Thursday, April 14, 2011

This is the story of how we begin to remember

With our weather firmly planted in spring and our days growing longer, I always find myself listening to music that speaks of renewal. Music that captures the buoyancy you feel when sunshine hits your skin after a long winter, and your days are growing longer, and you want to be outside more and growing more and doing more. These days, that album for me has been Graceland.


It seems funny to me that I'm just now finding deeper meaning in an album that has been with me for my whole life. My dad would dance with me to this album as a baby, bouncing me rhythmically to songs about a man being 'blown apart' by broken love, or about following a girl with diamonds on the soles of her shoes. I feel like I've heard that moment recounted so many times, I can see it as an external observer.

I can see the yellow August light filtering in through warm linen curtains, and my dad with a beard much darker than it is now; a fat baby perched on his arm, the pair swinging around the small living room. In a strange way, I feel like I remember this, although it's not an actual memory, but a fabrication so real I feel the hot air, the smell of summer in the city, the texture of the rough couch, all painted in the sepia tones of the faded family photographs from that time period.

Not only is the atmosphere of the changing seasons one of renewal and growth, but I feel like the seasons are changing in my life. I crave growth, like those flowers digging in their roots and reaching up, like patio umbrellas blooming in restaurants across the city. This is a moment of change, and while it's welcome, change is painful. Change means realizing you don't have that much in common with people you once felt so close with, and realizing limitations, and finding new homes, and making new friends. It means redefining yourself at a time when you're trying to do so much and time never feels generous.

Maybe now is the time when I am feeling Graceland so deeply because it's ingrained in me. It's an album about the search for solace after pain, without overindulging in sadness. It's about taking a pilgrimage to find out who you've become after you've realized you're growing up, and to feel part of a community seeking meaning. In that light, it makes sense that I'd find it the perfect soundtrack to this moment, right now. It was bounced into my body as a baby and to me, it speaks of a time when there is nothing but possibility and potential wrapped in a new father's loving motion.

You can download Paul Simon's Graceland here.

I've also recently read an excellent article about Graceland at This Recording that I think you'll like too.

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