porch view

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.

road

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 guns 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.

stream

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.

close up

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.


Comments

Rocky Mountain High — 44 Comments

  1. I JUST came back from Colorado, my first time ever. And I could not stop singing your blog post title. The whole time. John Denver has way more meaning now. 🙂 I totally feel and smell everything that you described as it’s so fresh in my mind. It is gorgeous and inspiring there! I definitely would love to take a trip back there, even if it means landing with all those darn air pockets in Denver.

    I bet the music you made with colorado in your heart is stunning!
    Jen Brunett recently posted…I Am Woman.My Profile

  2. My dad lives in Colorado so I have been there a bunch of times and I can well imagine how the complete 180º in surroundings (pine trees for palm trees, mountains for ocean, clean air for smog) would shake loose your forgotten song-writing spirit. What a great trip.
    Ellen recently posted…Can I Kick It?My Profile

  3. Ah, I was singing as I read this. Colorado… I spent a summer there with my Aunt working as a tour guide at The Lost Gold Mine. You never know where the road will take you Natalie, so don’t be too sure that LA will always be home.

    I love the lyricism in this post (see what I did there?) It is much needed reinforcement for me to live in the now.

  4. What a gorgeous, positive post. I stay worried about you so I’m glad you found this.

    I write songs too. I wrote 12 of them for my first book, the Helene one. I’m glad we share that.
    Lance recently posted…CeremonyMy Profile

  5. This is beautiful and resonated so deeply with me. I am a native of the blue waters of Pure Michigan, living in NYC for the past three years. You described so richly the dichotomy between urban life and the soul soothing richness of wide open spaces and fresh air. Every summer when we visit family in MI, I find a part of me coming back to life. And like you, the anxiety and depression slips away. But yet for me, there is something about the city that keeps drawing me back.

    I love this piece.

  6. Not very long ago, one of your Yeah Write posts was a poem and I felt bad for not commenting on it, but poetry always seems to go right over my head. Not being able to comment on that poem had my thinking one day about why I couldn’t seem to ever understand poetry and I decided that the next time I saw a poem, I would try to see it as the lyrics for a song. Then you posted this and it makes perfect sense to me that you write songs.
    Vanessa D. recently posted…Unexpected LossMy Profile

  7. OMG I freaking LIVE in this great state, now I feel guilty for not writing something (forget about something good, just something at all) daily! Seriously though, there is something special about Colorado. I visited once and thought maybe I could move here. A year and a half later I visited again and within two months I had packed up my car and moved out here. It sounds so woo-woo to say but I had this feeling when I visited here that I’d never felt anywhere else, this feeling of “I should live here.”
    Pam recently posted…Nesting 2.0My Profile

    • Haha, well if I were there everyday, I don’t know…
      And that’s so amazing! I’ve had that feeling before, I just didn’t move while I had the chance. Lesson learned: don’t let the chance pass you by.

  8. Beautiful, beautiful writing and you so wonderfully captured the feeling of getting lost in the day to day and coming close to losing your muse. That’s what it felt like to me. I was up to my eyeballs in the maintenance of life and forgot to write songs and be creative. I haven’t been to Colorado since I was too young to really appreciate it on the level you describe here, but man, would I love to go back. Sounds like bliss and from the pictures, it looks like it too.

    • It was as close to bliss as I’ve been lately. And I get too caught up in the maintenance of life, too, and what I “should” be doing. I am sick of living according to “shoulds.”

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