I almost made a new video with this song in it. Then I realized how important it was to post exactly this video.
Almost two years ago, my husband bought me a ukulele for my 40th birthday. I had asked for one, but I hadn’t really expected to get one. There it was, lying before me, already strung (thank goodness)… and all I could think was, what am I getting myself into?
I honestly thought I would pick it up and put it back down in two weeks. That seems to be about my “excitement cycle.” That’s what I’m worried about with this blog–that in two weeks I’ll give up. I don’t want to, though. Writing stories is something I have done for over twenty years now, and it’s something I truly enjoy doing. If I’m creating so much content, why not share it with the world? I have so much to share… but I digress.
I played piano when I was in sixth grade. I think that lasted about six months (a little longer than two weeks). It gave me the background to understand “scales” and “chords” and the like. That made the ukulele a lot easier to pick up and play. Most of the techniques I learned were from watching YouTube videos. I looked up a few songs on ukulele websites, wrote down chords like C and G and D and F, and started to play.
That was September 2015. In May 2015 I took a trip to Boston with my husband. We went to see an old friend of ours, a musician, and enjoy his band for a day on a Boston harbor cruise. He invited us to breakfast the next morning. I had brought my ukulele with me. (I take it almost everywhere.) He heard me plunking along with “Walking In Memphis” while he was making breakfast. A little while later he pulled me aside, away from everyone else, and put his arm around my shoulder. I will never forget that moment, and his words resonate through my brain all the time. “Now you need to start writing your own songs. You have so many stories in you,” he said. We talked about songwriting for a few minutes, and it felt like thirty seconds later we were saying goodbye.
How do you write songs? Is there a process? Is there a right way? How do you make a song good? I didn’t know any of these things. However, I did know that I could write. I’ve been writing for years. I can easily crank out a thousand words like it’s nobody’s business. Sitting here telling you this, I’ve already cranked out almost five hundred. A song, though, is different. It’s short. It’s beautiful. It’s gut-wrenching. Right? How do you do that?
When we got home from that trip, we started having some issues with our dog, Luke. He was starting to lose his mind. He was thirteen years old; and according to our neighbor, who works at a vet clinic, Luke was the oldest three-legged dog he had ever seen. We told him about some of the things Luke had been doing. We. Had a discussion about medicating him. Would it be better to drug him, prolong his life, keep him in pain, or to let him rest in peace ? It was such a hard decision for us to make; but I think in the end we made the right one.
I sat and worked on the song in the garage late one night. When I felt like I was pretty much done I called Bud out to the garage. He didn’t know what was coming. I told him I had written a song, and I’d like him to hear it. Then I played it. As I played, and I watched, Bud started to cry.
That’s when I knew. This songwriting thing… it is something I can do.
My original intent for this post was to make a new video of this song. It’s been another year, and I think I can play a little bit better than I did then. I’m not as shy. I sat and watched this, though; and there were several things that struck me that made me not want to redo it.
One is the lighting. If you watch the video from beginning to end, you’ll see that in the short four minutes it goes from somewhat-light out to dark. I think that’s part of the song itself, and this unintentional element of the video adds to that feeling… of having a few last words.
Then there’s the timidness of when I used to play… and the emotions that I was feeling at the time, that come through when I play. Those are things that make up that moment, and a moment is a very important thing. That music artist friend of mine taught me that.
Lastly here is the song itself. The words change. When I play it, from time to time, I sing it with different words. This video shows what I would call “the extended version.” I’ve taken a few of these scenes out of the song… and watching this now, a year later, maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe they draw you into the story that much further, and make you hurt that much more.
I know that this is a sad song; and you came here today to visit with me, read a story, and leave here happy. While this is a somber topic, know this: you too can make people cry. You too have this greatness within you, even if you have self doubt and sadness.
Screw the doubt. Create.