President's Journal

Volume I. #4

"The most wonderful thing is that the best of our convictions cannot be expressed in words."

~ Goethe

 

 

"Contemplation is a loving attainment of awareness.  It is intuition of the beloved object."

~ Josef Pieper

Rugged Roses

by The Gourds

 

 

 Tell me with yer eyes

In silence let them ring

The precious humming of our hearts

In silence let them sing

May our phantoms find there places

Where ever that may be

Let only the sound of love dear echo endlessly

 

For you for me

I won't wait a week and pine for a love that isn't there

We will watch the river flow past pretty flowers growing there

And the gravity and spin will pass by freely in the wind

To find us quiet in the sunset two old rugged roses

Planted firmly by the riverbed

 

Let the tender petals fall

Like your long cascading hair

Let the volume of your moans

Deny no passion in the air

And from the center of my bones

I'll kiss you often and with care

But not every kiss is always placed so keenly

For you

For me

 

I won't wait a week and pine for a love that isn't there

We will watch the river flow past pretty flowers growing there

And the gravity and spin will pass by freely in the wind

 

To find us quiet in the sunset two old rugged roses

Planted firmly by the riverbed

 

I won't wait a week and pine for a love that isn't there

We will watch the river flow past pretty flowers growing there

And the gravity and spin will pass by freely in the wind

 

To find us quiet in the sunset two old rugged roses

Planted firmly by the riverbed

 

 

 

___________________________________________

It’s almost automatic.  Mentioning the idea of a song by The Gourds to be at the heart of a new SEi journal, inspires smirks followed by stiff about-to-burst faces and staring eyes.  As some of us know more than others, these common expressions from polite souls are easy-to-read signs of tethered words.  If released these words would begin with something like, ”I don’t want to be rude, but…”  or, building to something more frank: “…what? Sounds interesting and a touch perhaps, maybe, how do I say, umm…idiotic…have you been drinking?”

 

It’s fitting.  The secret sauce mixture that drives and weaves through The Gourds’ music is typically packaged with smooth-as-sandpaper wrappings along with hillbilly, hobo-like refinements.   (Commiserate with such refining touches: when enjoying a live performance and gazing at that raised stage, sure, you’ll find worn boots, but more often you’ll notice bare feet.)  Usually surrendering any real attempt to catch all or most of the words, you ramble along with the hanged drawn and quartered lyrics that range from two letter derangements and rare four letter indiscretions to a prolonged drawl or howl textured by mysterious sounds that could resemble a camel in pain, a rumbling belly laugh, or the intake of a neglected runny nose.

 

Their Texas mishmash of stories, styles, and sounds is something like a large wind driven tumbleweed.  But it passes through and over more than rural highways and countryside and what’s inside may have more than the rough exterior suggests.  Invited or not it ranges over many of the dusty roads of life, whether of concrete, stones, or dirt.   Certainly, they pass this Flannery O’Connor test for a fiction writer:

 

 

"Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if   you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.  It’s not a grand enough job for you."

 

 ~ Flannery O’Connor, Mystery & Manners

 

 

A regular listener tuned or at least hearing the mysterious frequency of The Gourds must admit there is more than detached dusty weed to them.  If I may nudge and meatify (old Anglish word) the metaphor: let’s add ground sirloin or a thick porterhouse steak to the tumbleweed’s center—free roving grass fed beef, preferably.  No doubt it’s a supersized piece of meat, deep rare and with plenty of juice and life inside.   This semi-grotesque rambling (mooing) tumbling meat-centered metaphor is not a homogenous red or gray or one-dimensional in it’s taste.  The thick steak has delicate white marbled veins coursing through it.  When enjoying a Gourds song, with plenty of flesh and bone, it’s not too unusual to catch one of these light ethereal veins that surprise with subtle tastes of beauty, vision and transcendent wings not made of wax.

 

Rugged Roses is of that sort.  It’s a wedding song written by one band member for another and his bride (or at least that’s what they told me).  The song opens with a bold strum of the bass and slow rhythmic drum beats.  Somewhere underneath the beats and strums and touched with a typical Gourds drawly twang (or twangy drawl), the lyrics make their meandering way.  Unusual in their semi-clarity the words call for a closer listen and speak of such things as beholding and silence.

