While putting together a collection of music for a friend, I got stuck on Nick Drake. To be exact, on Bryter Layter. And writing a little anecdote for said friend, explaining why I’d chosen this album, I relived the times I described and it suddenly became so real and so overwhelming that I couldn’t go on and am now, on an autumnal Saturday night, at my desk, listening to the whole album and drifting somewhere between daydreaming and remembering. I will just hope that the friend in question does not read this post before I can send the music off, because I’m just going to copy what I just wrote for him half an hour ago because I can’t describe it any better:
I can’t say that I have a favourite Nick Drake album, but if I had one, I think it would be this or Pink Moon. This is my “falling-asleep-under-the-stars” album. I listened to it almost every night when I was travelling in Croatia. I’d be outside in the sun all day, hiking or swimming or reading or writing or meditating and when it started getting dark, I’d crawl into my little tent and watch the stars through the mosquito net of the open tentflap, snuggled into the sleeping bag more for comfort than warmth and I’d listen to the rustle of the wind in the pines and the creaking of wood as the earth slowly cooled down and then I’d put on my mp3-player and listen to this album very softly.
I held on to that feeling in a poem. I’ll share it below the songs, together with a photo I dedicated to the poem.
cold stars are out
warm and safe
in the dark
in my ears
piano and guitar
for lonely songs
with intricate longings
and the vulnerable voice
of a musician
who died too young
and yet can make me feel
in this night
After scorching temperatures and then a spell of spring-like weather, the first of August was beautiful. Twenty-five degrees or a little above, sunny with a few fluffy clouds to make the sky look pretty, and after everyone being very industrious all the morning, the family sort of informally congregated on the terrace in the afternoon, lying about in bikinis or rolled up T-shirts and reading books. It was very relaxed.
In the evening, we had a little BBQ, just the family (all of us except my brother, which is still six people, five of which are women… poor Dad!) and some steaks and sausages and three bottles of dry red wine. We ended up exchanging family histories. ‘Do you remember when…?’ Most of the time, I don’t remember, which leads me to conclude that I have a very bad memory. Or maybe to put it more positively: a not very organized and highly individual memory, because I remember a lot of things, I just can’t place them in any context that makes sense.
There’s the memory of me and my brother and my middle sister sitting in a dark green tent with our Dad while outside there’s a huge summer thunderstorm and we’re not allowed to touch any of the canvas because the water’ll seep in otherwise. Which apparently happened on a totally different vacation than the one I thought it happened on. Then there’s the bike tour that I remember was during an incredible heat spell and I remember my middle sister refusing to go on because she was so tired and it was so hot, and I remember that we all tried to divert her mind because there was no choice – we had to make it to the next hostel on our bikes and that hostel was another twenty or thirty kilometers away. She can’t remember that, however.
Then there’s the things I’ve forgotten: how I diverted my two youngest sisters’ minds from the exertions of biking uphill in the pine-forest midday heat by telling them a story. How I told my youngest sister a story to make her go on after she’d inadvertently sat down in a bunch of nettles by telling her another story. She says that every time I didn’t know how to go on, I’d say that I’d continue at the next crossroad. And my middle sister reminded me that I told her a story once that she liked so much that we tried to record it on cassette, but after a lot of experimenting with water, we gave up because we couldn’t get the sound effects rights. (It involved a kind of monster that was made entirely of water, in case you’re wondering.)
So apart from spending a really nice evening talking and telling stories of our shared past, and sitting outside – next to the fire – until almost midnight, which is one of my favourite things about summer, and admiring a beautiful full moon, I also realized that maybe I started this whole thing with inventing people, inventing worlds, inventing stories that happened in these worlds, … so much earlier than I thought. That’s a nice thought. Although I didn’t write them down, it appears that my younger siblings have fond memories of me telling them stories and that these stories were good enough to keep them amused even when they were bored, exhausted or ill. I find that a very encouraging thought.
So have you had a good start into August? And when was the last time you sat around swapping memories with your family?