Thinking Out Loud

Song #7:  Found Myself Walking in Rain

scratch tree

 

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Found Myself Walking In Rain
Written and performed by Carrie Ferguson
Recorded Fall 2018, by Tommy Byrnes at Sovereignty Music, Bernardston, MA
Album: Walking Songs

Found myself walking in rain and everything seemed so clear
I almost forgot who I was and I almost forgot where I’d been
I know I’ve been living a lie and it scares me how long it’s been true
But the obstacle that blocks my path has become the only door to go through

Well, I came to the edge of a river and I saw the water spinning
There were fishes and trees inside of me and the cold gray sky above
Well I stood in that place and I remembered your face and I heard the words you told me
You said “It’s easier to take care of you then to let you take care of me”

It just ain’t easy changing, you can only do your best
How much can we chop off and examine and still have something left
Oh we give birth to ourselves through the belly, baby, its just like you’ve been told
You can lie on your back and push it out or you can spit it up on the road

*

This is another Walking Song, circa 1991-1992.  I think I was in Amherst waiting for a PVTA bus (which never seemed to run on time) to Mass.  It was raining and I was puzzling over stuff, trying to figure it all out, a little bit bored, entertaining myself.  I guess this song is kind of about growing up.  A process which apparently, never ends.

 

Found Objects

Song #6:  Kitchen Noises

emily kitchen edit
Print by Emily Breines

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Sometimes songwriting for me can be all about utilizing found objects, the little bits of music that suddenly appear or are stumbled upon.  This tune, Kitchen Noises, was recorded at my partner Seal’s house, maybe some winter evening between 2013 and 2015.  Seal hates overhead lights, so the living room was dark.  I was playing the dusty little old spinet piano that I inherited from my grandmother.  Seal was in the kitchen washing dishes; she was getting over a cold and kept clearing her throat.  I felt very drowsy and a little melancholic.  Seal’s old black and white cat, Morgana, was there trying to ignore me.  I had a chord progression and a little melody that I was enamored with, the song seemed to be coming right out of the piano and the timbre of the evening.  I just kept layering tracks until it was done.

Dreamed Memories

Song #5: One Warm Afternoon

white circles

 

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One Warm Afternoon
Words and Music by Carrie Ferguson 2001
Recorded by Tommy Byrnes at Sovereignty Music Studio

One warm afternoon when I was a baby
It was time for my nap, they lay me down in my bed
When no one was looking, I started floating
I rose towards the ceiling til I bumped my head

It feels so familiar, I remember flying
My body is weightless as I drift towards the door
Look out through the window, see everyone playing
I hear someone coming and I sink to the floor

And that’s where they found me, silent and smiling
They say it’s impossible I climbed from my crib
They say it’s impossible but I remember flying
It feels so familiar and that’s what I did

They say its impossible but I remember flying
It feels so familiar and that’s what I did
That’s what I did

*

The first home I remember was the little one bedroom apartment on 18th street in Arcata, California, where my family lived between 1973 and mid-1975.   We were about 2 blocks away from Humboldt State University which was on the other side of the new, highly-controversial and still under-construction freeway, Rt. 101, which split Arcata in half.

18th street was a cul-de-sac lined with rental duplexes and a few 2 story apartment buildings, most built back in the 40’s. They were sturdy little bunker-shaped buildings, dark brown or drab green, all with front yards and backyards. Most of the residents were college students.

People often mistook my parents for graduate students because of all their books. My Dad had just started teaching 3rd grade at Jacoby Creek School. My Mom took care of me and the house, plus played her flute in several local ensembles.  Every day she walked with me through the no-person’s land of freeway construction up to The Humboldt State University Child Development Lab, where I went to pre-school.

I remember our apartment: There was a little dark-paneled, blue-carpeted bedroom in the back with a bathroom and a closet that scared me because I dreamed it was full of witches. This room was where my crib and later my bed were. The front room had my parent’s big bed and the HiFi which was a long wooden rectangular cabinet, comprised of a record player and radio in the middle, with a speaker on either side. It sat on the top shelf of a book case made from dark painted boards and cinder blocks. My parents used the HiFi to play Jazz and Classical records. At the back of the big front room was the kitchen area with lots of windows and our table which looked out on the overgrown backyard and my Mom’ sunny vegetable garden. We had a small dog named Robin, a Cocker Spaniel and Chihuahua mix, who was at best ambivalent to me (she nipped me once or twice).

There were lots of children in the neighborhood. One of them, when I was 5, became my first best friend. Her name was Dodi. My parents thought that she and her siblings were wild and that their parents neglected them. She was obsessed with Polar Bears and spoke of them as if they were gods or fairies. She taught me how to steal, which I practiced by “stealing” the neighbor’s newspaper off the lawn (I then also practiced feeling guilty). She wore a dirty white sweater and coveted the little yellow plastic perfume-filled brooch my grandma gave me. Dodi was fickle and mysterious and exciting and I was both infatuated with and intimidated by her, a pattern that was a prototype for many crushes that came later.

I have a vague memory, though it used to be much stronger, of being left for a moment by myself in the front room. It was late afternoon and I remember gently rising off the floor and drifting across the room towards the window. Then I bumped my head on the ceiling, and softly floated back down to rest on the floor.

Dream, fever dream, fantasy, who knows, but this memory has always felt as real to me as the rest of the details from that time period. Do vivid dreams count as life experiences? Some dreams have been very formative to me and their memories are as visceral and meaningful as real life events.  Perfect fodder for song writing.

If I Get Lost I’ll Sing a Walking Song

Song #3: One Way Ticket From Springfield

broomstickers

 

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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.