Language of the Heart


You know that feeling when a musician sings words that your heart wasn’t even aware that it felt?  When an artist is able to capture something that you thought might be too big or deep to even put into words and yet they do and they sing it and suddenly it is like a tuning fork is resonating deep within your soul, vibrating to this truth that you didn’t even realize you had been aching to express?

I’m sure you have.  I think it is one of those things that is universally true for everyone at some time in their lives.  It is an amazing thing and one that awakes your soul in its depths.  By far, the artist who has most often created that experience for me is David Wilcox.  He is, hands down, my favorite artist, both as a craftsman of words and a player of  guitar.

I’ve heard him referred to as “the master of metaphor” and I think that is an accurate description.  He is a prolific artist with a long anthology and almost every single song has struck a chord in my heart at one time or another.  I realize that’s a bold statement, but it is true for me.  Countless times I am listening to a song of his that I have heard 1,000 times and today it strikes me with new meaning as it pertains differently to my current experience of life.  I think that is one of the most impressive qualities in a song, in literature and in art.

So last week, when KFOG announced that David would be live on their radio station and that 10 lucky people could come to listen to the performance, I was thrilled.  Of course, I jumped at the chance and quickly commented on the appropriate Facebook post (with major thanks to my friend Oliver for tagging me to let me know about it, lest I missed out!) and found out that I was one of the few who was chosen to attend.  I couldn’t have been more excited.  So, I arranged childcare for the precious littles and braved the rain and morning commute to SOMA where the station was.  I walked in a little late, feeling more than a little harried and stressed and I heard one pluck of that guitar and saw that familiar face and it was as though I my heart let out a huge sigh and things were all quiet and calm for a moment.  Quiet and calm are treasured words and feelings for me right now as a mom of two kids under 2 1/2 years old and the owner of a small business with a wonderful husband who work hard and isn’t able to be home as much as he (and I!) would like.  I need a healthy dose of quiet and calm to navigate these mom waters and yet, they seem ever-elusive to me.  Every day, I work to schedule a little in and most days I fail to get more than a moment or two of them and 99% of the time, they are only achievable in the shower, where the pounding water drowns everything else out.

Anyway, this morning I sat in a small, intimate venue and listened to the man that I have followed for well over twenty years sing just a few feet away from me.  And per the usual at his concerts, I had several of the resonating experiences as described above.  I wish I could link to the songs that he played this morning on here, but I am afraid that the two that were my favorite are not yet published.  I’m hopeful that they will be included on his next two albums that he said are ready for release any time now.  One was about the lovely patina that comes with age and experience and use and how that patina is far more attractive and impressive and just plain beautiful than before it was there.  Being older now and having two precious children who have opened my heart to new joys and also most certainly added wrinkles to my face and grey to my once all-dark hair, I could appreciate this in a way that I never could have before.  As a mom, you’re forced to let go of so much of who you were before and that can be incredibly painful.  But when you back off and look with a view unbiased by our youth-obsessed culture, you realize that there is beauty in those work-hardened lines and tired eyes.  It is the beauty of a life spent in the service of another.  And it is a beauty that cannot be attained any other way.  It’s the same beauty that you see in your husband as he cheerfully grabs your little one and changes a dirty diaper (the 8th one you’ve smelled today!) without being asked.  The beauty that cannot be faked.  The realness of life and authenticity of spirit that is so rarely appreciated these days, but so desperately needed.

The other song that struck me was one set on the Mississippi River, where David created an allegory to our deep need as humans for social justice in this world.  He talked about how painfully slow the process can be, but how eventually every drop of rain is delivered to the sea, so there is no need to rush the process.  The thought struck me hard.  I spend so much of my time rushing – from one thing to another and from one task list item to the next.  I create so much internal pressure and stress and I succumb to the current worldly standard that efficiency is king.  I work so hard to get it all done and to do so efficiently and flawlessly and I wear myself out in the process.  (And dare I consider I may be wearing my kids out as well?)  When I back off to the proverbial “100,000 foot view” I see that Wilcox is right.  We are all in this life that isn’t unlike a river.  It is constantly flowing and we are flowing with it.  Some of the spots are like a slow and babbling brook, winding its way and others are like rapids that cause us doubt and concern.  In the end, though, we are guaranteed only that this life will not last forever and we are constantly moving toward that end.  But we can trust that the river knows its course.  That the Creator knows each twist and turn of the water’s flow and how it will shape and smooth each rock within that river.  We can rest in that and not rush the process to shape that which can only be done through time.  And there is beauty in that shaping as well.

David Wilcox has a fabulous page on his website called “musical medicine.”  On that page, he lists 100+ of his songs with links to the lyrics and prescribes which ones are good for what heart-states, not unlike a doctor would with medicine.  It’s a great place to start if you don’t know his music or if you’re so deep in a place that you can’t think of what might speak to your soul.  I love this idea and love that he has taken the time to compile this list.

What songs are healing medicine to your soul?


Don’t you love how much fun shines through his expressions?


A moment with David after the show.