Wings of Desire

Last night Mark and I watched the Wim Wenders film, “Wings of Desire.” It had been inhabiting our Netflix library here for months — there’s been so little time to watch movies lately! — and finally, in the heart of a big, deep, winter snowstorm, we settled in to watch it.

I’m fairly sure that I didn’t understand some (much?) of the film, but I liked a lot of it very much. I loved the visual image of the angels lightly touching those needing a change of direction, or some hope, or inspiration or wisdom. I love the idea that all around us, there are spirits willing and able to help us. I love the thought that when we’re close, there are loving guides that help us cross a bridge, dissolving the blocks or fears or hesitation that keeps us somehow from the place we want to be.

And I believe it.

I feel it when I write sometimes. But not every time. Sometimes the writing is like digging, where I feel like a little determined miner. I know the gold is in there, and it sure seems like I’m the one who is supposed to find it, so I dig dig dig away until parts gets uncovered and eventually I can fit the pieces together into something worthwhile. It’s tiring and sometimes annoying, and hard to stay focused; my mind drifts and I think of a dozen other more concretely productive things I might do instead. But I stay on it, the best I can. I try to just keep keeping on it. . . to pull each word out of the endless choices of words, try to make sure the stuff made sense, lay some foundation.

But other times, the writing is more like dictation. . . more like I’m the one who has been chosen to deliver this message. It’s like I’m being nudged: “here it is…write it down, make it music, record it and get it out into the world so that those who need to hear it will find it. ”

I feel this way about “This Is Our Life.” I feel it about “Til Then.” “Someone Still Believes In You.” “Hold On.” “Better Than Anyone.” “Since You’ve Gone.” “More Perfect World”. And dozens of others. The details of my own experience frame the songs, but they’re not mine. They never were. And if I hadn’t written them (and found a way to get them into the world), I absolutely know that the songs would have found a way through someone else.

Years ago, when I was starting out, I did a radio interview at a small station near where I grew up in Illinois. The interviewer asked where my songs came from, and after I thought for a moment, I said: “it’s almost like there’s a constant river of ideas and lyrics and melodies flowing by, and if I’m able to get in the right state of mind, I get to reach up and take a little scoop from that river and hopefully make it into a song. My own life gives me ideas too, of course, and I love to remember little moments in conversations and stuff, but mostly, it’s like the river thing.” Well, the guy interviewer appeared to think that this was the most goofy, idiotic thing he’d ever heard, because after giving me a little bit of a hard time, he cut the interview short and it was over. And I felt kind of stupid. Like maybe this metaphor was too out there, or I shouldn’t have said anything about it.

But as it turns out, I’m not alone. I’ve heard other songwriters and artists share similar stories — some from a position of such accomplishment that I feel blessed to have just shared the same thought! — and the more experience I’ve gained in writing, the more true it feels to me. Maybe I feel less attached, egowise, to the idea that I did it, it’s MINE, ME ME ME in the process. (It’s probably a relief to let some of that go, I guess, since ME ME ME is pretty exhausting for everybody).

So today, on this richly snowy day, I’m feeling extra tender toward the angels who whisper in my ear, the invisible hands on my shoulder that give me back hope when it’s drifted. And I will try with more conviction to stay still enough to hear their messages, to free myself from the distractions and chatter in my head that push the divine guidance to the fringes.

5 Things I’m Thankful For Today:
1. Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies
2. The comfort of movies from your own couch
3. The heavy, quiet, thick blanket of snow that covers everything
4. That Paul’s movie got into Sundance. I am so thrilled for him I can barely form the words.
5. That Susan’s Mom’s spirit has been released. We are all thinking of you so much, Susan. We love you. 

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