Of Music and Memories

I’ve heard that smell is the sense most tied to memory. I don’t doubt that, but for me, a certain melody can bring the past flooding back in a way that nothing else can. Music has been an integral part of my life since Junior High, so at my age, that’s a prettty long soundtrack.

The perfect song at the right moment leaves an indellible imprint on me. If I’m in a pensive mood and hear that song again, there is a kind of echo in my soul and I can feel the sun on my face, taste the wine, or catch a whisper of perfume.

When I hear Jimmy Buffet, sometimes I’m back in college on a leaky boat with my old friends, that lazy warmth of sunshine, salt water, and laughter shining strong. Back when I knew I could do anything and the world was my oyster and real problems were things other people had. My biggest concern then was whether we would catch fish or get caught by the Marine Patrol. (We were always in violation of something.)

Rock You Like A Hurricane takes me back to high school, getting pumped up before a big basketball game, and I can smell the gym floor and feel the adrenaline and sweat and anticipation. Basketball was a huge part of my life, and like so many things, it’s faded from my consciousness, something I once did that I no longer do. I miss it sometimes, especially when I hear that song.

The Song Remembers When brings me  out west to Jackson Hole  and Yellowstone  when the air was crisp and the light was golden and tasted like hope. We heard that song on the radio as we drove over the Great Divide, the sun slipping below snow-tipped peaks around us and the sky painted a glory of pink and orange, and I recall that moment, knowing how rare and precisous it was, holding on to it for as long as I could. She and the moment slipped away like old loves always do.

My wife recently turned me on to Van Morrison, songs like Into the Mystic, and I can feel those songs wraping around my soul as we make new memories that one day we will look back on with deep fondness. I am in a season of gratitude and love, keenly aware of the often fleeting nature of peace and passion. It’s priceless, a sensation to be savoured, an emotion to be relished in the moment.

Because the memory is only an echo.

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Marriage, Love, Loss and Redemption

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“Happily ever after “is the perfect ending for a fairy tale. Anyone who has been married longer than the honeymoon knows this is utter nonsense. The work is just beginning. Many of us put on wedding rings,hearing the vows which include “sickness and health, for better or worse,” but glossing over those truths with false expectations which can undermine, even destroy unions meant to last. Lord knows I’m no expert on marriage, but I know quite a bit about screwing them up.

fairy tale

The chivalric love of the middle ages, that era of glorious unrequited love and a glimpse of a pale ankle which would send a knight into fits of passion has made its way to the twenty-first century; it’s not quite the same now, but the underpinnings are still there. The romantic notions of “love at first sight,” a “damsel in distress,” and “prince charming” won’t die easily. Despite the shift in gender roles and the feminist revolution, these archaic ideas continue to affect both men and women in different ways.

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Many young girls are raised to find a man, get married, and have children, subverting her own needs and dreams to his. There is nothing inherently wrong with getting married and having children, obviously, but the subverting part gets dicey. Before women could vote, work, and be successful in their own right, this paradigm worked on its surface, because women had little choice and therefore small expectations; being trapped in a loveless marriage in a subservient role chaffed and burned, yet divorce was generally not an option. It is now, though, and as women have entered the workforce and become CEOs and Senators, we’ve seen divorce rates climb. It’s partly because of absurd expectations, and mixed messages in our culture.

Women are objectified one moment, placed on a pedestal the next, either the whore, the princess, or the mother. In childhood, young girls are barraged by Disney movies where Cinderella is saved by her prince, where Barbi dolls have enormous breasts and wear glitzy clothes to find Ken. In young adulthood and the teen years, music comes into the mix, with songs of maudlin co-dependence, or upbeat songs of empowerment which are generally about promiscuity rather than brains or will. Then there are the “chick flicks,” the same movie made a hundred times with the “meet-cute,” the initial awkwardness, the falling in love, the break-up and then the reunion, often with people clapping around them. Ugh.

chick flick

Boys are raised playing army and football, where aggression is rewarded and competition is fierce and the key to any sort of success. They hear the same songs, watch the same movies, and the message of strength, even dominance finds its way into their souls. No man or boy wants to be the “Beta.” Everyone wants to be the Alpha male, because that’s what the girls and women like, too. Be stronger, don’t cry, hit harder, run faster. And later, make more money. For in adulthood, this is how males measure their prowess.

It’s a wonder anybody stays married at all.

Women are taught by society to want a man who is strong and fierce, but who is also sensitive and compliant, who will shed a tear during Sense and Sensibility  and listen patiently to her problems, but who will also throat-punch the jerk who disrespects her. Men are taught to suppress their feelings, to be stoic and strong, and internalize their stress and problems. Couples enter into marriages with these presets programmed into us, and when things go south, wonder what the hell happened.

