Category: Theme Posts

Griefsongs: A Prayer For Newtown

December 16th, 2012 — 06:37 pm

…because sometimes there are no words.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:

2 comments » | Theme Posts

Christmas Cheer Coverfolk: Seasonal Songs of Drinking

December 5th, 2012 — 10:49 pm

A spot of computer troubles have temporarily postponed what was intended to be a comprehensive survey of this year’s newly released single-artist Holiday albums. But on this day in 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, ending national Prohibition, and paving the way for a return to the Christmas tradition of drinking with good company. And so a hastily-constructed thematic feature is born.

Join us, as we lift a glass to the season and the day with a decidedly mixed-bar set of songs celebrating holiday drinking. We’ll be back later this week with more coverfolk cheer as we continue our ongoing celebration of Christmas 2012.

Download the Cover Lay Down Drinking at Xmas mix in one convenient zip file!

1 comment » | Holiday Coverfolk, Theme Posts

Give A Little Bit: On Buying Local in a Global World
(A Cover Lay Down Holiday Gift Guide)

November 23rd, 2012 — 10:06 am

Black Friday is duly noted for causing havoc and stress in the mass marketplace. But if we greet its well-intentioned antithesis Buy Nothing Day with suspicion here at Cover Lay Down, it is because there is nothing inherently anti-commercial about merely deferring product-purchase if we still plan to make it to the mall eventually.

Concerns about the way big business undermines and eats away at the profitability of direct creator-to-consumer relationships are real and valid, of course. But to see consumption as all or nothing is problematic: those who quite literally refuse to buy things unwittingly undermine their own communities, for example, by cutting into taxes for schools and roads, and by destroying the ability of neighborhood artists and local community retailers to survive doing what they love.

Happily, however, there’s a whole spectrum of opportunity outside of the false dichotomy of Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day. And the answer isn’t buying nothing – it’s buying local.

We’ve long championed buying local here at Cover Lay Down. We frequent local farmer’s markets and crafts fairs; we buy apples from orchards, and beer from the brewery; we keep maple syrup and honey that was harvested by friends. In our musical purchases, we try to buy at shows, as this tends to provide the most money for artists, and helps support local venues; we’ve posted about library finds several times, too, and celebrate regional labels and artists wherever possible.

But in the digital age, buying local means not only supporting your local shops, producers, and buskers – it also means supporting the small, the immediate, the independent, and the community-minded. As such, wherever possible, the links which we offer alongside our downloadables and streams go directly to artist websites and other artist-recommended sources, the better to respect the rights and ongoing careers of creators and craftspersons everywhere.

Which is to say: we’re about authenticity and sustainability here, a set of concepts deeply entwined with the organic and acoustic music we celebrate. With that in mind, here’s some suggestions for how to honor the community sentiment which stands at the foundation of folk music, even as you look for ways to show your appreciation and love this holiday season.

1. Give the gift of recorded music. Cover Lay Down stands behind every artist we blog, and many of our regular features, such as our New Artists, Old Songs series, focus on new and newly-reconsidered music and musicians worth sharing with friends. So browse our archives and your own, and then buy CDs and downloads for friends and family direct from artist websites, independent artist-friendly labels like Signature Sounds, Compass, Bloodshot, Red House, and Sugar Hill Records, and smaller artist collaboratives and blogger owned microlabels like Yer Bird, Rarebird, Waterbug, and Asthmatic Kitty. Or, if you prefer to centralize your shopping, skip the chain stores and internet behemoths that undermine local mom-and-pops and pay mere pennies on the dollar, and shop instead at your local struggling music shop, Bandcamp, CD Baby, or even Etsy.

2. Give the gift of subscription. The proliferation of digital streaming services is bad, potentially career-smothering news for artists – as Damon Krukowski of Damon & Naomi recently noted, a musician needs to “sell” tens of thousands of songs on Spotify or Pandora just to recoup the cost of a single CD. But some artists offer “backstage passes” or “VIP” access to their websites, and the benefits – which can include exclusive demo tracks, concert streams, early access to new studio work, and deep discounts on product – are generally worth the cost. Our favorite model: Jake Armerding’s Music Is Food CSA project, which provides a monthly virtual “box” of art, including a new song, a watercolor rendering of the current month, and artistically-rendered liner notes, for just a dollar a month.

