Thursday, May 26, 2011

These Are Days

These Are Days (from the 10,000 Maniacs album Our Time In Eden)

These are days you'll remember

Never before and never since, I promise
will the whole world be warm as this
and as you feel it, you'll know it's true
that you are blessed and lucky
it's true, that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you

These are days you'll remember

When May is rushing over you with desire
to be part of the miracles you see in every hour
you'll know it's true, that you are blessed and lucky
it's true, that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you

These are the days
that you might fill with laughter
until you break

These days you might feel a shaft of light
make its way across your face
and when you do
you'll know how it was meant to be
see the signs and know their meaning

You'll know how it was meant to be
hear the signs and
know they're speaking to you
to you

There are few pleasures in life that equal the manic exhilaration of falling in love. The euphoria of reciprocated romantic attraction can have almost addictive powers over us. Being in the throes of infatuation makes you feel invincible, impervious to any logical objections our weakened mind might try to make. We ignore any nagging doubt that the person we've bestowed our affections on is not a good match for us, is not worthy of us. We toss aside the fear that things might end very, very badly.

However, when it becomes evident that we have met our match, that we've found a person worth committing ourselves to, that objective voice of reason doesn't quiet down entirely. It keeps reminding us that the euphoria of romantic love will fade, even in the happiest of couplings. Eventually and reluctantly, and with mounting proof, we begin to accept this reality. But we commit anyways. We give up the frenzied free fall of romantic obsession and settle for the simple comfort of simply being with another person. Why? Because of love. The form of love that is more profound than infatuation, that is deeper, more mature and invariably, less thrilling.

But no matter how happy we might turn out to be in our relationships, we still crave that feeling of euphoria that we had when we were in the midst of the fall. We just find different ways to feel it. For me, music has been the thing that consistently brings me back to that state of euphoria. Discovering a new musical artist or a new album by a familiar favorite makes me feel delightfully obsessed, infatuated even. Just like the music in a movie explains and embellishes the silent emotions of the characters, the music in my head begins to serve as the soundtrack to my life, making everything around me and inside me feel more vivid and meaningful. Music makes me fall in love over and over again.

When you read this post, it will the last week in May. Although a few weeks ago I said my piece about the sadness of letting go of winter, it is time to give spring her due. I can't think of a finer way to do that than to talk about one of the most deservedly beloved springtime songs ever written, These Are Days.

Even though Natalie Merchant has never been an artist someone would call to mind when thinking of love songs, the fact is she has written many songs about romantic love. However, with hardly any exception I can think of, these songs are not about simple declarations of affection. She tells lyrical stories of unrequited romance, of post-breakup romance, of romances shattered by divorce, illness and death. But there are no straightforward "I love you and you love me" type of songs from Natalie Merchant. I don't know what a song like that would sound like, as written by Natalie, and I have a feeling I am not likely to ever find out.

And yet, These Are Days is, in my mind, a love song in its purest form. It's a song, by Natalie's own admission, about the euphoria of falling in love with being alive. While a phrase like "falling in love with being alive" might seem needlessly corny when you are just living another mundane day of life, when you are experiencing that feeling, it sounds just right.

Before Our Time In Eden was released, Natalie's lyric writing had rarely strayed from the path of dark, sober subject matter. While it is something she did brilliantly, one can't help but wonder if a song like These Are Days felt like a revelation to her fans when they first heard it. Natalie used the same powerful zeal she had for writing songs about injustice and sorrow to write a song of unabashed celebration.

Here are some quotes from Natalie about These Are Days:

"I was trying to put into words what it felt like to spend a long, cold winter in New England and have spring come and lilacs bloom and be riding my bicycle through the countryside. I have that same feeling every spring 'I've survived another winter!'"*

"On this album I let the songs tell me what they were about. If I was listening to a song and it made me feel extreme joy, I would think, 'What in my life has brought me extreme joy?' And then I would think, 'Spring. Walking in the forest.' Then I would write a song like These Are Days, about springtime and being young and strong and falling in love with being alive."**

"I've talked to many women about this, it's definitely the time of year for being aware of a lot of our maternal urges. Every spring, all the women I know suddenly want to be pregnant. We think of the possibilities of continuing life and having children. Usually that goes away by June, thank God. But April and May are definitely my 'I want a child, I want to be pregnant' months."***

After I read the above words, These Are Days took on a lot more meaning to me. The lyric "It's true, that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you" was already bursting with meaning, but thinking of those words in a very literal way added another layer to the beauty of this song. While I can't speak from experience, it's not hard to imagine feeling like "part of the miracles you see in every hour" when you are quite genuinely pregnant with possibility.

Today, as you are reading this blog post, it is probably just an average day for you as, sadly, that is how most days are prone to be. But in the near future, it is likely that you will have some reason, profound or simple, to feel May, in its many forms, rush over you with desire. When you are ready to celebrate, you'll be thankful to know that someone has written you the perfect soundtrack to that feeling. And hearing it playing might just feel a little bit like falling in love.

Click here to watch a video of Natalie performing (and rocking out to in a most endearing way) These Are Days

Download These Are Days (Live) from Itunes - These Are Days (Live) - MTV Unplugged: 10,000 Maniacs

*Buffalo News - July 1993
**Kansas City Star - November 1992
***Dallas Morning News - June 1993


  1. Another very nice read indeed!

  2. I feel the exact same way about falling in love with music. I've recently fallen in love again, to the point of obsession, again, with Duran Duran. Their recent album All You Need Is Now has reminded me of my pre-teen crush with one my earliest and favorite bands. It's the same way I felt when I first discovered Natalie. The Peace Train video came on as i was doing my homework and I was transfixed. Since then I've been an avid Natalie fan, and am filled with exhilaration when I hear anything new by her, or when I rediscover any of 10K Maniacs or Natalie's albums. Great blog, as always! - @VTaylor72

  3. Thanks Annie
    Love your weekly stories. The link to the "These Are Days" led me back to Natalie's Live DVD. After rewatching TAD who could resist the next song "The Gulf of Araby"? Oh heck now I have to watch the whole DVD. :-)

  4. Jimney -

    Thank you for your kind words...and for being my conscience. : )

  5. @VTaylor72 -

    Thanks so much for your comment and kind words. I love movies and books and visual art...but nothing moves me as much, and as consistently, as music.

  6. Chasm -

    Good idea! I like that DVD, but the slow motion drives me crazy! I wish we could get a DVD of her performing that was uncut and not gussied up in any way. That would be awesome! And I love The Gulf of Araby. Amazing song. Thanks for writing!