I remember driving the 30 miles from Lakeside to Polson in Montana with my grandfather at the wheel, my grandmother in the passenger seat. I was in the backseat, singing. I sang the whole way. I must have been on my way home from an overnight with them where grandma and I giggled in the guest bed and she told me stories. Lots of stories. Whenever I stayed there, in the morning, I would bring my grandpa coffee to his gold tweed recliner where he listened to the radio all morning long. I would always want to try that rich, dark black stuff because it smelled so good. I was forever disappointed. How could something that smelled so good taste so bad? Go figure, I have since learned to like that stuff, black like he had it.
I sang the whole way. My grandma called me, “Our Little Songbird.” Forty-two-some odd years later, I sit in my office and look at the name on my hammered dulcimer: “Songbird.” I wonder if that is one of the reasons I bought this? Did I recognize the name because it was mine—one of my most true, my most happy names? I still can access the glow I felt being called “Songbird.
I also have vivid memories of trying out for a musical as a pre-teen. I really wanted the lead role because of all the solos. I gave it my all. This memory makes me cringe and smile at the same time. I didn’t end up with the lead role but I did get one solo, which I practiced with all the pre-teenagey emotion and angst I knew. Again, wow. It was from a musical called “Enchanted Journey”, based on the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be lead on an enchanted journey? I could sing you my solo now, even though I haven’t thought of it in years: “I’ve come to the river, it’s flowing deep and wide. And all (you have to drag this “all” out) that I’ve longed for, is on the other side…I’m fearful and I’m lonely, I can’t seem to begin, but everything that I’ve hoped for, is waiting just within…”. Again, just wow. (Under my breath…”I will not, no, I will not start on the theology of this song…”).
This was all before I learned I didn’t have the amazing voice I had in my self-understanding. Oh, it was sweet. I can carry a tune. But it isn’t a voice you notice or should really. It is not any kind of lead voice or one you can reliably trust to follow. Definitely not one you would pause to listen to. I can’t hear the harmony to sing unless it is really strong. I am weak in the auditory department of learning and hearing. I doubt it has to do with my significant hearing loss. I think I just don’t hear certain things.
But I wonder, when did I stop singing in the car or in the shower? Why do I blast music while cooking in the kitchen but rarely sing along?
When Colby sunk into his depression, he stopped singing. He loved to sing prior to that and had started taking some voice lessons (those stopped). The loud singing from the shower went away. The upstairs hallway only showcased the sound of the shower water sans voice. The kitchen and car became silent. He even stopped listening to music.
One of the markers I clung to is that I would know he was better when he started singing again.
At one point in the story, where we were bruised, battered, forever changed, uncertain of what the future would hold and how going forward was going to look, he played two songs for me that he wanted me to hear—songs that had helped him in different ways—songs he could now share with me what they really meant to him. As they played, he sang along. I’ve linked these two songs at the end.
I listened, tears streaming down my face. After one of the most brutal periods in his and our family’s life, he was singing again. I dared to believe we were beginning the climb out of this dark, dark canyon.
Today, I am pensive, thinking of all the ways we lose our voices or why we stop using them. Why we stop singing, or dancing, or writing, or creating, or wanting, or hoping, believing, risking, showing up.
Going forward, I plan, at least by myself, to blast and sing along to songs I like. I’m going to add in some twirling and boogeying. And it is time to practice on my “Songbird”. It may take an hour to tune, but I’ve looked at it long enough. There’s music in there. I’ve lost a part of my true self and want to find it again. I am a songbird. My grandma, she saw. She knew. She called me by my name.
What did you lose along the way?
You know exactly what you have lost (or at least some of it).
And some of it has been coming up as you’ve been reading this.
Imagine me looking at you. Quietly. Deeply. I see you and I really like what I see. What I want to say to you is this: “I am so sorry you lost that…and that…and oh, my gosh, THAT.” I see pain there. I see other things as well.
Oh, my people–we lose things along the way. We all do. Sometimes we lose things brutally. Painfully. Sometimes just because we didn’t pay enough attention to them in order to remember. We lose things sometimes because someone took them. We lose things in lots and lots of ways. All at once. A little bit at a time. A cut here. A slash there.
Whatever it is you have lost, if it is part of you, a true part of you or something you are meant to have, may you recover it. Some of the things we lose, we cannot get back. This I know. It has been a hard learning. There are some griefs I will carry and hold for the rest of my life. But for you, for me: may we find ways to heal, to recover what we lost that can be recovered. I do believe it is possible. Some of the lost can be found.
Lost Things and Found
Keys and phone
I lose repeatedly
there was a kid I raised
who was my child of lost things
not knowing the lost and found
was not a closet
(except for him it was)
I lost a child once or twice—
not the real losing you never recover from
but the losing in a department store
or the losing track when they weren't
the place you thought they were
the imagining the worst
there have been close calls
one where I made a fool of myself
wailing and screaming on the early
morning lake, bringing neighbors
running to boats
to try to find the body of the child
I thought had drowned
(he had swum faster than I knew—
was found happily showering—
warming from cold Montana water)
go figure (oh, I have)
I have lost myself too
amid the voices, ideas of others
who had their picture of who
I was, or should be
and I listened
amid the comparisons
distractions of life
I have wandered far from my path
I lost myself for years in a place
I could have been the most found
Perhaps it is only now—
in the middle of my life—
I am finding myself
(this feels like telling the truth)
sorrow and relief mingled
I know I have lost things
some never to be recovered
Who can get back that
That dream or hope
that did not come to be
whose window has closed
at least the way one imagined
Sometimes I wish I hadn't found
certain things, run into them
discovered them, been knocked out cold by them
there is no going back
from things you wish you could
the things I wish I could unknow
I cannot fully list—
at least not here
they tell the story
in ways you would not understand
(or you would, but we could not
give them their proper due)
But you may know some—
the end of friendships
and loss of ideals
or firmly held illusions
fantasies of good
or pretty good
I wish I didn't know
what depression looks like up close
how pain living in one's body
guts a person
like a fish
it is not pretty
that I could unknow systemic injustice
sucking up lives
shutting people down—off
shuttling them to the streets
byways where they do not have to be
where we do not have to
to what we have done
no, I cannot go back and re-lose
all that has been found
maybe too many
that is what I want
as I sift through the lost
I am okay
In finding myself
I have uncovered
all I can hold.
© kac 2.17.20
The following two songs are the songs I referenced above. For some reason, both Spotify links start mid-song. So maybe try the YouTube link below each one or look them up on your listening platform.
Here is another link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyNSGff-Nh4
Here’s this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC7mNAsx7Vw