The One Song

Song #4:  The Zebras

falling zebras



The Zebras
Words and Music by Carrie Ferguson

Written August 2017
First demo, recorded with Garage Band, August 2017 at Deer Paths, Wendell, MA
Baritone Uke, Tambourine, Melodica played by Carrie
Album: Carrick Thistle and the Certainties

It has rained for days
The valley is covered with long shallow lakes
The highway glitters with overjoyed rivers
And the sun laughs down

You and I sit up on the mountain
Squinting our eyes at the water below
We thought we knew every inch of this valley
But now we’re not certain what it is that we know

It has rained for days
All the shapes that we treasured have melted away
Fields and fences and baseball games
All awash in the flood

A great herd of zebras leaps off of the mountain
Flying wingless, galloping through sky
It doesn’t surprise us, we are jealous as always
They make it look easy as they fall by

If we can lose it all tomorrow, tomorrow
Why not love today?
If we can lose it all tomorrow, tomorrow
Why not give it all away?

It has rained for days
All that precious water was too much to save
We will have to wait
The sun has returned but she promises nothing

Up on the mountain we’re watching the zebras
Splash through the water in the valley below
You want to swim with them and I am willing
When nothing’s familiar to let it all go

If we can lose it all tomorrow, tomorrow
Why not love today?
If we can lose it all tomorrow, tomorrow
Why not give it all away?


In August 2017 I decided to try to write a song every day.  I’ve seen other people do this before and it is always very impressive.  I’ve tried it several times and I never get that far before I fall in love with one song, get totally obsessed for several days, and the whole project gets completely derailed.

Often, a song is a problem to solve.  How to show THIS, how to get to HERE without the listener knowing what’s happening until they’ve arrived.  How to tell a story without blatantly stating what it’s about.  How to give the listener a feeling without telling them what to feel.  How to come up with imagery, rhymes, melodies, that are so exciting they explode in your mouth like pop rocks.

Every once and awhile the One, the One Song, comes along and I fall in love, head over heels, completely smitten, haunted by the melody day and night, obsessively reworking the lyrics over and over, walking around mumbling to myself.  All I can think about is the song, all I hear over and over is the song.  It keeps me up at night.  I become weird and pale from lack of sleep.  I am constantly restless and anxious, jonesing to be alone with my song.

But you know, it’s always a fleeting affair, a one night stand that lasts maybe 3 days to a week, and then it’s over.  I solve the problem, I complete the song, I sing it into garage band, and move on.  Later, when I’m performing the song, I might remember that feeling, but it’s never quite the same as the first time.

Or maybe I don’t complete it, because the timing isn’t right.  Maybe I archive it and find it years later, like reconnecting with a lost lover.  Maybe I finish it then, or never.  Maybe it’s just a snippet that I revisit now and then, mulling over, trying to conjure up the previous spark of passion, urgency, and mystery.

In August 2017, the 2nd day brought the love affair song to me.  I woke up from a dream of mass flooding and flying zebras and heard my house mate weeping from her recent breakup.  I was sleeping on the front porch futon and the sun was streaming in through the dusty windows. I picked up my baritone ukulele and played the only 3 chords I know on it in a slightly different way than usual and began to write this song.

I worked on it feverishly for four days.  On the fourth day,  at my girlfriend’s house in the woods, I turned off the refrigerator (which clucks wetly like a chicken), and made this living room demo.    Maybe I’ll make a more polished studio version of it some day, maybe I won’t.  I’m pretty attached to this one with its twangy uke, slightly out of tune melodica, and random ambient noises.  Every time I listen to it it reminds me of being in love.


My friend Danielle Anderson, a.k.a  Danielle Ate the Sandwich is about to stage an event where she writes/produces/records an entire album in 24 hours…with the help of friends/fans calling in with writing prompts and take-out suggestions.  I think she intends to live stream most of the 24 hour process.  She is fantastic.  Check her out.

