Harper Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Inspired by traditional hymn ‘Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down’.
Written and performed by Larry Gauthier; Music Cam Jones.
A Tag. A String. A Broken Thing.
Words: Janet Turpin Myers/Music: Cam Jones
Serendipity: A Story (or, ‘A Tag. A String. A Broken Thing.’: The Narrative)
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this
As coined by Horace Walpole: “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”.
It is the end of May.
My attention is dissipating with each degree of heat that comes with the inarticulate temperature rise that is the Spring. I am preparing to model the behaviour of a learned teacher fascinated by the story behind the story; I am preparing for the awkward presentation of writing that fills school libraries, placing writers in an audience of students who, more often than not, are less than engaged with the story; I am preparing to glean wisdom and transpose it to a lesson for my lukewarm creative writing students (students, who despite the heat, are now fully done with the semester despite it dripping on). I am preparing for something that will not happen as I expect it to.
Janet Turpin Myers is not the average authorial presentation: as she weaves the beginning steps of the narrative that becomes Nightswimming I am utterly knocked off balance. She talks of origins: hers and the novels; lakes as stories that we ought to share; she talks of the moon; she talks of Thoreauian twists of vantage point–watching young men stand above graves of young men and imagining, unwillingly, place and time exchanging; she talks of Peace and John Lennon; she talks of love that is all encompassing for its roots in the naivety of teenage hearts, a love that for its feeling comes in an abundance that makes it so real. She talks, but she also shows the world that invades her ideas and works into her words; she shares music, not in passing, but in every note and lyric that swayed her story-telling; she locates her story, maps it, as the cartographer that narrates Nightswimming, plotting each feature for the student of writing (the teacher of writing; the writer), in a way that creates the breathlessness which comes from pre-Spring lake water.
It is the end of the presentation. We meet. We talk of writing, shortly. I am in the presence of an artist I hold in the highest regard, and we’ve only just met – personally and artistically. I am fighting my natural fall into the mumbling, inarticulate fan with all my attention. I am asking her to sign my copy of Nightswimming .
I am returning to my classroom to, of all things, continue the ‘conversation’ we’ve only just finished, this time on social media: I am tweeting affirmation of Janet Turpin Myers’ brilliance and secretly hoping she might, blush, follow me back. As I scroll through her website seeking out her contact information I quickly notice a link to Poetry & Lyrics. I write my 140 character praise, and retrieve the bicycle that will help spin imagination into reality.
My bicycle is a place where I combine the creative with movement. It is where I problem solve, or problem create, but it is the saddle upon which my brain works best. It is also a lovely place to get lost in stream of consciousness thinking and just imagine. So it was on the day I met Janet Turpin Myers: I had hardly begun to sweat when the story of our collaboration took root without any cause for such an inkling beyond seeing Poetry & Lyrics. I remember crossing the train tracks and nearly missing the right turn that immediately follows as I said, out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” What I thought might be nice was if Janet Turpin Myers was looking for a musician to collaborate with. I imagined that I’d find such a need openly stated when I clicked the link to her Poetry & Lyrics. Now…
Before I go on…
As a professional dreamer, I have dreamed many potentialities that, when introduced to reality, are neither likely or possible. Often this dreaming involves a musician calling me to the stage to join them for a song. I revel in this dream. Sometimes, secretly, I even prepare for this dream, just in case.
Collaborating with Janet was in such a vein: it was a dream forged on a bicycle, and reality would just not be so seamless and effortless. I arrived home and quickly donned the hat of Dad. For the next four hours my mind was as far from dreaming as a mind can be: I was playing with my 7-year-old and my 18-month-old; I was helping with dinner preparation; I was tackling the transition from play, to baths, to pajamas, to bed-time.
It wasn’t until after 8:00 p.m. that I managed to sit in front of a computer again. I navigated over to Janet’s webpage and clicked on Poetry and Lyrics. At the top of the page was a line of text; it read:If you’re a musician searching for words, I’ve got words searching for a musician. Some of the works in this section are more song-lyrics than poems. If anything inspires you, let me know. I’d love to collaborate on a song. Contact me at: email@example.com OR send me a message on Twitter. @janetturpinmyer
John Lennon wrote, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” If you are a dreamer, and I hope you are, then you know the euphoria of a dream realized, come true; you also know the thickening of air that results from a moment passed without a dream coming with it. To read these words, “I’ve got words searching for a musician,” was nothing short of extraordinary. And not for the obvious reason.
