I’m relatively new to podcasts. I had an awareness of the seemingly never ending sea of them, but like most television shows, I find it hard to start listening to or watching a series because I’m a bit of a completist — I don’t like to commit unless I’m 100% sure I can follow through. I’m becoming less so in this stage of my life — I now find it hard to justify sticking with something I started it if I don’t like it. Life’s too short to read a book you hate. But since I discovered the On Being podcast after reading Krista Tippett’s “Becoming Wise,” I try not to miss an episode. I guess it should go without saying that I am behind, and just this morning listened to the August 9 show with Joe Carter. It was heavy stuff for a Monday morning, but if you’re gonna get heavy, it might as well be on a Monday, yes?
Trouble songs. I don’t even know now why I wrote that down as I listened — I don’t remember if that was something he said or if I just heard the word and connected it to the spirituals he sang and then started my own train of thought about it, but those are the words that have been going around in my head all day.
I’ve been in the studio with Hayes helping him make a new record. It’s going to be a great one. He’s written his own new batch of trouble songs and they’ll soon be delivered to y’all. As the group of us huddled in that dimly lit space today, trying to make magic as we always do, my mind kept returning to the thought of trouble, and how our traditions of making noise to ease our pain are so deep. Songs are a secret doorway to peace, always have been. A wail, a cry, a release, an admission of weakness, a plea for help — trouble songs are communion, a way to join others and an invitation for others to join us in our sorrow and then, hopefully, probably, ultimately, exaltation when we have expressed our hurt. All art making is the transmission of feeling that cannot be kept inside.
My most recent evenings have been spent stitching the words of my own trouble song into the quilt that you see pictured. The pieces were cut out and sewn together by my paternal great-grandmother. They were discovered by my maternal grandmother in a junk-filled building we called the little house that sat on the edge of the yard of the house where my sister and I grew up. Our grandmother, many years after rescuing them from the rat pills and squirrel carcasses, sewed them onto a top that she lovingly and painstakingly picked out, matching the colors just so. The lyrics to “Blood,” are going on it now. I don’t know if my forebears held trouble in their hands as they did the work on this piece that will hold such a sweet piece of my family’s history, but I know they had their share to express.
The most amazing thing about art is it gives our trouble a place to go.
Happy Monday, Y’all.