3. Give the gift of access. Spring for a gift subscription to Daytrotter ($24/year) for the music lover in your life, and let them download years worth of studio sessions and stream exclusive live sessions from a broad set of musicians. Or give them a subscription to Concert Window ($8.99/month), which offers live concerts almost every night from some of our favorite folk venues, and where two-thirds of profits go to musicians and venues. The live performances and sessions which these subscriptions net can be viewed alone, or shared with a friend over a beer on the couch – and the virtual concert is especially apt for friends housebound by physical limitation, geographical isolation, or preference.

4. Give the gift of time. It’s good to get out with friends, and shared experiences make the best kinds of gifts; by linking directly to artist web pages, we make it as easy as possible to check out tour dates. Support your local coffeehouse or small venue by booking a table or row for you and your loved ones. Take a child to their first concert, and open up their world to the immediacy and intimacy of live performance. Take a friend, or a group, and open them up to a new artist’s work. Or host a successful house concert, and invite friends, the better to share the artists and music you love.

5. Give the gift of artistic sustainability. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Pledge Music and Indiegogo help artists make art, and donations in someone else’s name are always a nice gift – it shows you’re thinking of them, and it honors the connection you share through music. And just as donating to your local radio station can net you a free mug, crowdfunding comes with the promise of product – a reward you can redirect, if you give in someone else’s name. So browse the folk categories on each site, or ask around for recommendations on what to support. For example: Brother Sun’s second CD is getting close to deadline over at Indiegogo; preorder, or pay up for some bonuses, and both you and your gift recipient get to help ensure that the album gets the promotion and production it deserves. Josh Rouse is working on The Happiness Waltz over at Pledge Music, and giving back to Action Against Hunger in the process. And the clock is ticking on In The Lowlands, folkfiddler Laura Cortese’s second Kickstarter project in just two years; give a few bucks now, and you can have rare swag for the holidays sent to a friend, with the promise of more to come.

6. Give the gift of promotion. This one is mostly about giving the artists themselves some of your hard-earned time and energy, but artists need gifts, too. So like artists’ facebook pages, and show others in your feed what you are listening to, the better to spread the word. Join a street team, and volunteer (by yourself or with a friend, as a fun gift date) to help sell CDs, hang posters, or man the door at local coffeehouses and clubs, thus freeing artists to spend their time playing and meeting the crowd, and help sustain their own fan base. Start a blog, for you or a friend, or donate to support one in their name.

7. Stay tuned… Looking for something a little more concrete in the way of coverfolk recommendations? Willing to wait for a few more weeks to decide which albums to purchase for your loved ones and friends? Just as we did last year, Cover Lay Down will be sharing our “best of 2012″ by mid-December; the items on those lists constitute our highest recommendations, and function as a concise gift guide for the coverfolk lover in your life. And if it’s holiday music you’re looking for, just wait until next week, when we kick off our coverage of this year’s seasonal releases…

Until then, here’s a short set of relevant covers to get you in the gift-giving spirit.

Cover Lay Down returns next week with a look at this year’s first crop of Holiday Coverfolk!

3 comments » | Theme Posts

Giving Thanks: 14 Songs of Gratitude and Grace

November 20th, 2012 — 05:32 pm

Giving thanks is a reflective process, not a reflexive one – which is to say, considering all that could have been is a necessary precursor to accepting that what we have, and what we are, is worthy of our gratitude.

All good things we acknowledge, then, come at the emotional cost of recognition: both that we could have ended up with less or more, and that others may not be as fortunate. Hard times come, in space and time alike; that we are here, to celebrate and stand in awe of what is, is enough to make some of us believe in miracles.

