In his article “Seeing Things as They Are” C.W.Huntington Jr. makes the observation that poets notice things the rest of us miss. They find words, he says, to bring what they notice to our attention to overcome our blindness and remind us of fundamental truths we would otherwise miss.
Now I’m not so sure he’d include someone like me in with the pile of poets he’s talking about. But one of the things I’ve always loved about songwriting is that the effort to do so forces (enables encourages, invites…) me to look closely at life — at my experiences, at the world — to see it, feel it and work to translate it to lyrics/music that do speak to fundamental truths.
I believe that art — and by art I mean all art — does a very important job of capturing and expressing an essence of what it is to be human that otherwise falls through the cracks of our daily interactions. A beautiful or compelling turn of phrase, a captivating melodic line (photographic composition, colour layers in a painting…) assures us that someone out there feels the same way we do, even if we couldn’t begin to articulate exactly what that feeling is. In a very profound way art, when it moves us, lets us know we’re not alone in this great big world.
For me working to capture the essence what might be falling through the cracks of my own existence is an enchanting, inspiring, formidable task. And, of course, digging in to take apart and examine how others so brilliantly manage to do so is both inspiring and humbling. I am brought to my knees when I experience the work of others who so marvellously succeed. I don’t necessarily succeed. But the desire to do so has me looking, watching, tasting, considering… feeling with keen interest. It’s like if I’m working on a song I get to live life more vividly.
But what’s interesting is that further into his article Huntington Jr. points out that we aren’t in charge of our thoughts. We don’t really control them. If we were, he asks, why would we choose to call up worries and regrets? It’s like breathing. (He didn't say this but this is how I’m seeing it.) We can choose to hold our breath, speed it up or slow it down. But most of the time we don’t. We just let breathing happen on its own. Similarly we can nudge our thoughts along, direct them, nurture them. But for a good whack of the of time (and maybe this is only me?) the mind wanders where it will. I know that even when I’m really working to focus I’ll find my mind has ventured off. It’s in the garden or back at the house we lived at when I was 5 when I want it to be with me, considering the next string or words I intend to write or read or…
The thing is, when my mind is off wandering around doing its own thing and not what I’m asking it to do, well, that's often when it delivers the best ideas. So it's kind of like I didn't really have anything to do with the idea —I didn’t come up with it. If that’s the case, I really can't take credit for a good idea. At the same time perhaps this reality absolves me of the blame for a not-so-good idea?
Maybe, as it’s starting to become increasingly obvious, one doesn’t need to take any of this too seriously? Not the art, not the looking, not the lame lyric or the stunningly fine melody. Because really, I might be doing the looking (watching, tasting, feeling, considering…), but I’m not too sure who exactly it is that's doing the seeing. Maybe it's all of us? Maybe we all contribute to the ideas -- brilliant and not so -- that help gather what's falling through the cracks or, as Huntington Jr. says, bring vision to fundamental truths? Maybe.
I'm Christie Simmons -- the person the rest of this website is about. But if you don't feel like reading all of that, to cut to the chase I'm a singer songwriter from Calgary, Alberta. The picture above is of me and my sister Catherine Simmons (a most awesome author) at Sylvan Lake where we get to play and have fun. I'm hoping this is another place where I'll get to play and have fun!