Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, Robert Plant
Nonesuch/Warner Bros., September 8, 2014
Track Listing: 1. Little Maggie, 2. Rainbow, 3. Pocketful of Golden, 4. Embrace Another Fall, 5. Turn It Up, 6. A Stolen Kiss, 7. Somebody There, 8. Poor Howard, 9. House of Love, 10. Up on the Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur), 11. Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby)
“When I think about it now
I watched the house of love burn down”
-from “House of Love”
Everything is off. In a late summer assembly of friends and family, weary eyes reveal a collective, overwhelming anguish. It’s as if the Earth has suddenly slipped from its axis. Absent are any insights into what comes next or where to go from here.
“My year is worn and cold
To you I bare my soul
My summer’s almost gone”
-from “Embrace Another Fall”
In the hazy aftermath of profound loss, attempts to restore order are half-hearted at best. As if sleepwalking, I go through the motions, gravitating towards familiar avenues of escape but the usual suspects—sports, music, movies, bad TV, maybe even a little booze—offer little or no respite. As example, the Bears opener is a total bust, a home loss that has the feel of a pre-season game or something somehow beamed in from an alternate universe—a place without you. Next up, I turn to music. I don’t suppose I am really thinking it through or I might steer clear for fear of being reminded of too much.
I come across a satellite radio station featuring an interview with Robert Plant talking about life cycles. He is not only referring to his own existence and the litany of musical influences compiled along the way (some featured on his latest record), but also to the inspiration behind using this concatenation of sounds as a soundtrack to trace the life of a character named Maggie on his album.
Whenever Robert Plant’s name comes up, there is undoubtedly an elephant in the room. So let’s get it out right now: Jimmy Page, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Page. Now that that’s out of the way let me proclaim that I absolutely love what I am hearing on Plant’s latest album even if I am beginning to feel like patterns of subtraction are closing in all around me. Of course the worst of it remains how any of us have managed to find ourselves here at all.
“How long has it been this way?
On and on as the days slip away”
-from “A Stolen Kiss”
No, there isn’t much masquerading as familiar these days except for sullen, dogged reminders of time passing by, movement incessantly pumping the engine of life through its random cycle of days into nights and beyond. The sun and moon are in on it too, coming and going, coming and going, or so it seems in the shady sleight of hand.
For clarity’s sake, maybe it would be best to write the ending first, spring before winter, fall before summer. Death before birth. Then, we wouldn’t feel so damned blindsided when the unique arc of unknown trajectory that defines any mysterious lifespan comes to its ill-fated conclusion. So here goes. Time upon a once, I found myself lost in the abyss of death, staring out confused into the expanse of a great unknown. It was as if I had been born or reborn to the world as a middle-aged fat man plopped smack dab into a crossroads of an unexpected ending and beginning.
“Across the broken days
That brought me home again”
-from “Embrace Another Fall”
Moving forward was going to be a painstaking process. This wouldn’t be like turning the page after a silly or even horrific Bears loss or something akin to learning to suck it up through a particularly brutal winter. This was real life. Each of us was on our own, forced to seek answers and forge our own individual paths forward towards some sort of semblance of reconciliation.
“With eyes that slowly opened
I set about the wisdom to know”
-from “Somebody There”
Full circle, I am heading home after leaving the aforementioned gathering of aching hearts. Tonight is an endless rush of lights passing, all green and no questions asked. It is a straight shot to the expressway in the dark of a late summer night. Thoughts remain fixated on you.
“Oh how can I ever stand it
Just to see them two blue eyes
A shining in the moonlight
Like two diamonds in the sky”
-from “Little Maggie”
It will be a few days later that I get an email from a friend who was also there. He was your closest friend. I think of the many roads you travelled together, childhoods to now. He tells me something that is sure to remain with me forever like notable memories are want to do. He tells me that he went to your graveside and blasted Dylan hoping that somewhere along the not too distant banks of the river that now endlessly flows by your side, that somehow you might have heard. That somehow the two of you were able to listen together once more.
“I found a lucky charm
I dressed it up with love
I crossed the Seven Seas to you
Will it be enough?
And I will be a rainbow
Oh, while your storm is gone
And I will bring the song for you
And I will carry on”
I thank him for sharing this incredibly intimate moment with me, as I thank you for all that you have shared to make our time together all that it was. I fantasize about it again, that if we were to experience endings before beginnings I suppose we would see that same river current flowing in reverse. And to begin, the two of you would be there now, listening for a moment there up upon that hill but only for a moment before you both would then leave together, moving backwards through time, straight back to the people, places, and truly amazing moments that are lying in wait on the verge of forever.