The Troubadour

The other day, I wasnít surprised when our youngest son told me that there are people in the old St. Louis cemetery who were born in the 1700s. St. Louis is a little crossing several miles north of here. Thereís a church, a couple of small buildings, an overgrown house or two, and, several hundred feet off the road, the cemetery. There are more people in the cemetery than there are in St. Louis. In fact, Iíve driven through St. Louis several times and have yet to see a single live soul there ó or a dead soul, for that matter. Would I recognize one?

Our son is gathering material for songs. He doesnít say thatís what heís doing, but I know. Music is in his blood, and he takes his guitar and notebook with him everywhere. Even at the age of twenty he is nourished by the road, by places, voices, faces. I see in him much of the old-style troubadour. He is a great listener hungry for experience, possessed of creative fire. He is also tired from too little sleep, but thatís no fault of his own ó the days simply arenít long enough to do all that needs to be done. Iíve seen him reading at the kitchen table one moment and sleeping soundly with his head on the table the next. Iíve walked around him, opened and closed windows, curtains, and doors, and none of it disturbed him. Iíve run the washing machine, only a few feet away. Iíve spoken to him directly in a loud voice without so much as causing an eyelash to move. And often, when he finally does awaken, he is surprised to find that so little time has passed.

Thereís a girl ó as there should be at that age ó who, fortunately, seems to understand. Quite possibly, sheís a little strange ó enough so to recognize that being normal can be dangerous to oneís mental health. Or she might simply be lonely, which, of course, is a natural state for a human being. Why should loneliness be considered a weakness or an illness? Itís neither. But the fact that these two young people are attracted to one another is most interesting of all, even if nothing comes of it in the traditional sense. After all, life is about making music ó with other singers, songwriters, and musicians, and with people we meet along the way. If the music is good and it shows promise, we linger. If not, we move on. The real difference lies in the stories we tell ourselves as times goes on, and whether or not we turn them into something unrealistic or implausible in order to preserve some pathetically sane notion of who we are, or who we think weíve become.

June 12, 2007

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