Mary

On many days, I know in advance what song I might post here, but it is often the inspiration of a moment, a serendipitous co-mingling of music with life. That is maybe an uncertain way to go, but it has kept my days interesting while outside everywhere, the 2020 dumpster fire has smouldered.

On this last day of 2020, a horrible and wonderful year, I am thinking of a song I heard last night when surfing the web for a late-night bit of music. I found it courtesy of a friend who often posts, on Facebook, a piece of music that is part of the soundtrack to her evening. Often it is a piece I have not heard. Even more often, I connect with it.

And so it was, with “Mary,” by Big Thief from their second album, Capacity (released in 2017). I listened to it about four times in a row, if not six or more. The lyrics are pure poetry:

Burn up with the water
The floods are on the plains
The planets in a rose
Who knows what they contain?
And my brain is like an orchestra
Playing on, insane
Will you love me like you loved me in the January rain?

Mom and Dad and violins
Somber country silence
The needle stopped the kicking
The clothes pins on the floor
And my heart is playing hide and seek
Wait and count to four
Will you love me like you loved me and I’ll never ask for more

What did you tell me Mary
When you were there so sweet and very
Full of field and stars
You carried all of time
Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me
Your eyes were like machinery
Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind

Monastery monochrome
Boom balloon machine and oh
Diamond rings and gutter bones
Marching up the mountain
With our aching planning
High and smiling
Cheap drink
Dark and violent
Full of butterflies
The violent tenderness
The sweet asylum
The clay you find is fortified
We felt unfocused fade the line
The sugar rush
The constant hush
The pushing of the water gush
The marching band
When April ran
May June bugs fly and
Push your gin Jacob
With the tired wiry brandy look
Here we go round Mary in your famous story book

We overcome the sirens
We look both left and right
And I can feel the numbness accompany my plight
And I know that someday soon I’ll see you
But now you’re out of sight
And you’ll kiss me like you used to in the January night

What did you tell me Mary
When you were there so sweet and very
Full of field and stars
You carried all of time
Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me
Your eyes were like machinery
Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind

Monastery monochrome
Boom balloon machine and oh
Diamond rings and gutter bones
Marching up the mountain
With our aching planning
High and smiling
Cheap drink
Dark and violent
Full of butterflies
The violent tenderness
The sweet asylum
The clay you find is fortified
We felt unfocused fade the line
The sugar rush
The constant hush
The pushing of the water gush
The marching band
When April ran
May June bugs fly and
Push your gin Jacob
With the tired wiry brandy look
Here we go round Mary in your famous story book

(“Mary,” by Adrianne Lenker. Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

The song includes themes like those 2020 has carried to axle-breaking capacity. If someone asked me to write the story of this year, what I’d concoct would be constructed of these chapters, which are the pillars of this song, too:

Memories
Disaster and Uncertainty
Love
Wonder
Fear and Dread
Perseverance
Hope

And, another thought: the song title intrigues me. I felt serendipity (like I so often do in life nowadays) at having learned of the song during the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Less celebrated in religion, as in society, is the mother, Mary.

An aside: the majority of comments on the YouTube video post of the song relate to its being featured on The Umbrella Academy. I have to admit that, other than a neighbour whose child dressed up as a character from that series, I wasn’t aware of it and have to wonder what rock I was living under when Netflix released it.

Farewell, 2020. Thank you for what you gave us and are teaching us. And 2021, may we all move safely through you supported by memories of ancestors and guided by love, wonder, perseverance and hope.

See you in the new year, folks. My gratitude and best wishes to you all.

And every morning, may I pay good mind to this message by Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski, as I see it when walking out of the bedroom:

Script art by Kal Barteski.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Saddle Creek Records official YouTube channel:

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