For the last two days, my writing has been inspired by the brilliant poet, Georgia Heard and her seminal work with Heart Maps. Near the end of the book, teacher and literacy leader, Penny Kittle, included an essay on her experiences in heart mapping by reflecting on the power of music in her life as well as her students. In it she shares, “Our hearts hold hidden playlists.” Although my list of favorite song titles would run off the page, I discovered three songs connected by seasons in my life, which bear further reflection.
One undisputed fact is that the 1960’s was an era of great music. Mirroring the turbulent anti-war protests, there were some poignant folk songs sung in the streets, at festivals, and in our churches. With a single acoustic guitar, I remember hearing The Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in our own church, which is based on scripture from Ecclesiastes, a personal favorite. A decade born with hope, quickly turned violent with the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy along with Dr Martin Luther King. Instead of withdrawing from the war, we accelerated our efforts and began drafting young men, boys really. Although we were only in elementary school, my brothers and I watched the draft with our parents, worried for other families affected. When I switched careers in my forties, and returned to college to complete my English degree, I took a writing course, where we explored literature about that time. Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, still lives in my heart as I was finally able to articulate the emotions I suppressed as a child in that season of war.
To everything, (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season, (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under the heavens
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
When I was in 7th grade, one of our classmates died mysteriously. In our small school community, with only one class per grade, we were close. Michael was ill during a terrible epidemic of the flu, which afflicted me as well. I remember our phone rang and my mother shared that it was a prayer chain for Michael… I am certain she was worried about me, which is why I remained home longer than usual. When I returned to school, my classmates and I insisted on singing at Michael’s funeral mass, customizing the lyrics to “Seasons in the Sun.” On the day of the funeral, when Mrs. Hinks played the first key, we were stunned into silence. Although we started to sing, one by one, our voices dropped out of the chorus, and we were unable to finish. I always think about Michael’s parents and how they might have felt that day… already torn up by the loss of their son, and hearing the pain articulated with the sounds of our mourning, must have been heartbreaking in that season of loss.
Goodbye my friends it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
Think of me and I’ll be there
We had joy, we had fun
we had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time
When my husband and I got married, I insisted on having our church music accompanied
by an acoustic guitar. One of our song selections was Stevie Nicks’, “Landslide,” a favorite for its voice and words. Although I had known my husband eight years before we married, and loved him dearly, I also lived through the divorce of my own parents, and understood the commitment and challenge of marriage. The lyrics of this song evoke a sense of trust, and serve as a reminder to constantly seek spiritual guidance throughout our season of love.
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write and take risks within this supportive community. This has certainly been a season of abundance, as I have been graced by the commraderie of fellow slicers, as well as a generous gift from the Highlights Foundation.
Your playlist brought tears. Partly because these songs live in my heart, alongside the time we lived through. But also because of your personal stories. They are your memories, yet I feel the weight as if I was there. Beautiful slice.
Lovely stories about the meaning each of these songs had in your life.