That Janet would include such a call on her professional website was something I would do–a call to an empty lake in expectation of a reply: hoping beyond hope, dreaming beyond dream, that the stars would align, that the universe would conspire, and at the right time, with the subtlety of moving light, a collaborator would stumble on to my work and think, “Yes, we should collaborate. I’m going to contact this guy.” In short, that Janet would make such a call into the dark meant that on some level we were kindred souls, and for that night, that was all I needed.
I believe in serendipity. I’m not a spiritual being or believer, at least not in a strict sense, and I don’t believe in hands at the dials collaborating for and against lives. But, I believe, whether I can rationalize it or not, in the phenomenon of running into things, or things running into you, when you most need the collision.
The following morning I awoke in a haze: my infant son had been up most of the night sick, and the weighted, overwhelming exhaustion that all parents know set in. I would stay home with our son and take care of him. Without overstating the influence of events transpiring together to force an issue, I’m not sure what follows would have happened had what preceded not happened. John Lennon, after all, also wrote Beautiful Boy: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
My son slept most of the day, and the day following, as only an infant can, and this afforded me the opportunity to be an artist: I stayed home and spent the hours of his recovery-sleep reading, and writing, and making music–and planning. That first morning, exhausted yet free, I set out to write an e-mail to Janet Turpin Myers, the contents of which can be summed up by quoting a bracketed interruption to my stream of consciousness proposal from that e-mail: “(I should add that our 1-year-old was up all night with a fever and I’m at home with him today–a happenstance that has left me sleepless and giddy and writing this e-mail wondering if I should be writing it at all).” I closed the e-mail speaking of serendipity and possibility:“the serendipity you spoke of certainly carried forward for me yesterday. If you get a sense that our work might work together, consider getting back to me. In the meantime, I’d like to begin working on the songs mentioned above. Currently making, Cam”
When I finally allowed myself to press send, the variable-anxiety- doused-wonder and anticipation filled the space where I wonder had harboured. My dreaming was out of my hands, waiting to be ignored, or greeted with disdain, or…I wonder.
This was the reply, cut and paste:Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
That was IT. Don’t misconstrue my ‘it’ for meaning anything less than exactly what I wanted as a reply. Brilliant. Yes.
Of course, we are writers, there was a follow up:When I arrived home yesterday my husband asked how my presentations at the schools went. One of the first things I told him was…I met this really cool creative writing teacher. I told him about you and said, I hope he follows me on Twitter so I can keep in touch with him. And then you did. And now this wonderful email from you appears in my inbox. Out of the blue…(where all good things come from).
I replied to Janet letting her know that I’d begun composing and arranging music for one of the poems from her site. I mentioned that the music was actually something I’d begun writing years earlier, and while the music had stayed with me, arrangements and lyrics had time and again not made it past the test. As soon as I read ‘A Tag. A String. A Broken Thing.’ I heard the cadence and my music together. In fact, by the time I’d read Janet’s e-mail the guitar and vocals had been recorded.
Adding to the already uncanny nature of our paths crossing, Janet sent this e-mail later that day:You said you wrote the music about a decade ago. I know the exact date I wrote the words. It was Jan. 17, 2006… almost a decade ago, too. I see on my web site that I have the date of the song as Jan. 17, 2010. When I saw that, I thought it had to be a mistake, since I was fairly certain the poem was older than that. So I went back and checked my original file, and sure enough, 2006. So it seems these words and your music have both been waiting a long time.
My mention of a decade was added with whimsy; it wasn’t important. In fact, after reading Janet’s e-mail, I went back to my own notes. Sure enough, in the winter of 2006, while living in China, I composed the early arrangement of what became ‘A Tag. A String. A Broken Thing.’ in July 2014.
Janet wrote of our story here.
‘A Tag. A String. A Broken Thing.’ is still dated January 17th, 2010.
And, needless to say, our work goes on. In August I asked Janet to choose our next collaboration, and she sent me lyrics to ‘High Love’. Within hours the skeleton of the song was reverberating off the walls of Iroquois Studios. Recording to begin soon.