Armed with my black pen and handmade journal, I am sitting out on the back deck, which overlooks the Rocky Mountains. The peaks are covered in snow – an unfamiliar element to these native Angeleña eyes –and I keep gazing out at them, hoping they’ll whisper their secrets to me. There are no secrets in Los Angeles. It’s too hot and bright and phony for mystery. Yet like it or not, it is my home, and at 31 I am growing resigned to the prospect of never living elsewhere.
Now though. Now I am here, and I am more often trying to live in the Now. The mountains provide a snow-capped, otherworldly backdrop to my scribbles, and I am overly conscious of the smell. This aroma assaults me; clean and fresh, like pine needles and oxygen wiped of exhaust fumes and millions of bodies fighting over limited dollars and limited carpool lanes. It has been ten years since I last saw and smelled these mountains, and never before from the great state of Colorado.
Colorado bears similarity to a few states I’ve visited, yet the unlikely combination of characteristics renders it distinct. Health-conscious like Oregon and California. Mountainous like Wyoming and Montana. Friendly like Idaho and Illinois. Weapon-obsessed like the Deep South and Arizona. The day before, we visited outfitter stores packed with bows and hunting gear, pawn shops teeming with AR-10 rifles that no one would sell to us because we’re from California. Not that these weapons hold any appeal for me whatsoever. Owning a weapon would only add to the sleepless nights and heart palpitations.
But here, Here and Now, my undesired hangers-on Anxiety and Depression have fled. The words come more easily, where my brain may quiet and process regrets I’ve left undisturbed for years, until they festered and seeped into my waking life. Oddly enough, these words come with a melody, and before too many lines I know I’m writing not just another poem, but a song.
I had forgotten, but I used to write songs. Not for any reason – I wasn’t Joni Mitchell or anything – but something compelled me to connect words with melodies and harmonies. Nothing I wrote was going to win a Grammy, but that wasn’t why I did it.
Somewhere in my past, I stopped writing songs. Too much dissuasion, too much exhortation to practicality. Cast off the follies of youth and whatnot; pull up the big-girl dress slacks and go to work in the grayed out world of corporate America. Stop all the feelings, stop all the words, stop all the music and anything else that brings you to life.
But here, the words and the melodies refuse my ignoring. They birth themselves on their own, with gentle coaxing.
Maybe it’s because I notice more here, and let it pass over then pour through me like a slow-moving stream. Life in my urban homeland is a constant filtering out of details, details that could easily cause a short-circuit due to their chaotic profusion. Here I practice looking and absorbing, instead of shutting out.
Whatever the cause, I have written a complete song. Verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus.
Then I write another. Each day, the pages of my journal fill, my head swims with harmonics.
I take the songs back with me to Los Angeles, and sit at my piano to compose the melodies I heard in Colorado.
I remember now, I used to write songs.