 

Tell me with yer eyes

In silence let them ring

The precious humming of our hearts

In silence let them sing

 

Now let’s pause for a moment before we dismiss such words as “beholding” or “silence” as too lofty for the earthy Gourds or before we jump and wax philosophic with such ideas that those simple words contain a lifetime of wisdom, whether at the beginning, middle, or twilight of a marriage or friendship.

 

Such terms and ideas don’t just open the song or begin the marriage.  Moving along, after speaking of long cascading hair and of natural sounds that echo the joy of God’s creation and of the creative process, the narrator returns to these experiences of silence and beholding in the refrain.  The lyrics seem now to hover between the bass and drum and the sonorous tinkling banjo.  They speak of twilights.

 

And the gravity and spin

Will pass by freely in the wind

To find us quiet in the sunset

Two old rugged roses

Planted firmly by the riverbed

 

The two married lovers are now in the twilight of their relationship.  They are quiet and together and beholding a sunset—a moment of simultaneous solitude and communion.  They are old and rugged—their marriage having weathered a variety of storms and droughts and plantings and unexpected flaws and failures and joys and harvests and...

 

While rugged, together, and old, they are still “roses.”  The narrator, one of the lovers, asserts that is how they still see one another—they still see, perhaps better see, the beauty.  It is a vision of the other found at the relationship’s beginning with their silent eyes and their humming hearts.  And it is a vision firmly held at the end.  Along the marriage’s way the light of that loving vision may (will) temporarily go out or grow dim, but it is part of the process of gaining deeper roots and becoming “rugged.”  This image of transcendent beholding and quiet is repeated in the refrain and acts as the foundation of the song.  It suggests that the earlier silent beholding expressed with eyes and driven by a youthful heart, beating with desire (eros), was not of the sort forgotten in the morning.  The earthy and simple textures of the song further supports that this early vision of each other is not like a pretty perfume—fragrant, attractive, and mirage-like in its short life, but is rather a love-driven insight.

 

This young couple seems unusually wise to the delusions of eyes and heart that will affect any couple in the process of marriage: they “won’t wait a week,” and let their affections and imagination drift to past relationships or potential crisis-inspired relationships and “pine for a love that isn’t there.”

 

The narrator also never suggests that they ever get “there” in the relationship.  They never get to that never land place of dreamy clouds or concrete footings and secure structure that is sure and easy and doesn’t require any more work or process of becoming.  They are ever on the way, but they are “planted firmly by the riverbed.”  They keep close to the real sources of life.  Their roots get deeper and they grow more rugged (and beautiful) and they remain out there “freely in the wind.”

 

Nor do we ever hear or see that they are each other’s “all.”  The refraining image is of them together beholding a sunset.  Like any beholding or vision, it is driven by a desire for communion.  Here we have a sense of quiet communion with something grand and transcendent as seen and felt in the beauty of a sunset.  It is through this contemplative seeing, that they can commune with or possess (without possessing) that big mysterious beauty.  And, while we may have stretched too far already, we might as well also suggest that the regular contemplation and communion with a larger transcendent beauty keeps alive the lovers’ ability to see each other’s transcendent beauty and in a selfless way to “possess” one another.   This kind of transcendent communion through beholding, in turn, only amplifies and enhances the joy of more physical communion and is perhaps a key spice to the secret ingredients that keep a love alive into the twilight.  (This affirmative heartfelt beholding may also be one of the greatest gifts one can give to the other).

 

We can draw out many things to discuss related to life and education from this little song, from the nature of images and stories and how they shape our perception of what romance is or what a friend is or what is truly good, etc.  We can also discuss the central importance of beholding and contemplation: its exercise when experiencing art; how it is often at the alpha and omega of real art—from a Wordsworth to a Keen or The Gourds; how it is vital to the human experience; and how it is so often neglected in educational dynamics.  All for other and better conversations—we have stretched or tumbled along enough.

 

 

So long,

 

Jeff

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Samuel & Erasmus institute. All Rights Reserved • 22903 Emily Trace Lane, Katy, Texas 77494

 

SEi is a Federal 501 (c) (3)  tax exempt public charity.  Contributions are tax deductible.