This song, Sequoia Dreamtime, was inspired by a trip Dena and I took in the spring of 2016. We took a long drive south of Fresno to attend a family reunion. I learned that the reunion location wasn’t far from Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park.
After the reunion , we drove up into the hills, located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. Along the way, I appreciated the view of the valley with its blue oak woodlands and chaparral grasslands.
Upon entering the park entrance, I felt anticipation and excitement. Furthermore, I recalled the childhood joy of experiencing the wonder of the natural world. Although, I had seen pictures of these giant sequoia trees as a child growing up in the Midwest, I had never been in their midst. I was amazed to find out that the giant sequoia forest is part of 202,430 acres of old-growth forests. And, I was looking forward to seeing the General Sherman tree, considered to be the largest tree on Earth.
When I got out of the car to walk through the Giant Forest, I started to connect with the huge trees. As I gazed high up at their lofty crowns, I was humbled by their sacred living presence. And, I imagined what they must have witnessed over the centuries. As I ambled near these grandfathers, rays of afternoon sunlight fell among their majestic trunks. I smelled the subtle incense of their rough bark, as they seemed to glow reddish gold.
Words and Music
This evoked a creative response within me that day and inspired the following poem. Afterwards, I submitted my writing to Dena and asked her to post it on the Daily Napkin. I’m happy to share that with you here.
After seeing this powerful image/word collage, I was compelled to set the words to music. And, voila, I was blessed with another new song! Afterwords, I decided to capture the feel of it in a video. With Dena’s assistance, I shot the following video in a friend’s garden. I really like the visually appealing backdrop of the honeysuckle vine behind me. And, I was surprised by the bird happily chirruping along with me in the song’s beginning. Enjoy the song!
No Changing the Truth came through my creative jukebox over five years ago. It has since become my homage to the great American folk songwriter, Bob Dylan. However, I don’t consider it a parody of Dylan’s style or a derivative effort.
* respect or honor
* something that is done to honor someone or something
a : expression of high regard b : something that shows respect or attests to the worth or influence of another
Not long after I wrote this tune, I sensed some parallels between this song and a cool tune by Dylan called, Everything is Broken. It’s from his Oh Mercy album, released in 1989 and produced by the legendary Canadian producer, Daniel Lanois. Since I couldn’t find a YouTube version by Dylan himself, here’s R.L. Burnside’s take on it.
The title of No Changing the Truth holds two meanings for me. First, Truth is Truth and there’s no way to change it. I heard a saying once, “The Truth doesn’t care who speaks it…” At the same time, there is “no change in the Truth,” no matter what happens in the world.
“You know that change is on the way
What will you do with Life today?
You might hold tight, dig in your heels
You choose how much of joy you feel”
for the CD
This tune will appear on my upcoming album, In a Circle, and will feature some tasty mouth harp work by one of my good musical friends, Dave Clark. In the meantime, here is an early demo of No Changing the Truth, for your enjoyment:
Irish Tears was another tune written during my “coffee house” heyday period. As with most Americans born in the states, I have a mixed bag of ancestors. On my father’s side of the family, I have both Scots and Irish in the family tree of genetic code.
As a personal disclaimer, I have not been to Ireland and I have no personal experience of living there. I have read books and seen movies that take place in that part of the world. I’ve also known a few folks from Ireland.
Irish Tears is about social issues
One of the major social issues in the 20th century for the people of Ireland was what came to be known as “The Troubles.” In writing Irish Tears, I sought to express my impressions of the conflict in Northern Ireland, as an outsider. What I have come to learn is that the conflict there began centuries ago. And, it boiled over into concentrated unrest and violence in the late 1960’s lasting for three decades.
In the song lyrics, I wanted to evoke a feeling of shock and disgust without taking sides about who was right and wrong in that conflict. As with all other wars and violence around the world, I think it’s the children who are impacted the worst. If they live, they must deal with the horror of it and survive the insanity somehow in the aftermath.
“Sun shines down on the cold, burnt ground where the children never smile
Joy ride cars roll through landscape scars, it’s a war zone, mile by mile
Sticks and stones turn to guns and bombs in the hands of a nine year old
Irish blood falls on bitter soil, mixing in with Irish tears”
U2 a Part of my Inspiration
I had heard a song by an Irish band, U2, called Sunday, Bloody Sunday in the early 1980’s. Their powerful musical statement got my attention. It was a part of my inspiration to write Irish Tears later on.
I must have succeeded in capturing something in my musical exploration and expression. I played Irish Tears for one Irish gentleman I met and he connected with the song so much that he asked for a copy of the recorded version. Even though I’ve never met any of my distant relatives from the “old country”, I would be curious to hear their response to what I think is one of my hardest hitting and emotional songs.
I chose not to include Irish Tears on my album, Older and Wiser. So, if you want to hear it and get a free download (as well as read the liner notes for it), click here.
Beauty Rises Forth was born out of a visit to the Garden of Saints which is located at the Vedanta Society of Sacramento.
I think it was either in the spring or the summer of 2009 that I heard from a friend about an open meditation garden. My spiritual curiosity was stirred. So, one beautiful day, I took my wife for a trip out to Carmichael to check it out. Most noteworthy, the lotus blossoms were out in full bloom in the pool under the grandmother willow tree. Dragonflies danced above and around the lotus flowers. At the same time, I was delighted to see large koi fish drifting lazily in the pool below.