Marriage is hard work. The hardest work there is. People change and grow, and hopefully they can do this together; this is usually a choice, whether conscious or not, and when a couple doesn’t grow together, they will inevitably grow apart. When things get close and mean, when the walls are pressing in, it’s easy to look around and decide that there is an easier way, that you’d be better off where the grass is a deeper shade of green. This is the message our culture continually bombards us with, through music, movies, and social media, this facade of pretty lies. People break and lives are destroyed as a result.

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The fairy tale was never real. But marriage can be glorious and fulfilling. I’ve been through the crud and the blood and the muck, and I’ve had seasons where I woke up in the morning with an elephant on my chest.For some people, there is no other way, and my heart breaks for them.  I’m glad that my wife and I didn’t break, though. That we’ve decided that we’re going to grow together rather than apart. And in making it through the terrible, we’ve learned some important things about ourselves and each other. We look at one another now and say “till the wheels come off.”

We’ve made a conscious effort to make each other better. With God’s help we’re going to make it. Partners, for better or worse, and that’s better than the fairy tale.

http://www.amazon.com/Wrath-Redemption-Sean-T-Smith-ebook/dp/B00SXOLOEQ

The Last Thing I’ll Ever See

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Her face was the last thing John saw there in that hospital bed with the beeping sounds and sad thin sheets. Her eyes were the placid blue of the reef in the afternoon, a kind of wistful hope shining from her while she held his hand at the end. Her hair was close cropped and grey and her oval face lined with worry and years and the love of a man she’d walked through hell and back with.

John’s eyes remained open, and he saw her for who she was, for who she had always been, and he perceived this not with his eyes but with his soul, floating, unfettered now and able to walk through a door to yesterday, lingering above each memory, tasting the truth of each moment as though for the first time, savoring the fleeting preciousness in a way he wished he had before.

A tumble of long dark hair falling over her shoulders the first night they’d met so long ago, sultry and whispering, her skin smooth and pale in the night, an eager vulnerability about her which seemed to fill a  deep need in John, a missing piece he hadn’t known existed until he met her. The rush of falling in love, the wedding down in the Keys beside the ocean, when she put on his ring and life stretched out before them full of possibility.

He saw their first child born, her lying on the table of this very hospital, on a different floor, a happy place of life and rebirth. Her face shimmering with sweat and the tears in her eyes when John placed the infant against her breast. He saw her on the beach, the waves surging while she held a small child’s hand, giggling and laughing, the sun bright and warm and good.

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The journey darkened then, and John found himself drifting through a murk he would rather not face, a certain truth which makes a man hurt. He saw her anguished tears and heard her sobs and felt a deep pain emanating from her wounded spirit. There was a bitter taste to that time, to those memories which wrapped around each other until they became years interspersed with moments of light, but which were not well lit, and there was a heaviness in that time, and the darkness had a kind of weight. There were demons there, and they were mean and bent upon destruction.

He heard the angry accusations, the shouting and the denials and felt a loneliness creeping cold into his bones, for it was in both her and him back then, and now it felt worse than it did at the time. Perhaps because it was done and there are things a man can’t take back even though he wishes he could, and sometimes it’s years and that’s a hard thing to face, there at the end. There was an eroding of the soul, a depletion of spirit which caused her to retreat into herself, and neither of them knew it until it was almost too late.

The journey was not yet finished.

There was rebirth and renewal, and he saw her shedding the weight she’d gained over the course of four children and a decade and she was emerging again like a rose which has lain dormant through the cold hard winter, only to blossom once more under the kiss of the warm spring sun. She laughed and sang and danced and looked upon him with eyes bright again. Her canvas was fulll of color and swirls of crazy dreams and she found a truth and validation in her art because it was meaningful and good and true and there was healing in it.

Her childish nature radiated from her, not in a petulant way, but in the way of wonder and glory, and she grew, becoming herself at last, transforming into the woman she’d always wanted to be because she was finally discovering who that woman was. He watched her gaze in awe upon the streets of Florence, a glass of red wine in one hand and her head tilted back to embrace the gentle sun. He felt the wind rushing at his face, top down, her singing beside him as they crested the Golden Gate Bridge, driving without a destination in mind for the journey then was the purpose, the little things and shining moments of glory. The years were happy and tinged with a sort of golden light and they went by too fast.

Her face was the last thing John saw, and that was how it should be.

http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00IK7MH9M/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8