Well, I get to make an imaginary strike-through on my imaginary bucket list because we finally got to see Emmylou Harris this past Saturday. And oh, it was just lovely. She has a band touring with her right now called The Low Anthem. Drew and I saw them at Floyd Fest this past summer, and we were both incredibly captivated, so getting to see them in a beautiful theater was even better. They are a thoughtful ensemble, with the members taking a turn behind the various instruments that include a saw, a trumpet, a clarinet, a harmonica, a thereman, a pump organ, a jaw harp, and then some of those usual suspects like a guitar and drum kit, and even a bass. In fact, I’m told that it’s 34 instruments in all. And ya’ll. They’re really really really good. They are a slow band, but not melancholy if that makes much sense. They pull you in and you go there with them, and they sing in 3 and 4 part harmonies, and I noticed some mismatched socks on that stage, but it all made sense because they were just thinking about the music. If you can think of Miley Cyrus’ exact opposite, you can probably get on the right page. Not really folk or rock or alt rock or indie or uber or emo or any of those things, which is so refreshing. It’s the kind of music that you could watch the grass grow to, and feel like it all made good sense. You might not like it, but if you give it a chance, I think you might.
Oh right, Emmylou. So what I loved about seeing her was kind of the opposite of what I liked so much about The Low Anthem. While TLA was playing, I was kind of choked up with emotion and really lost in the whole experience and holding on to Drew’s hand like it was a first date. When Emmylou started playing, it was kind of like a near-death experience. I know that sounds ridiculous and meladramatic, but throughout her set I was just overcome with taking stock of my life thus far. No joke. And here’s why: when that woman opens her mouth (just a little, she’s a very subtle singer for someone with so much voice) and lets her unique voice out here into the world, it is so clear that she is doing what she loves. What she is meant to do. There’s nothing generic about it, and her voice is strong and waif-like in one even breath, and as I was listening to her, I couldn’t help but ask myself 100 times what it is in life that will bring that kind of passion to my being. And while she’s incredibly talented (duh) it wasn’t her talent that I found so engrossing and provocative, it was really just her command of herself and the self-assured power that envelopes her little frame. She’s got it.
During her set she told a story about her father (before playing this song) about how he was a PoW in the Korean War, how he could fix any car, and had an enchanting laugh, and she told the story of her parents meeting and falling in love while each was engaged to another person, and how that love made it for the long haul over 50 years. Afterward, Drew and I talked a lot about that little monologue, and about how we both spent the remainder of the show thinking that we will one day be Asher’s memories and stories, and while neither of us will ever be war heroes (right?) we would both very much like to be some kind of hero in his mind. We also talked about our own parents, the heritage that we haul around with us every day, and the realization that we are going to have more past than future at some point in our lives. It felt so good to be thinking about these things, to not be yoked to thoughts about how to get stains out of the ugly linoleum in our kitchen (but wait! suggestions?) and to be sitting in a dark theater watching someone so in themselves teaching us a thing or two about how to move forward from this point. It felt good to feel young, to be moved to tears not by music, but the music makers, to be comfortably tapping my toes next to Drew’s denim clad knee, to be out of my day-to-day life enough that I was able to actually spend a little time thinking about those days. Drew and I gripped hands and thought our thoughts, and walked out of the theater refreshed and grateful, laughing about our various jokes with each other, and both agreeing that this was a show neither of us was likely to ever forget.
I know that I need to wrap this up, so I’ll go out on this final note: I don’t think that regrets come from not doing, but from not being. I do all day long, and I feel the nag of a regret or two despite that. It’s so easy to do, but taking the time to slow down and just be somewhere is a whole different ball game. My goal for this week of giving thanks is to slow it all way down, to not need to be in a music hall to get my thinking done, to counter every “I need to” thought with “what do I really want to do?” and find ways to merge the two. I’m not trying to get all Oprah on you, but I need some time out of mind, and it would seem that there’s no time like the present.
Alright, really. I told you it was going to be long winded, and it’s really ok if you did roll your eyes at some point…I make myself roll my eyes all the time. Oh! One last thing: quick shout out to my step mom Ruth for raising us on such good music…Ruth, you would have loved the version of John the Baptist, I know I did, and it made me think of you.