Friday, February 1, 2013


I wake up with music in my head.

Sometimes the pre-coffee soundtrack is ridiculous and inexplicable, such as the mornings when I have some vaguely avant-garde combination of Taylor Swift and the Teletubbies giggling me into wakefulness. Other times, it's the last song I listened to before I went to bed - anything from the Subway sandwiches jingle to Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling's "The Water."

Today, as with many days, it was Mumford and Sons.

I tried to put it off - I've been up since 7:23 (and God knows why I wake up at that exact time every day), cleaning, putting away laundry, getting ready for dinner with my grandmother and a romantic evening after with G - and listened to the Lumineers' eponymous album and Fun.'s "Aim and Ignite." I watched some Ravens footage; I hung up G's shirts and sang along with "Si, mi chiamano Mimi."

But now, at 1:00, when the dishes have been washed and I've reached that moment of not being busy, of having nothing between me and my thoughts, I'm listening to Mumford and Sons' "Babel." I can't help myself.

Something about this music - the sounds I wake up with, the notes I sing in the bathtub, the words that linger as I live my normal life with G - is so overwhelming and beautiful that it seems like these musicians live in my heart, a secret, a holy ritual, a partaking. I don't know if I can put my finger on that magical thing which makes Mumford and Sons take root in my soul; maybe it's the banjo, maybe the brass, maybe the raw sound of voices, but it seems like those are all ingredients that make up a perfect recipe of sadness and desire.

Sadness and desire. That sounds about right.

Life throws a lot of those two emotions at me - maybe I'm not alone in that. Recently, I've been faced with both due to family situations. We all go through periods when family or friends intersect with our lives in surprising and not entirely welcome ways, and we all move on, let go - or at least pretend to, busying ourselves with the routines of daily life.

But it's those moments of being unoccupied when Mumford and Sons sneak in, when all of the chores are finished, and I know I need to write, and I don't know what I can write about because all of me is the banjo and the horn and an unadorned voice, sadness and desire. It's that moment, right before I open my eyes, when I'm aware, distinctly, that something is wrong. I hide it, put that wrongness away, until I'm on my fifth cup of coffee and face the prospect of writing and start up my iTunes and there it is, there they are.

There I am, living in my world of opposites - folk rock and jingles, top 40 and children's programming, longing and loving; I'm living in a world where the most heart-wrenching music is the most stunningly beautiful.

And that's okay. It has to be.

We wake up and get about the business of being alive. We do the things that aren't that exciting, like taking out the garbage and cleaning the drains, and we do things that make us happy, like spending time with family and lovers and friends. We are busy. We put things away.

And then, in glimpses, in reflections, in cups of coffee, in the quiet dim of snow, we live in moments of Mumford and Sons' shocking truths - that we are the product of our sadness and desire. And that our busy moments, then, are made more precious by the depths of our souls, our capacity to feel and do more than one thing at a time, our love for those around us and our deep regrets. Our affection, our resentments; our joy, our mourning.

It's our ability to smile, to cry helplessly happy tears, to give hugs, and the underlying and undeniable fact that parts of us make sounds like a music which is unrestrained and bare.

I've been at this post for an hour, and like all things, I must put it away. I'm going to hop in the tub and drench myself in candy-scented bubbles. I'll use the shampoo I only use for special occasions; I might treat myself to a rub-down with shimmering lotion and a few spritzes of my favorite perfume. I will make myself busy.

I will go to dinner, taste the tropical fruits in sangria, eat ceviche, love my grandmother. I will go with my husband to the Inner Harbor and see light on the water and hold hands.

I will keep going, and I will smile.

I will have voices of truth in my head, singing.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you.
    For reasons unknown to me, I'd never heard of Mumford & Sons. I just ran over to youtube and listened to a few songs, and~ though I don't know what will be in my head when I wake~ I DO know I'll be listening to them tonight as I put away another day.

    Thank you. Your writing is powerful and tender, and I am so grateful to have found this blog!