April 21, 2017 by Gregory Josephs
Almost. . .
Have you ever been caught between a really great dream and the fear of turning it into reality? Have you resolved yourself to a certain situation only to be disturbed by a sudden gust of hope that, maybe, you’d rather hadn’t come along? I wrote about the first question a couple weeks ago, but today’s installment of Things I Love addresses both in (you guessed it) the form of song! So today I’m featuring Almost by Sarah Harmer. First, the background:
Once upon a time, in the early days of this millennium, I was a 19 year old working at a pool in Northern Colorado that used a Comcast cable box as a radio. Even though we had a list of forty music stations we could play, the acoustics in the pool were so terrible everything pretty much sounded like mud. The pop station? Forget it. The dance station? Oh, those beats could cause debilitating headaches. The few safe options included the folk-rock station; it typically offered stripped down instrumentation, clean beats, and vocals that weren’t just a lot of shouting. It didn’t hurt that I was getting into less mainstream music at the time, and I fell in love with a lot of what I heard—at least as much as I could hear it.
In any case, being the dark ages before smart phones or Shazam, it was often tough to identify the songs I heard that I liked. I’d have to catch whatever snippet of lyric I could pick out, run to the office computer, and hope plugging the words into Google delivered the desired result. More about this in a future post, but suffice it to say, with Sarah Harmer I was successful!
My Amazon order history tells me I purchased Sarah’s album All of our Names [Amazon][Apple Music][Spotify]thirteen years ago this week, so I guess this is an anniversary of sorts. Look at that timing! But without further ado, the video:
As I got to know this song and artist better, it awoke something in me that has deeply shaped my outlook as a writer and a person. Woah, heavy, right? The thing is, this song does a couple things better than a lot of other music I’ve come across. First, it uses an ordinary, lackluster setting to tell a great story and elevate an emotional experience. It’s about sitting in an empty cafe at closing time mulling whether or not to call someone back. Alright, whatever, but the details really make it shine. I’ve written before about the beauty in the mundane, and I’ll probably do so again. A lot of that started for me right here with this song; the counter girl turning the sign, the cooks getting their coats, the sea of empty seats.
And then the chorus! Suddenly Sarah Harmer takes us from the mundane to the fantastical. She’s a sailor being lifted up by the warm air of potential, but still unsure whether she should leave her safe harbor. The imagery is beautiful, intelligent, and down to earth. The contrast between the empty cafe and the sailor on the brink of adventure is powerful, driving home the idea of dreams imagined and maybe almost realized.
To paraphrase Harmer’s own lyrics, this song left [its] impression long after. . . on me. It helped me realize. . . This is how I want to write! This is how I want to see the world. Simple. Beautiful.
Easy to say, harder to do, which brings me to. . .
Last thoughts for today. This song is a great reminder to me that it is not only okay, but also often good to write about ordinary things. I found a little more positive reinforcement of this point from fellow blogger Andrea Badgley. Sometimes I get too caught up in trying to be profound, and need to remember that I can find a lot of extraordinary in the ordinary.
Now your thoughts! What do you think of the song? Do you loiter in the space between dreams and actualization? Let me know in the comments below.
Have a beautiful, ordinary, mundane, extraordinary day! Thanks as always for reading!