In the Garden
The essence of Beauty Rises Forth is its chorus. “From the mud deep below, Beauty rises forth. Out of Great Mystery blossoms Divine worth.” As I stood by the lotus blossom pond, taking in their stunning beauty, I visualized their roots down in the mud below the water.
I considered how similar human spiritual growth is to those lotus blossoms. I concluded that the lotus blossoms must have mud, water, koi fish, and dragonflies to support their growth. In a similar way, I have the roots of my physical being grounded in the mud of this physical world.
Out of that muddy matrix of life, I’ve grown. I am supported by the rich nutrients as I grow as a human being. Finally, I am empowered to express my Divine worth to the world and my Creator via the blossoming of my soul.
I was inspired by the peaceful feeling emanating from the sacred statuary of both eastern and western saints from various world faith traditions. And, the statuary on the grounds is thoughtfully woven on pathways amongst large trees, roses, and other flowering plants.
Also, I appreciated the meditation benches stationed in the shade near the water lily pond. They are the perfect spot to sit and contemplate the garden’s natural wonder and beauty.
I will admit to a bit of embroidering in the lyrics of Beauty Rises Forth regarding naming the various saints and spiritual teachers represented by statuary. You won’t find a Buddha or a Kuan Yin statue in that garden. However, I was drawn to the full-sized statue of Krishna playing flute in the gazebo surrounded by the water lily pond. And, I found myself humbly grounded by the simple bas relief depiction of Saint Francis of Assisi.
May you always be reminded of and guided to your own beauty among the garden of Great Spirit…
Earth Changes was written back in 1990 during my “coffee house” period. I don’t recall any specific inspiration at the time that may have sparked this tune. I’ve been a Nature appreciator and lover since growing up as a boy in southern Indiana.
Watching the Seasonal Earth Changes
I loved experiencing the changes of the seasons every year: from the leaves of the hardwood trees turning red and gold in the Fall to the dogwoods blooming in the Spring. I remember walks in the woods with the family dog and my younger brother. We would hunt along the creeks for geodes. It was like finding treasure in those roundish limestone rocks containing deposits of calcite or quartz crystals inside.
I penned a lyric in Earth Changes with a volcano reference (“…with a mountains ancient cry, there’s a new volcano as the lava flows…”). In the spring of 1980, I was living with my son and some friends in northeastern Washington State. One morning in May, we woke and discovered that the VW bus he and I had been sleeping in was covered with a film of volcanic ash. There was even ash on the ground and trees. I had heard news that Mt. Saint Helen’s, located in southwestern Washington, had a major volcanic eruption. Apparently, the ash had been carried by the wind in different directions.
I’ve always been fascinated with time lapse films that reveal the mystery of Nature’s unfolding. Another lyric I wrote in this song refers to “…a power flowing, something wild and free…” Here’s a fascinating video of an acorn sprouting in the Earth. As the acorn breaks free above the soil, it seems to illustrate the flowing of that power.
I think of the natural world as existing and moving in “kairos” time. This is the length of time it takes for a cloud to pass across the sky or for a flower to bloom. Wikipedia defines “kairos” as an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the ‘supreme moment’). It refers to a period or season. I’ve also heard of kairos defined as natural time. This might be said to be cosmic timing or the moment of the Eternal Now.
“In the ocean of life, we’re just going along for ride…”
If you want to read the song’s liner notes from my album, Older and Wiser, click here.
I wrote Angels Here in the late 1990’s. I had experienced a dry spell around songwriting during most of the 90’s and wasn’t playing much guitar at all.
At the time, I was married to my second wife, Patti. We lived in a nice house in the Hollywood Park area of Sacramento. I remember that there were fruit trees in the back yard and a huge deodar cedar tree as well as a beautiful magnolia grandiflora in the front yard.
Inspired by a Film
I had watched a German film titled, Wings of Desire, at the Tower Theater which is a local art-house cinema. They show independent and foreign films at the Tower. I was deeply affected by this film. Here’s a short interview with the film director, Wim Wenders. He talks about his inspiration to make the film.
I was inspired by the film to write a song from the perspective of being an angel that observes human beings. Although the angel is unable to directly change or prevent human behavior, still the angel has great compassion for them. For me, the song is about the human longing for connection with something greater than one’s self. Some folks call that greater presence, the Divine.
Fallen Angel Here
I was struck by a scene in a large library where there are many people sitting at tables reading quietly. Meanwhile, various angels stand near them. They hear all the silent thoughts of the humans as a musical murmuring. At a certain point in the story line, the main angel character falls in love with a woman who is a trapeze artist in the circus. He tells another angel of his “desire” to become human, so that he can experience life through a human’s five senses and also feel emotions, such as love. I was bemused to get a different viewpoint on the old concept of a “fallen angel.”
Birds in a Tree
I recall the initial inspiration to write Angels Here occurred on a rainy evening after seeing the film. I had either heard or seen small birds nestled in the previously mentioned deodar cedar tree in the front yard. That sparked this line in the song, “…And I sing with the sparrow in the cedar tree while dancing in the rain.” I’m always fascinated with how creative inspiration helps to bring new songs through me.