In Like a Lion is an album I wrote about a decade ago, recorded to some extent, scrapped, then completely re-recorded again this past year. It opens with a group of three tracks (“Vespers,” “Cabin in the Woods,” and “Pioneer Hill”) that form a sort of trivium. I can’t seem to imagine any of them without the others. Aurally they share a key relationship (A minor and C major, easy-peasy) and some common instrumentation choices. Production is also similar from track to track, though “Pioneer Hill” veers away from the others with the full drumkit and rock feel toward the end.
More interestingly to me, though, are the texts, which all discuss childhood memories and memories from my early twenties. The second two are place-specific. I’ve noticed that I fall in love with places, and am especially prone to romanticize places in memory. They hold a lot of meaning for me–sometimes more meaning than other people. I think that’s sort of weird, but there it is.
If you ever find yourself spending time in the winter in the upper-mid-lower peninsula of Michigan, track down Pioneer Hill. It’s one of God’s great gifts to people who enjoy sliding down enormous hills covered in snow. Shell out ten bucks for one of those ridiculous round snow-sleds at the local supermarket–you know the kind of sled I’m talking about, the kind you have no chance of steering and no way to stop without just leaning over and wiping out for thirty meters on your way downhill–bundle up, and plan to spend a good afternoon racing down at terrifying speeds and slowly climbing back up. Just be sure to have some hot cocoa waiting for you afterward.
Here, among the dullest sabers;
Here, among the growing vapors;
Hear the choir singing vespers.
Linen is your bed of hiding.
Splinters beneath the dresser, waiting.
Dust over the many pages.
Ink runs like blood in the rain
But I find your pen much the same.
Cries with no sound can be deafening,
And I hear the sound of my name.
Can you hear the sound of your name?
“Cabin in the Woods”
When March has come, my thoughts return
To the cabin in the woods, where, when
I was younger, my family and I did once
Almost live, out in the middle of nowhere,
Behind the church and the pontoon salesman,
Out by the pond where I learned that the
Water is deeper than sin.
In the spring I would wander among the ferns
And around the many trees, feeding them
To the dreamer that waited beneath the
Surface, patiently. The smells are still with
Me—of birch, and of oak, and of the
Evergreen—calling me to the forest. They
Never stop calling to the dreams in me.
Maybe in the autumn I’ll hop in a car and I’ll
Drive myself up north to remember the beauty
Of why we all are who we are. I’ll stand
In the forest and open my ears to the
Whistling in the trees, and I’ll wade in the
Water and watch my sins fall away into
That hill stretched out forever into an evening of plateau.
Snow crusted over, crawled up every tree-trunk,
Filling me with joy.
The hours flew with me and I smelled the chill of winter.
Grayest sunset passing over. I must have felt so close
I recall it now in the same place as that kingdom
In between the country roads, where dirt is dry
And grass is cool
And the forest only knows mighty king from
Climb, if you can, up to the top.
I will be made one with the earth before I stop.
Even as my lungs are freezing, I feel all is meant to be.
Oh please let it snow forever; let the sky fall down on me.
Let it crack like crust and crumble to our crowns.
I’m flying down and I am free.