon City, Constellation, 2017
Leif Vollebekk, Twin Solitude, 2017
Andrew Belle, Dive Deep, 2017
Book on Tape Worm, Songbirds of North America, 2017
Teen Daze, Themes for a Dying Earth, 2017
Emmit Fenn, Lost in Space (Single), Electronic, 2017
Autograf, You Might Be (Single), 2017
I keep playing Leif Vollebekk’s Into the ether, and Kiasmos’ Looped. Vollebekk’s repetions of the lyrics at both the beginning and end of Into the ether, where he says, “Quit putting me on,” makes entry to the song feel easy. But there’s a melancholy I can’t tell whether he feels for himself or for a woman he loves:
“I want you
I just want you to be in a trance too
Maybe you find something you can dance to
And hold onto something you know is true
And slip into the ether”
I love how much feeling there is in just a few lines, which appear wrought with pain. Which brings me to another song I can’t stop listening to—and watching on video. The War on Drugs’ release A Deeper Understanding has one song I can’t stop playing: Pain.
I love how much feeling there is in just a few lines, which appear wrought with pain.
The video depicts the band playing on a cargo ship on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and cuts away to black and white footage of people from Philly’s neighborhoods. The song was inspired by the singer-songwriter’s agony following surgery to repair a ruptured disc:
“I met a man with a broken back
He had a fear in his eyes I could understand
I can even shake the pain without breakin’”
In addition to trying to decipher the meaning of the lyrics, what makes the song compelling for me is the guitar work Grunduciel displays in short solos part of the way in and at the end. That’s what led me to seek the video. (Chasing YouTube videos of favorite music can become a time vampire).
What I’m reading:
My mother-in-law is a gift. When we visit Goshen, Indiana to see my wife’s family, she and I often discuss books we’re reading. During our last trip to celebrate Christmas, she had lain four books on the bed in the guest room and The New York Times Book Review. She also gave me two more books as presents. Those, along with a handful of non-fiction books, crowd my nightstand right now:
A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
The Lightkeepers, Abby Geni
Abide with Me, Elizabeth Strout
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson
Lagom, The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, Niki Brantmark
High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard
The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod
Millionare Success Habits, Dean Graziosi
Shift, Gary Keller
And, because I recently finished another book by British author Ian McEwan (Saturday), my mother-in-law gave me two more of his books, Atonement, perhaps his most famous (made into a movie) and Amsterdam.
Cash’s depiction is masterful, the language exquisite and I’ve been able to set aside my religious biases in order to reap the rewards of this outstanding novel.
My mother-in-law warned me that Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home starts off with a deep dive into evangelical religion in a North Carolina town south of Asheville. Cash’s depiction is masterful, the language exquisite, and I’ve been able to set aside my religious biases in order to reap the rewards of this outstanding novel. That’s what I love about good writing: the author’s ability to connect time and place to a reader despite one’s biases and experience. Good authors do it all the time: I never was an orphan in New York City but Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite novels of all time.
Each year I set a goal of reading at least two books a month or 24 in a year. I always get close but have yet to keep pace through my busiest work months during spring and summer. My family knows that it doesn’t take much for me to slip out of the room and head to my favorite spot in our addition to stick my face into a book. Elin jokes that if work didn’t get in the way I would read all the time. My reading plate is full now thanks to my generous mother-in-law. Now I get to escape and dig into the pages of my books before I discover new books calling my name.