It should also be enough to drive us to stand up, that others might have the chances we did in getting here and now.

So pay it forward, this holiday season. Give the gift of gratitude, that others might feel good about what they have given; give the gift of grace, that others less fortunate might find themselves celebrated by us, and be more able to see in themselves what good they bring to the table, and to our world. Give the gift of hubris, that we might fail, and remember to look inside ourselves the next time. Give the gift of faith, that others might see that they are loved, and step up to share in turn.

Give the gift of honesty, for others cannot see themselves in you if you will not open yourself to them. Give the gift of honor, and recognize that it doesn’t matter how you give, as long as you are sensitive to the giving, and to the recipients of your gift. Give the gifts of time, and of attention, to yourself and others, for it is these gifts, above all, which make it possible for us to give at all.

Give the gift, every day. Be generous with your lot. Sanctify your every moment, your every action. Be the miracle, and the miracles will come to you.

For oh, what gifts we have been given. And oh, what gifts we can give, when we have gratefully received.

As always, if you like what you hear, click on the links above to purchase direct from the artists. And if you’ve got a few dollars to spare afterwards, we hope you’ll consider donating to Cover Lay Down – both to help sustain our ongoing work in connecting you to the music and musicians you love, and to participate in our pay-it-forward campaign to support inner-city students.

Also, coming soon: we give away our first of several stocking-stuffer packages for the holiday season! Plus: a holiday gift guide for music-lovers and friends determined to sustain the local over the anonymous, the handmade over the mass-produced, and the craftsperson over the corporation!

3 comments » | Holiday Coverfolk, Theme Posts

Holiday Coverfolk: All Saints Day
(Saints in Song, from Augustine to Theresa)

November 1st, 2012 — 03:09 pm

Members of a New York Police Department tactical team rescue Haley Rombi, 3, in the Dongon Hills neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York, Oct. 30, 2012. (Michael Kirby Smith/The New York Times)

I try to avoid sharing two thematic posts in a row. But Halloween has come and gone with nary a fanfare in our town, making it All Saints Day – and though having grown up Jewish, I don’t really have a coherent sense of the role of the saint in the everyday life, I do know that if there is such a thing, many friends on the East Coast could use a few right now.

I remember our own saints, though they called themselves angels: those that opened their hearts and homes to the distraught and homeless when the tornado came through our town last year, and when the October snowstorm that followed brought its second round of darkness and disaster. And though the religion classes I took my freshman year in college are but a haze in the brain, I remember, too, that saints are humans, first: that the helping hand is canonized, and that God, if there is one, works through us.

And so we offer a quick mid-week tribute to the songs of the saints: that cry for heavenly assistance, and curse the absent savior; that praise the human instinct to assist or suffer. All find relevancy in a world where help is needed, and offered, and accepted gratefully. May those who need find solace, and hope, in the small kindnesses of others. May those who rise from our midst offer miracle enow.

Looking for your own path to sainthood? Cover Lay Down is a public service, connecting artists and fans for the betterment of both; we accept no ads, and pay for server and bandwidth out of our own meager pockets. Donate to Cover Lay Down any time in the month of November, and we’ll not only send you a link to download all 18 of the songs above in one convenient zip file, we’ll also re-gift 20% of that donation to the NEA Closing The Achievement Gaps Initiative, which supports local children and families by funding home visits and parent engagement programs.

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Coming A Terrible Storm:
Storms As Metaphors, Covered In Folk

October 28th, 2012 — 09:30 am

I had something else planned for this weekend’s feature, but even as Massachusetts downgrades the danger, the “perfect storm” barreling towards the East Coast is clearly atop everyone’s minds, smothering election news in its wake, and leaving us resigned to yet another reminder that no matter how advanced our civilizations become, our lives are still lived on earth’s fragile lifeboat.

