I was thinking today, and certainly not for the first time, about why I sometimes feel so compelled to write. It always comes out sounding cheesy or exaggerated, but the truth is recently I have been moved to write because I have to. There is no other way to explain it. I have something in me that I want to express. But then the question becomes, why? What do I hope my words, thoughts, images will do or be once they’re out there?

Coincidentally, I started reading Edmonton poet Alice Major’s stunning book of essays, Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science. One of her passages in an essay titled “That Frost Feeling” discusses that intangible feeling of wanting to create art, and wanting to consume it. The why of writing, visual art, dance and music. Major calls that “particular tickle in the human brain”, the one that makes us want to create art, and want to experience it, a kind of “yearning.” She says “we want to evoke it in others, to make it resonate in someone else’s mind.”

The idea resonated with me. But sometimes there is so much more than an idea to be conveyed. It’s the very feeling you want to share. An essence of an experience, imagined or real. What you yearn for and what you want others to yearn for too.

The word yearning on its own is an ugly word. Said out loud, it just doesn’t sound that pleasant. It doesn’t roll nicely off of or around your tongue. It’s only in the meaning — the recollection of how it feels to yearn — that it really starts to flourish. Yearning, to me, is a wondrous blend of love and heartbreak. The desire for something, and the ache, the wrench of the heart, because our needs are not met. Now. As we want them to be.

To yearn is more than to need. It’s more than a wish or a hope, or even a desire. To yearn is a kind of beautiful hurt. That razor thin line between pleasure and pain. The edge just before rapturous delight. To yearn is to feel a kind of ecstasy. Words are for me, both in creation and consumption, an amazing route to bliss. If I am inspired, I want to inspire. If I am moved, I want to move. It’s contagious. Or at least I hope it can be. It’s not an intellectual pursuit. It’s a soul pursuit. Perhaps there is no need to question what my soul just knows.


earworm: “Firecracker,” Ryan Adams (2001)

Ryan Adams has a new album coming out and this makes me happy. I listened to the first single, “Gimme Something Good” and liked it. I appreciate that it sounds a little different than previous singles, and has a decidedly early ’80s rock vibe, like Foreigner or the Eagles or something. I saw a song list for the album and noted that Track 2 is titled “Kim”. I certainly hope I like that one. My anticipation of new Ryan Adams made me itch for old Ryan Adams and took me on a little stroll down musical memory lane. I stopped repeatedly at “Firecracker” which always makes me want to dance. I find it to be one of his most uplifting songs. Especially from a guy who makes a ton of heart-wrenching, honest, kick-you-in-the-gut music and lyrics. It is amazing to me that this song is from 2001. I didn’t think it was that old. I chalk this up to a few things: 1) I don’t think I was actually listening to Ryan Adams then. Probably not until a few years after, perhaps when the Rock N Roll album came out. 2) Many of songs have this kind of timeless quality so that when you listen it’s not immediately reminiscent of any period in music. 3) Since I passed 35, everything seems like it just happened last week and I cannot believe how quickly time is actually passing. Today, it is specifically the awesome harmonica in this song that’s on replay in my brain. But I love singing the lyrics too, which I think stand alone as poetic. They just get even better with his twangy voice. I like the opening lines the best, with all the alliteration: “Black bird slow and softly breaks a glass of wine/ Broken bluesy whisper sing to me tonight/Well everybody wants to go forever/I just want to burn up hard and bright/I just wanna be your firecracker/Maybe be your baby tonight.” Sweet. Coincidentally, I just started reading a book called “Brain on Fire” which is a memoir about a New York Post reporter’s battle to diagnose and overcome a brain inflammation that caused her to become psychotic and almost killed her. It’s a compelling read, and the author — Susannah Cahalan — repeatedly mentions Ryan Adams and his music, as something she loved before her illness and found comforting during her recovery. Thankfully, I have no such brain inflammation, but his songs do have the ability to burn bright in my mind.



earworm: “Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac (1975)

“Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac (1975)

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that I get a Fleetwood Mac song or lyric buzzing around my head about once a week. I don’t even need a reason. I just like them. A lot. Even though Rumours came out the year I was born, I’d still put it in my top 20 albums of all time. Maybe even top 10. But this song, is not from that album, but from the self-titled Fleetwood Mac, released two years before when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band (and made them awesome). But there are four specific reasons this song is in my head today:

1) I came out of my bedroom last night, and almost didn’t see my grey cat lurking in the shadows. Then he streaked away, a shady blur in the black hallway. I thought of my favourite line from this song: “She is like a cat in the dark, and then she is the darkness.”

2) I recently watched Sound City, an outstanding documentary in its own right, but extra good if you’re a rock geek. Or a Foo Fighters/Dave Grohl fan. And I am surely both of those things. The film is about the legendary Sound City recording studio in Los Angeles. Nicks and Buckingham both appear in the doc and talk about how they met Mick Fleetwood at the studio, and how coming together to form a five-piece band (with Christine McVie and John McVie) happened at that very studio. The songwriting, and recording of that 1975 album unfurled magically, like one of Stevie’s twirling shawls. She wrote this song, and it’s got that mystical, white witch back-story in the lyrics. But what I love about it is her voice, which is so weird and fantastic. And Buckingham’s guitar playing, which is so groovy and cool on the recording, but takes on this crazy, chaotic and passionate quality when they do the song live. Not that I’ve seen them live, but I spend too much time watching old performance videos of the bands I dig.

3) The third reason it’s embedded in my brain today is because I’ve been catching up on American Horror Story: Coven. Of course a show about witches, created by Ryan Murphy (who had a whole episode devoted to Fleetwood Mac on his other show Glee), would have a reference – or a whole bunch of references – to Stevie Nicks. She performs this song, as herself, on one of the episodes. Hate to say it, but I don’t love her version on the show, but I still love this song. And because of the show, “Rhiannon” is getting some love from people whose parents are probably my age.

4) The last reason is that I recently met a little girl whose name is Rhiannon. Her mom actually named her after this song. Pretty cool. She was a sweet kid, and I am glad, because previous to this the only other person I had met with this name was a nutty and slightly threatening woman I worked with many years ago. I think she had the potential be like a cat in the dark, and the darkness, and not in a good way. Perhaps she just needed to chill and listen to some of Buckingham’s seductive guitar riffs.