If I Get Lost I’ll Sing a Walking Song

Song #3: One Way Ticket From Springfield




Recorded by Tommy Byrnes at Sovereignty Studios, Bernardston, MA

One Way Ticket From Springfield
Words and music by Carrie Ferguson

I’ve got a one way ticket from Springfield
Blind eyes in the back of my head
I’ve got a heart that won’t stop loving
And a mind full of crazy ideas
Well I know we gotta keep on changing
But not like the weather or like I change my clothes
The thing about life, the thing about life
You can act once or you can think twice
Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going til there I am

Well I woke up in the middle of loving you
Like I’d been doing it all of my life
You told me from the beginning you we’re gonna leave soon
You’d been planning since before I’d arrived
Well I know we gotta keep on moving
Songs in the sun are for those rainy days
The thing about life, the thing about life
You can act once or you can think twice
Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going til there I am

Well you can buy yourself a van but don’t throw away your broom
You can drive across the country and I’ll meet you at the moon
Cause I know I gotta keep on dreaming and if I get lost I’ll sing a walking song
The thing about life, the thing about life
You can think and act once, or you can think and act twice
Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going til there I am


In late August 1990, when I was 20,  I arrived in Amherst, MA, via a Peter Pan bus from Bradley Airport, by way of Arcata, CA.  I knew only one person in MA, and that was my Aunt Charlotte, who was in the process of moving down to Pennsylvania to teach English at a community college.   In a week I would be starting as a junior at the University of MA, Amherst.

This was a giant move for me, the first time I had really left my hometown of Arcata.  I had one clear intention, and that was to come out, as in out of the closet (although at that point I was so green that any form of sexuality would have been coming out).   I had chosen UMass Amherst to do this for several reasons, the first of which was super practical.  Through an inter-state student exchange program that existed at the time, I was able to attend UMass for a year, while still paying the tuition rate of my current school, Humboldt State University.  This option was not available at many of the other schools in the program and it was a great deal because at the time HSU cost only $750 a semester for in-state students.  So, I could afford to come out in Amherst!  This is probably one of the few fiscally responsible decisions I’ve made in my life.

Second, using the big exchange program’s school catalog I had meticulously researched the “student life”  section of several schools in order to determine who had the biggest and most active GLB  (back then the other letters hadn’t been added yet) community.  Lucky for me the biggest and best GLB club was at the cheapest school!  And, to make it even more right, I had actually been to Amherst once before while in high school to visit Aunt Charlotte.  And although nobody overtly told me, I knew she had been in a same-sex relationship for many years…which meant that there was definitely some gayness going on there.

Other than this one intention, which was somehow both vague and extremely clear, I had no clue as to what I was doing.  Once I moved into the dorms and Charlotte had packed up her UHaul and taken off for Pennsylvania, I was completely on my own.  I decided to start off on the right foot by announcing on the first night to my new roommate, while we were each in our little bunk beds on opposite sides of the room with the lights out, that I was bisexual.  (At the time, calling myself bisexual seemed somehow less intimidating than calling myself gay, or lesbian…like I could always “go back” if I needed to.  Besides, I was just barely anything-sexual at that point!)  Once again, the fates were with me because she immediately replied “Oh good!  Me too.”

And then that was that.  I was out to everybody I met from that moment forward, and it felt completely fine.    Within 3 weeks I had already experienced my first hot sex/hook-up/break up with a woman and moved on to a highly dramatic and desperately unsatisfying relationship (we both did our best!) with the first real love of my life.  I was right on track for my singer-songwriter career!

I had also found myself a new group of friends that were the most passionate, interesting, and exciting women I’d ever met.  They were all queer and activists and Women’s Studies or Social Thought And Political Economy students and we all worked together at (or were affiliated with) the student-run cooperative vegetarian restaurant on campus.  Most of them were  just a bit older than me and I felt that I had somehow had the fortune to stumble into a magical sisterhood or coven.  There was a sense of strength and power, of belonging to something amazingly cool, that I’d never experienced before.  It was exhilarating.  I used to imagine that we had this other life, that late at night we would meet on the roof of the Tower Library to fly out across the valley on our broomsticks.

During this period, I did not have regular access to a piano, and I didn’t play guitar yet, so all of my songwriting was done acapella.  I didn’t call it SONGWRITING,  it was just something I did all the time, especially when I was walking across the enormous UMass campus.  I was never someone who walked around with a Walkman, instead I made up songs to entertain myself.  But the songs had another function, too.  I was figuring things out, trying to understand and shape my swiftly expanding world into something that made sense to me.  Subconsciously I was trying to document and remember myself throughout all the changes that were happening, so that I could always find my way back to myself.  I ended up calling these songs Walking Songs.