It’s a lesson that we’ve learned well, here in our tiny rural Massachusetts town. Last October, still reeling from the aftereffects of the massive tornado that slammed through our downtown area and left five percent of our town homeless, our ravaged community spent 8 days without power or heat in the aftereffects of the heavy Halloween blizzard. At the time, I sent my family north to stay with my in-laws, knowing that rural homes that depend on electric well pumps and furnace fans are no place for children in the cold darkness. But someone had to stay home and care for the cats. And so it was my lot to huddle under the blankets, and keep an eye on the weighted branches and downed power lines out my window, and dream – a lonely time, but a centering and humbling one, as well.

This time, we’re as ready as we can be. The basement is stocked with wood for the furnace; non-perishables spill over onto the countertops; out in the community, the laundromat and grocery store are jam packed with shoppers planning ahead for the possibility of powerlessness. And though there are concerns about time lost to the ages – of school days cancelled if the wires go down again – the well-practiced struggle for survival is more real, and more present, in a world where disaster-driven isolation and community dependency are increasingly the norm.

And here on the blog? Easy peasy. The natural disaster is a common metaphor in folk music; the human condition is easily represented through images of both helplessness and shelter. And so we seek out the songs that tell our stories in fire, flood, and famine, in landslide and earthquake, in shipwreck and snow, in dust storm and drought, and more. And out come the songs about storms, themselves.

Listen, as the storms and instabilities of our lives and communities are played out in song. Download ‘em quick, by zip file or as individual tracks below, before the wires go down. And then follow the links, as always, to purchase and celebrate, and help support the artists we tout, that they may continue to speak to our secret hearts in the darkness.

Can’t wait until the next feature? Like the Cover Lay Down Facebook page for streaming bonus tracks and coverfolk extras throughout the week!

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In Sweet Music Is Such Art:
Songs Inspired By Shakespeare, Covered In Folk

July 12th, 2012 — 12:51 pm

Teaching Romeo and Juliet to my inner-city ninth graders this past year was an uphill battle with multiple casualties, but I’m quite proud of how effective we found it to start outside the text, with a week-long exploration of pop and mass culture referents, the better to understand which elements of story and structure, character and cast we westerners are expected to retain into adulthood. Indeed, our very first day featured a side-by-side comparison of Taylor Swift’s Love Story and Dire Straits Romeo & Juliet – perhaps the two most currently recognizable songs in the canon based on the works of William Shakespeare, both of which we featured, covered in folk, a year ago today, in fact, in a feature that explored songs inspired by literature.

But Shakespeare is one of those things that sticks in the heart, and the ears. And so, when the offer to play a Shakespearean villain came along, I couldn’t say no, what with the language and trope of the Bard still echoing in my head from the end of Spring semester.

If blogging has become a bit erratic this summer, then, it’s because I’m spending my evenings and afternoons deep in the throes of blocking rehearsals and line-review for an upcoming in-the-park production of As You Like It, Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy of crossdressing and the limitations of courtly life. Treading the boards – okay, the lawn – is overwhelming, and our production is bare-bones, with each actor playing multiple roles, just as it would have been in Shakespeare’s own day, leaving us all struggling into the night to memorize lines, capture the essence of our various characters, and be ready for an audience after just a dozen rehearsals.

My cup runneth over: with iambs and courtly speech, bawd and Bard. And as my cup, so is my heart, and my ears. Of such a mindset is thematics born.

Happily, The Bard’s influence on all facets of our cultural conversation goes far beyond the story of two star-crossed lovers. From linguistic shards to touchstones of trauma and the human condition, this single playwright has functioned as muse and model for a myriad of songs from across the various genres, most especially the folk, rock, and alternative camps, which rest upon literate songsmithing. Masters of songcraft, From Elton John to Elvis Costello, from John Cale to Louden Wainwright III, from Rush to The Tragically Hip, have pulled their inspiration from the master of stagecraft.

