I picked up my daughter from daycare on Friday afternoon to make the 45-minute trek to my parent’s place. We would spend the evening with pizza and celebration and family (Jane didn’t touch the pizza – she much preferred the channa masala we had the next night from the Indian restaurant). It’s a lovely drive around the outskirts of the city, with endless plains ripe with harvest.
As I began the drive, with Death Cab’s Plans in the background to help me think, I fell into an old familiar feeling, one that hits me each and every autumn. The feeling that I should be paying attention because everything is so beautiful, and it’s all going away so soon. The few yellow leaves scattered on the pavement will soon be in piles, and then they’ll make way for snow. Everything changes, so I need to pay attention.
The sunlight seems sharper. There’s more shadow in the blades of grass, bright green and contrasted. The air is cleaner. Pay attention, this is meaningful.
And with it comes the wistfulness. How did summer go so fast? How did the year go fast? How has my life gone so fast? How did I forget to feel like this?
My heart had hardened, somehow without me noticing. On that drive I felt it soften. I felt more like myself.
It’s the busy-ness. The hustle. Forgetting to breathe. Then the first colors of autumn appear like a brake. Remember this? Remember how everything ends?
In the car, I stopped the music. I turned on the voice recorder. Started saying disjunctive sentences, each sentence-end punctuated with my daughter’s decisive “yeah!” from the backseat, her new favorite word. An idea was coming to me, a lyric.
Some of the words were silly and would never see the light of day. But there was an idea I was getting to. I kept digging out the idea for the entirety of our drive, my daughter happily chatting in the background as if we were in conversation, as if we were co-writing this song.
Later that night, long after she was in bed, I listened through the recording, writing the words down on paper indiscriminately. It was two full pages. Mostly coal, with a diamond or two nestled within.
But coal from a spontaneous creative process is still something.
I don’t always remember to be creative. Autumn forces the reminder. I start to lose interest in doing the normal thing (say, not writing a lyric verbally during a long commute). I open up a little, get a little weirder in a way that feels familiar, in a way that feels like the little kid I always will be.
And now I have not only an idea, but also a memory of a time I came back to myself and started dictating a song in the car.
Now to keep remembering.