Thursday, August 17, 2006

these days in an open book

Ginger has an unusual attachment to her Wrangler. When she came back from the “southern sojourn” of her sabbatical, I drove her Jeep to Providence to pick her up. When she got to the car, she hugged it – she didn’t think I saw her. On these highs-in-the-seventies-cloudless- summer-afternoon-drive-with-the-top-down kind of days, I understand why she loves her car.

We were driving back from Boston the other afternoon and our soundtrack (you gotta have a soundtrack when the top’s down) was a CD I burned for her southern trip. Two Nanci Griffith songs are on it, both from her album Flyer, one Ginger’s favorite off the record and one mine. My song is a duet with Adam Duritz of Counting Crows called “Going Back to Georgia.” The melody is lilting and lovely and the harmonies full of friendship.

As the song finished, I said, “For all of our CDs -- I’m surprised to say it – but I think Flyer is one of the most essential to us over the years.” She agreed.

When Ginger was working on her doctorate, the record was especially meaningful because of one song – the second one on the disc we were listening to in the Wrangler: “These Days in an Open Book.” Getting through the process of her D. Min. was hard work for Ginger and she handled the challenge with all the grace and tenacity that made me fall in love with her in the first place. As the deadline for finishing the dissertation drew nearer and consumed more and more of her days, Flyer was the only CD in the player. As she began to work, she would press play and Nanci’s voice would begin to sing:

Shut it down and call this road a day
And put this silence in my heart in a better place
I have traveled with your ghost now so many years
That I see you in the shadows
In hotel rooms and headlights
You're coming up beside me
Whether it's day or night

These days my life is an open book
Missing pages I cannot seem to find
These days your face
In my memory
Is in a folded hand of grace against these times

No one's ever come between your memory and me
I have driven this weary vessel here alone
Will you still find me if I leave you here beside this road
Cuz' I need someone who can touch me
Who'll put no one above me
Someone who needs me
Like the air he breathes

These days my life is an open book
Missing pages I cannot seem to find
These days your face
In my memory
Is in a folded hand of grace against these times

I can't remember where this toll road goes
Maybe it's Fort Worth, maybe it's a heart of gold
The price of love is such a heavy toll
That I've lived my life in the back roads
With your love in my pocket
If I spend the love you gave me
Tell me where will it go?

These days my life is an open book
Missing pages I cannot seem to find
These days your face
In my memory
Is in a folded hand of grace against these times
After the song played two or three times, she would get to work, looking for the missing pages. She found them and her dissertation and has been the Reverend Doctor Ginger Brasher-Cunningham for some time now.

(Brief pause while I beam with pride.)

A couple songs after Nanci and Adam sang in the Jeep, “These Days” began. We both looked at each other and smiled. Over the years, the missing pages and open book have come to stand for different things at different times. What hasn’t changed for me is the truth in the end of the chorus: her face is, for me, a folded hand of grace against these times.

Peace,
Milton

3 comments:

zorra said...

This is what music is for.

I love Nanci Griffith too...wonderful nights at Anderson Fair in the early 80's with my fabulous boyfriend (now my fabulous husband)discovering music we have loved ever since, and that resonates for us over all these years. You and Ginger have a joy-full day today.

Joe said...

I love my wrangler too. Don't know if I would publicly hug it...maybe kiss it.

Your love for your wife is amazing. Had a random thought about you today. Don't remember what caused it but a group of us were planning a retreat for Febuary and you crossed my minde.

Peace easy

SpookyRach said...

How very cool. She must be an incredible person.

(I sometimes hugged my old truck. The new truck and I haven't reached that level of interaction yet. Mostly 'cause it has no good spot for the dashboard Jesus.)