June 29, 2018

the heart of a bird

This morning I leashed Rose and we set off on a walk up that winding mountain road, the one that pushed me to the breaking point of exhaustion the first time I climbed it.  Today, it seemed shorter, the going easier.  I took that path because of the reward at the top, the vista of distant mountains that go on forever and the breeze that wasn't there a moment before.  I had in ear buds and played Kate Campbell's The K.O.A. Tapes from start to finish, her voice right inside my head.  I've owned the CD for several years but had never listened to it, typical of my bad habit of not letting things in.

As I walked, I was sorry that I had waited.  It's really good stuff.

A hawk passed overhead.  I rounded the final curve-hill and reached the place where I could stand and look out over the Appalachian Mountains.  The breeze ruffled my hair.  And this song, "Hope's Too Hard", began to play.

Thirty seconds later, standing on the side of a road in broad daylight, tears streamed and I was sobbing.  It reached straight into me and grabbed my heart and squeezed.  Her voice right inside my head.


I've been chattering all night lone
Like a crane or a swallow, on and on
I've lost my voice with all this crying
And my will to sing

Hope's too hard and I'm too weak
I don't know if I can keep
Holding on beyond my reach
Love, could you please sing for me?

If I could, I'd fly away
Off into the light of day
But I can't seem to find the strength
To even lift my wings

Hope's too hard and I'm too weak
I don't know if I can keep
Holding on beyond my reach
Love, could you please carry me?

And I wish I could see beyond
Far beyond the far horizon
My eyes are tired from looking up
And mourning like a dove

Hope's too hard and I'm too weak
I don't know if I can keep
Holding on beyond my reach
Love, please don't let go of me.


She wrote the song while thinking about the chatter and flight of birds.  A swallow is not so different from a sparrow.  She understands what the heart of a bird might be.

P.J. and the kid and I are going to go hear Kate tomorrow night at a small cafe in the mountains.  I can't recall if it's been four years or five since we last saw her, but she congratulated us on our marriage in 2015 and wished us many, many years of happiness.

Years of happiness.  I am happy now.  I am all right now.  She will not know about the suffering and suicide attempt and mental illness and all of the pain I have caused my family, but I will smile and she will only see years of happiness.  And the smile will not be a lie, because the deeper happiness, my P.J. who did not let go of me and never will, has been there all along.

Some things are immutable.  Tomorrow night, I will sit at a cafe table and listen to her and that soul-grabbing guitar she wields, with the same mesmerized half-grin that I always wear during her shows.  In spite of thinking I'm all grown up now and beyond such things, I'll revert to the girl in her early twenties who longs with all her heart to be beckoned up to the stage to sing harmony with her.  Sometimes that longing feels like my heart wanting to leave my chest.

All of the ways her music reaches my heart.

Kate, could you please sing for me?

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