And though not all have been covered yet – Cale and Costello’s separate treatments of Macbeth and his lady, especially, seem to have remained untouched by gentle tribute, as do Wainwright’s Prince Hal’s Dirge, and a plethora of songs which reference Lear’s daughter Cordelia – there is fertile ground enow in these works for a setlist of Shakespearean worth. As always, if you’ve got a track to add or recommend, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

  • Tiffany Jo Allen: Love Story (orig. Taylor Swift)
    A post-millennial companion piece to Knopfler’s dark, brooding portrayal, Taylor Swift’s first-person portrayal of Juliet white-washes the innocent 13-year-old of the original, aging her into a somewhat less naive yet hyperfeminine empower-puff, reframing her in the common misunderstandings of post-feminist pop, happy ending and all. If you can get past the Karaoke covers, the YouTube kids are all over this one.
  • Mark Erelli: Ophelia (orig. The Band)
    Because Shakespeare’s most recognizable characters come with baggage, their names make excellent framing devices for narrative players of depth and substance. The Band’s Ophelia, for example – recorded by Mark Erelli in honor of Levon Helm’s recent passage – rings of the same unspoken mysteries which cloister her namesake.
  • Alice Ripley & Jesse Harris: Ariel (orig. October Project)
    Celtic-influenced new age band October Project made an excellent choice in soliciting award-winning musicians Alice Ripley and Jesse Harris to cover this song when they released their own album of covers in 2008. Though not as well known in the pantheon of American music, this wish-fulfillment retelling of the Tempest from the perspective of its most famous airy sprite – trapped, alone, and drowning in power – remains one of the band’s greatest creations.
  • Eric Lumiere: Sigh No More (orig. Mumford & Suns)
    Perhaps the newest of our thematic originals, this recent recasting of Sigh No More, Ladies, aka Hey Nonny Nonny, a song originally included in the text of Much Ado About Nothing, seems to echo of Claudio’s development throughout the play. Eric Lumiere’s cover starts thick with harmonies and acoustic strings, so we’ll make allowances for the way it turns to pretty pop as it reaches crescendo.
  • Chris Smither: Desolation Row (orig. Bob Dylan)
    Though Dylan’s lyrics are often cryptic, his references inevitably cover the gamut: the collage of cultural touchstones here includes both Romeo and Ophelia, ensnared together in disparate verses that reverse the typical placement of male and female in the balcony scene. And doesn’t Chris Smither wear their weary sorrow well?
  • David Scott Crawford: The King Must Die (orig. Elton John)
    Elton John references the kings and princes of multiple plays in his treatise on Shakespearean inevitability, from Julius Caesar to Macbeth and Hamlet. Again, nary a studio cover to be found, despite the song’s appearance on Sir John’s self-titled, Grammy nominated 1970 debut, but this solo YouTube take is suitably majestic.
  • Glen Phillips and Chris Thile: Exit Music (For A Film)
  • Maigin Blank: Exit Music (For A Film) (orig. Radiohead)
    Written for the closing credits of Baz Luhrman’s disastrous post-modern setting of the Romeo & Juliet story (but never used there, which keeps it pure), Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke claims the song was predominantly influenced by both the original text and Zeffirelli’s much more textually resonant film adaptation. Toad The Wet Sprocket lead singer Glen Phillips and Punch Brothers centerpiece Chris Thile bring slow angst to the song in concert; Maigin Blank‘s echoey harpsichord-driven home studio cover creeps forward quite appropriately.

[Download the entire 14 song set as a zip file!]

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School’s Out:
(Songs for Teachers, Students, and the Rest of Us)

June 10th, 2012 — 11:01 am

Another school year comes to a close on Wednesday, and although I’m planning on spending a few weeks earning extra cash for writing curriculum and attending in-house workshops here and there in the months ahead, for the most part, the end is near, the pace of my life about to shift to summer. By this time next week, I expect to be puttering around the yard, catching up on the long grass and wilderness that springs from order in the inevitable Spring; by July, I’ll be deep into rehearsals for a production of As You Like It, and scouring the camper in preparation for the usual round of summer music festivals. With a little luck, the ears will clear up a bit, and I’ll be able to get back on schedule for our usual twice-a-week entry schedule, too.

