Most mornings when I get up, music is already playing in my head. Snippets of songs, a phrase that hangs with me. I can’t tell sometimes whether the song has a significance for me at that moment–my subconscious trying to tell me something–or if the song is the just last one I heard the day before.
The song that has been haunting me for awhile is Coals and Water, written by the perfectly named singer Angel Snow.
Verse: Fortune Tellers dancing ’round inside my head
I’m trying not to lose everything she said
Even saw one standing at the foot of my bed
This mountain’s gettin’ higher with every step
I’m trying not to lose everything I’ve kept
Captured by the fortune tellers in my mind
CHORUS: Ooohh. They always come back again
Every time freedom tries to pull me out they suck me back in
Oohh. You gonna let that fire burn you
Tell me how you gonna walk on coals and water too?
There is a story we tell ourselves each day–a script maybe started by others–do I hear Mama shaming me for not sitting still in church? The playback continues in a monotonous loop in our heads. When I leave my cellphone somewhere in the house for the umpteenth time and have to waste time looking for it, I tell myself, “Silly girl!” When I’m running late–again!–do I forgive myself as I would a dear friend who has too much on her plate? Sometimes I do, sometimes not.
Sometimes what I tell myself becomes reality, the seer of my fortune. Yes, when I worry I’ll drop that plate, sometimes I do. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
I think the first time I heard Angel Snow’s song was on my favorite TV show, FX’s “Justified” (that just finished its final season). This vastly underrated tribute to the amazing writer Elmore Leonard’s conjuring of characters tells the story of three people trying to find a life outside the poverty, crime, and coal-mining grind of Harlan County, Kentucky. Can they escape from the soul-crushing hopelessness that planted outposts in their heads when they were children? Can they “walk on coals and water too”?
All I asked when my beloved “Justified” was coming to an end, was that the show’s producers, writers, and directors be true to the characters, Elmore Leonard’s lacerating wit, and his incredible writing. I guess I took it personally because their story seemed like my own. Hey, I grew up poor in East Tennessee, not too far from Eastern Kentucky. Heck, my hometown of Knoxville was even mentioned in a “Justified” show.
[Spoiler aside: in the finale, the “Justified” crew did their usual fantastic job and left us missing them already.]
Although no one I personally knew when I was growing up sold drugs or killed anyone, it is not easy to be born poor in a country that prizes money over all things. The new script in my head is simply to be true to myself, enjoy this crazy-adventure, tilt-a-whirl life, and take notes for my writing, because there is never any piece of fiction that can measure up the wacky-crazy things that go on in real life.
I’m not sure I will ever get out of my own personal Harlan alive. But sometimes you just have to plant a tree in your own backyard and watch it grow.
//Anna – 5/1/2015