Late night thoughts during a pandemic lying awake listening to my fave Milk Carton Kids song
It's 3:03 a.m. Just like that, sleep has thrown me up on the shore. My legs are planks. My eyes feel stretched over my temples. The curtains let in slivers of streetlight. With the earbuds cord in my right hand, I fish for the iPhone in the comforter depths. There it is. And now the blur. I hit the eighth note icon and find the song. Music fills my empty concert hall skull.
The song is As The Moon Starts To Rise by The Milk Carton Kids. It's been the song of the pandemic for me. It has all the gifts a beautiful song bestows. Consoling harmonies. The shining sound of guitar strings. Snapshots of happy days past shared by, I think, a parent and a child. The sad passage of time. The moon. The stars. A telescope. Parting. Love. Death. Connection. An unanswered question. A twist ending.
And place names that are thrilling in the way place names are thrilling when, as a tourist in a car below, you see them in gigantic font on highway signs above, when everything, even a highway sign, is full of meaning. The song gives us Cleveland, Finger Lakes and Chesapeake. What wonderful sounds those words make when you don't let them go by.
The chorus is gorgeous.
It's lovely to try to play on a guitar, too. The rising "moon" gets a D-minor chord to start, as the rising moon should, and then up to an F-major chord. If you play the B-flat as a bar chord on the sixth fret, as you should, you get the sweet conjunction of left hand sliding up in time with the lyrics "rise up" and "look up." That's enough to almost undo me.
The first verse and second verse are short films from the now grown child's childhood. A pigeon steals a napkin and the child laughs. Skip ahead and we now watch the child starting to play with language and metaphor. The stars are tiny dancers. That undoes me.
The third verse happens on two planes at once, I think.
Last night I came into your room
Told you I'd be leaving soon
You were almost sleeping
I could hear your heart beating
I sang you a lullaby
You asked me where I was going this time
Cleveland and the Finger Lakes
Back down toward the Chesapeake.
On the surface, we see a parent going quietly into a child's bedroom to sing a lullaby and say goodbye before heading back out on the road. On another level, the room is, I think, also the room The Milk Carton Kids perform in. That room, or club or studio or concert hall or Folk Fest amphitheatre, contains the beating hearts of the audience that listen to the musicians, knowing they will soon be gone, and up and away to another show.
I wave goodbye.
They wave goodbye.
We sail on.