If only we were writers of lyrics, the sort that flood through our radios and our iPhones, then things would be easier. If I were to write the following sentence, “Redemption keep my covers clean, tonight”, and I wrote it here on this site, you’d wonder just what had happened to me. However, if I were writing lyrics, and I put those same six words to a steady beat and added a guitar and maybe a tambourine, you’d sing it at the top of your lungs along 294. You would. Don’t even pretend that you wouldn’t. But this is what it’s like to write lyrics instead of stories, because when you write stories they have to reflect some semblance of sense, and when you write lyrics they can be vague and enigmatic and border heavily on ridiculous, leaning towards the absurd, but salvation comes from the strings of a guitar and a kick drum. Proper use of pronouns and adverbs and verbs not required.
Lyrics. I like them, but they usually mean very little. All lyrics boil down to one basic tenant of life- love. We either love someone in song or we used to love them, or, maybe, if we’re really heading on a quivering limb, we’re thinking about loving them. This is what songs are. They’re usually quite boring, though I will sing, with you, senseless lyrics with the windows down in a fast moving car. If you’ve never found yourself singing Taylor Swift lyrics while speeding down Highway 50 on a summer day, well, then, it’s clear you’ve never driven down Highway 50 on a summer day. Lyrics.
Brandon Flowers writes some of the most nonsensical lyrics ever penned, and he does so with remarkable frequency and success. Most of his songs are recorded under his band name, The Killers, a band who appears to be far less violent than their name would suggest. But Brandon recorded one song that strikes a chord (pun!) with me, regardless of mostly rambling lyrics. There’s a song about breaking away, which is different from the magazine Breakaway!, a magazine that you likely only ever saw if you were a youth in the late 80s and your parents gave you a subscription to it for your birthday and/or Christmas. It wasn’t a good magazine. Anyway, the song, and the lyrics.
The simple lyric in the simple song “Only The Young” goes a little, or exactly, like this: Only the young can break away. And that’s the only lyric that matters in the song, because it’s the only lyric that is 100% true. The ability to break away, I do not have this ability. And, if you’re reading this at a desk, it’s obvious that you don’t either. When we were young, we had this chance. You might have taken hold of yours, while I skipped mine. Did you work a sailing ship one summer, or winter in Belize, waiting tables or tending bar, or working on a fishing boat? Yeah, me neither. This would be breaking away, and it’s not something I’ve ever done nor ever expect to fully do.
So if we can’t break away, what is it that we can do? How can we fight back, if only a little? A clean break is impossible, without kissing our children goodbye and moving to Alaska where we’ll have to learn to be content to cash our government checks- the ones they send when you’re willing to live in Alaska. This isn’t a break so much as it’s the destruction of what we’ve stayed attached so long to achieve, and that’s where the difference lies between breaking away, cleanly cutting the rope that keeps us all looking forward towards a day when we think we might break away, and simply stretching that rope as best as we can. The key to thriving isn’t breaking away, it’s stealing away, if only for moments.
And I don’t mean moments along the Appalachian Trail, I mean moments spent at the helm of a bouncing boat or other moments spent relaxed in a white wooden chair with blue water lapping the underside of pier posts and a magazine that we had intended to read cast aside on the pier, just out of our reach, the pages ruffled and flustered by the breeze. There is nothing else we can do. We can break away, for a week perhaps, but this isn’t a break, it’s another stretch, and it finds us traveling to achieve it. Working too hard to break away isn’t breaking away at all, it’s just tugging on the rope that isn’t going to give no matter how far we try to run. We’re stuck working to stretch this thing out, and there’s no better way to steal a stretch here and there by focusing our weekend aim to the lake. To cool breezes and tepid waters, to boats and waves and sunshine and late, dark evenings, lulled to sleep by nothing but the sound of water and a few insistent crickets. This is how we can restore balance, and without it, we’re just hoping that redemption might keep our covers clean.
I’ll be absent from the blog for a couple of days to attend to a little trip I’ve had planned for quite some time. Don’t be mad. Back Friday to regale you with more boring stories of my life. See you this weekend, at the lake.