Song #2: Glacier Baby


Glacier Baby
By Jon Mirin and Carrie Ferguson

I may be cold and old and moving slow
I may be white and thick and got a ways to go
If you walk on me you might find fleas
Or Polar bears and seals or arctic seas

And when I left, I carved the mountains
And when I left, I carved the hills
And when I left, I carved the valleys
I left the rocks and clay, it lies there still
I left the rocks and clay, they call it til

I May be below zero celsius
I may be below 32 fahrenheit
I covered this whole valley, I covered Canada
My ice was everywhere sparkling white

And when I left, I carved the mountains
And when I left, I carved the hills
And when I left, I carved the valleys
I left the rocks and clay, it lies there still
I left the rocks and clay, they call it til

I’m a glacier baby, keep me around for you
I keep the world cool so just say thank you
Don’t count me out don’t let me get melted down
I keep the world cool, you need me around
I keep the world cool, you need me around
I keep the world cool, you need me around

Glacier Baby is a track off of the album Piti Theatre’s Greatest Hits, Vol. I, which will be coming out in CD form in March 2018.  This song is part of a “play with songs” written a few years ago by Piti Theatre director, Jon Mirin, and performed with third graders at the Ryan Road School in Northampton, MA.  The lyrics were written by Jon, with some additions and edits by me.  I wrote the music and recorded it with Garrett Sawyer at Northfire Studios in Amherst, MA.

I’ll say more about Piti Theatre and my ongoing collaboration with them, as well as our “greatest hits”  project, in a later post.  Right now I wanted to post this song because of what is going on, or maybe is about to go on in Alaska.

It doesn’t seem to be getting talked about a lot, but the big tax bill that just passed in the U.S. Congress, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, includes a sneaky little clause that allows for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Alaska.

At 19 million acres,  ANWR is the largest expanse of protected wilderness in the US and is home to polar bears, migrating birds, caribou and the McCall Glacier. The question of whether or not to drill for oil in this pristine wilderness has been a partisan controversy for decades.  Unfortunately, the Republicans have finally succeeded, at least on paper for the time being.  For more about ANWR and oil drilling, check out this wikipedia article.  For more about efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, check out the organization Defenders.

Besides the inevitable damage to wildlife and habitat that comes with drilling, there’s the larger question of Fossil Fuel usage and its roll in contributing to global warming.  For more about this, check out this Global Warming FAQ sheet by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Earth is currently comprised of 10% ice in the form of glacial ice sheets and icebergs. Glaciers are shrinking world wide, which is both the result of climate change, and a contributing factor.   When this ice melts, not only do sea levels rise, but the chemical make up of the sea water is changed, both of which have negative affects on natural ecosystems and the humans and other creatures that depend on them. And, something else that maybe many of us don’t think about, all that ice is Earth’s natural air-conditioner.  It helps moderate the planet’s temperature.  As it melts, the temperature and weather is drastically altered. For more about this, check out this article from the Extreme Ice Survey website.

Honestly, thinking about global warming terrifies, depresses, and overwhelms me. I feel COMPLETELY POWERLESS. I feel enraged that so many bad decisions have been made, are being made; I feel grief-stricken, paralyzed by hopelessness, unable to do anything, not sure what it is that I would do anyway. And then I judge myself for being whiny, self-absorbed, and passive.  I HATE THESE FEELINGS.  I want these feelings to stop.

But, of course, here’s the thing:  there’s no way around it.  Global warming is happening; things ARE going to change, things are changing.  But who says there is a fixed outcome? What if there IS a more positive future? And what if these feelings are not only normal and unavoidable, but necessary wake up calls in order for us to get there?

I often say to myself   “Well, if there were something obvious I could do or not do, then I would do it.”  But you know what, it turns out there ARE things I can do.  I just don’t do them because I feel hopeless.  My little daily contribution, even participating in larger collective actions to fight the greedy powers that be, feels futile and pointless.  It is much easier to collapse into despair.

Hey, I know this is not a new revelation, but, what if EVERY DAY, EVERYBODY did their little individual thing, or participated in a big collective thing, to fight global warming?  THAT would be a movement, right?  That is really what it is going to take.

If we’re all paralyzed by these feelings of despair, that’s not going to happen.  There’s no way around these feelings.  We have to actually FEEL them and move through it and then we have to change our behavior.  And keep doing it.

Here’s a list of 35 things we can do every day to help fight global warming.

For resources, inspiration and support in transforming feelings about global warming and other environmental threats, I suggest checking out the brilliant work of Joanna Macey and her organization.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!  What do you think about all this stuff?  What different things are you doing to save energy and stop global warming?