I used to have notebook with hole-punched pages. It was about half the size of regular notebook paper. I wrote every song I ever learned on those small pages. I always fit them onto exactly one page if I could, which made for some tiny handwriting for the long songs. I still pull out those old tunes every once in a while. Old Gordon Lightfoot, Simon and Garfunkel, John Prine, Cat Stevens, James Taylor.
I still have most of my old originals too. Many are simply embarrassing. One "love song" circa 1974 starts... Another night's homework goes undone - and as I hang up the telephone... No Bob Dylan there. And while some of those old tunes are sappy, and I would never play them for anyone but myself, they are placeholders. Like all personal writing, those yellowed pages, that young handwriting is a window into my past. More than an old Super 8 movie (for that was state of the art home movie making) when I read over these tattered pages I can see myself, almost inhabit my old self for a brief moment, feel that angst, those simple pleasures being alone in nature, see the sun setting behind Lake Michigan waves, feel my young heart racing in those days of young love, feel the anger of my old protest songs, the sadness of losing old friends.
I wander into the archive every few years to read over that trail of thoughts and emotions. It's one of those old fashioned cardboard accordions with slots for different letters. Alphabetical. By author. It's so worn out that I have to keep it in another cloth book bag to keep it from falling apart.
I found an oldie the other day that I hadn't written the chords on. Heidi was on the couch, Friday-night-sleepy. It took a couple minutes but I remembered those chords, that finger-style pattern. It reminded me of graduate school, in early winter. It was rural southern Indiana. There were these two different songs coming along. One was a fast forward story of a relationship ("The Winds"), the other what it was like during the change of seasons in our mixed hardwood-scrubby pine forest ("First Snow"). When I put the songs together, alternating verses, I thought of it as a duet and I did perform it that way with my old band.
The Winds/First Snow
Remember that springtime when we met
We didn't know we'd vow to stay forever
Never thinking about tomorrow or good byes
But I'd heard somewhere to never say never
Blue creeping over untouched fields of snow
In the twilight
Apples left hanging heavily and lazily
On snowy branches
I guess it's not the same somehow
But I don't know why - we couldn't stay
No one's left to blame you know
There's no need for me to stand here in your way
The creek whispering secretly cold and swollen
Snow ticking gently on stubborn golden oak leaves
In the winterwood
Just like the winds we dance together
And like the winds, you know we drift apart
I guess it's really not surprising
After so much time for me to lose your heart
What could be more peaceful than this still moment
In the winterwoods
Water from melting snow
Dripping into mirror pools of itself
First snow of winter