Those who follow us regularly may recall that we wrote about letting go of the despair which seems to inherently accompany inner-city teaching back in February, in a post called Making Peace With The Wild Things: A Prayer For My Students; since we’re sneaking this feature in among a heavy weekend of grading and family plans, I’ll let that previous entry speak for my heart now. But it’s worth noting: as we come to the last of the days that count for grading, after attendance woes and drop-outs, a wave of worst-case scenario classroom behavior that kept many of them from the work, and an endless series of frantic moments in which kids turned sullen and raw after coming to see that their skill level was just too low to understand the readings and the questions about them, just 15 of the 75 students still on my rosters are even eligible to pass, depending on their final exam and project performance.

In this context, it was especially poignant to have attended our local youth theater’s performance of School House Rock last night – a play which frames the beloved Saturday morning shorts of my childhood and yours as a sort of fever dream brought to a new teacher on the morning of her first day in the classroom. So much hope, sung so loud and proud by such bright children, and not a one of them failing their classes. Such a contrast to the kids just two towns and an uncrossable socioeconomic chasm apart, who swagger into my classroom with blocks of ice and fire on their shoulders, and will not put them down for anything, even as their burdens hide their talents, and burn away their futures.

A revived tribute, then, to songs of school, penned and sung by those who made it out alive, and cobbled from both older posts about teacher appreciation and more recent acquisitions to the ever-growing covers collection. May they contain all the hope and hopelessness I need to sustain myself for yet another year in the classroom, the hallways, and the teacher’s lounge. May we forever approach our students with humility, efficacy, and care. And may my own students come back with renewed vigor; and may they come back at all.

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Missing Mama: Songs for the Single Parent
(A soundtrack for love at a distance)

May 25th, 2012 — 06:02 am

We’re braving it alone this week, the wee one, the elderchild and me. And though this meant an especially sniffly, snuggly Monday night, happily, the four stages of grief have passed quickly in such intense, obvious circumstances, leaving us accepting, if not yet perfectly balanced in our adoption of the adapted dance that is life with Daddy.

If I’m nervous but grateful for the chance to try, it’s in no small part because my time with the kids is too often stolen from Mama’s world. From the moment we find ourselves on the other side of the uterine wall, anxiously waiting for the emergence of parenthood, daddies learn to live with a little distance: to always be outside, separated by the skin, our relationships retarded by gestation even as mama grows fat with the pending person we call our own. By the time we get to meet our special someone, she’s already been nine months communing with the one she calls Mama. And now she’s breastfeeding, which makes Mama needful in a way with which we cannot compete.

Being the breadwinner doubles the distance. The traditional model of Dad as half-projected partner and inevitable other bears true on the ground when you’re just not there for the daily rituals of to-and-fro. The relative ignorance I experience this week is a reinforcing symptom: in three days, I’ve learned that it’s not worth the buffet price if the kid is only going to eat white rice, that forgetting to bring homework to dance class can lead to sheepish note-writing, that an after-school stop at the local farmer’s market makes ice cream unavoidable.

The fact that we’re still all safe and sane is a testament to the fact that, in many ways, Mama is still here. The menus and memos she left for us on the fridge are a touchstone; the pre-portioned bags of chips and cookies in the cabinet allow the kids to pack their own lunch with little fuss. Having clothes and schedules laid out before us is a bulwark against the ADHD Dad, and the potential for ongoing anxiety that such combination contains.

But distance makes the moments that much more precious; without absence, we never truly appreciate presence. Having Mama on the other side of the phone is bittersweet, but we could not feel this sense of mutual pride if we were not trying to make it on our own. I’m not just learning how to manage the morning routine, I’m also learning to live through the jealousy, a lesson that will take me a lifetime, for sure.

But oh, what a gift a week can be; what a joy it is to close the gap that Mama fills, if only for a fleeting moment.

And so we offer a family-friendly tribute to the distances we travel, every moment, to capture and celebrate each others’ hearts: a love song soundtrack of commitment, for those who leave and return, every day and every hour, like swallows in our lives. It’s what I’ve been listening to, late at night when the kids are in bed, and the fragile world is still spinning around.

Renee & Jeremy: Yellow (orig. Coldplay) [via]

3 comments » | Kidfolk, Theme Posts

Mother’s Day Coverfolk
(On learning to love the self in the other)

May 13th, 2012 — 07:54 pm

I’ve written about my father several times here on Cover Lay Down, citing him as a friend and fellow folkfan whose companionship I cherish, especially now that I have children of my own. I’ve written about my wife, too, and my children, when the occasion warranted it. But other than a 2008 feature on Mothers of the Folkworld, we’ve skipped over Mother’s Day for four years running – leaving my own mother conspicuously absent from these virtual pages.

If I’ve avoided taking the time to parse the particulars of our often volatile relationship until now, it is because for most of my adult and adolescent life, I did not understand it. But though I cannot and should not claim to know anyone as well or better than I know myself, after years of therapy and soul-searching, I think I have come far enough to take an awkward step towards explicating my avoidance of the topic until now.

The things I have inherited from my mother run deeper and more complex. From her come ADHD tendencies and a high propensity for disorganization, a deep need for social and interpersonal connection, a teary sensitivity to the world. Though it is these same raw and specific qualities, I think, which allow me to experience such deep and profound joy and solace in the universe, the exposure to the emotive elements which results also leaves me in a particularly poor place to negotiate truces when I must.

Instead, these innate characteristics, and the confusion that they often cause within me, leave me wandering the earth with an innate feeling of fragility. And the knowledge that I contain such multitudes can lead to poor choices: a carelessness with words and action that often worsens when I let my guard down around those who I know too well; a snowblindness to other opinions that comes across as disrespect; a propensity to overreact to small things, and thus magnify my distress.

And if I have learned anything in my almost forty years, it is that where one person in such a situation can mitigate and manage the delicate self through care and community and introspection, people of this particular type are ill-equipped to support each other, or indeed to come to terms with each other.

The result is a particularly bittersweet relationship, and I know that my mother and I both regret that we have not yet been able to overcome that which we share to grow closer, and more respectful towards each other.

It’s hard to love in another what you struggle with in yourself – hard, too, to pair such characteristics across the table and expect clarity in understanding. Living with my mother is more often than not a tightrope walk of polite watchfulness in our relations. Even when we find ourselves in moments or months of balance, the voice in my head that cannot so easily trust is always working to push me back down the mountain to its base, where I must begin the Sisyphean struggle anew, for the sake of our family, and our families.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my mother. I admire how hard she worked to maintain a family in my childhood, when my father was working long and absent hours to give us the lifestyle he and she agreed was best for all of us. I appreciate the words of comfort and support she has offered me in my hours of need, even if I could not and would not hear them wholly in the moment. My parents’ divorce several years ago gave me a chance to see her for herself, and the opportunity to watch her grow and thrive as a person of faith and innate optimism. And the ways in which this – all of this – has illuminated my own sins and challenges, clearing the path for me to make peace with my own faults and failures, and through them, to make peace with her, is easily acknowledged, though it remains elusive in my grasp as a tool for relationship building.

I cannot claim to have finished my journey; if I am not yet ready to come out and say that my mother is my friend, it is because of that which I cannot yet love in myself. But although I am hardly a praying man, my mother’s urgings towards meditation have not gone unheeded; I know, and hope she sees, that on my own side of that proverbial table, I have been gathering strength for a peace between us, one that grows more urgent even as it grows closer every day of our lives. And I know, too, because she has shown me, that faith is not only possible, but a vital cornerstone to a life lived honestly, and well.

To my mother, then: to whom I owe not only life, but the abilities and lessons that let me feel and see such life as a joyous, wondrous miracle every day. For that, I love her deeply, if not yet so well. And with that love at my back I will work until my final breath to forge and solder the ties that bind us, until our relationship is something we can both cherish and celebrate together.

Download our Mother’s Day Mix as a zip file!

6 comments » | Holiday Coverfolk, Theme Posts

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