Taking note: Certain songs
The deciduous trees seem to be showing off their new abundance of foliage. It’s finally their time to shine after a long, leafless winter. The leaves, almost chartreuse, stand out in stark contrast to the darker green of the pines.
The canopies of leaves meet, forming an arch over the dirt road, creating a vibrant green ceiling that casts a calming glow over the entire scene.
The blue waters of small lakes and rivers glimmer through the tree trunks and branches.
The sun is shining and the air is a crisp 55 degrees.
A song plays lightly over the car stereo and I find myself increasing the volume a few notches, realizing it’s a song I enjoy but haven’t listened to for a while.
As is often the case with familiar, favorite tunes, it doesn’t take long for the notes to bring back vivid recollections of other moments when I heard this song.
I find myself thinking about one of the first times I heard the song, during an autumn drive on a stretch of Highway 60 between Globe and Show Low, Arizona, then I-40 to Gallup, New Mexico, and then further north.
Although the song was only a few minutes long and was one of many songs played on this drive, it seems to serve as a sort of soundtrack for the entire experience.
It transports me to the moment I entered the Salt River Canyon outside of Globe, Arizona, and the sense of delight and awe I felt.
It brings back the amazement of finding myself driving down a winding road that was surrounded by endless shades of richly colored rock, little cliffs that seemed to be stacked up on top of each other, scrubby desert plants with the occasional evergreen mixed in and the way the slow, muddy brown waters of the Salt River still managed to sparkle in the sun.
As I traveled farther northward and climbed in elevation, more and more pine trees appeared, a welcome reminder of the Upper Peninsula.
The air grew slightly crisper, the leaf-bearing trees and shrubs were just starting to gain the copper-kissed look of fall.
Further north still, I started to feel a taste of true autumn that I had been missing.
I was delighted in the opportunity to finally wear a heavy sweater and jacket as I walked up to an overlook in the high desert, looking out across a reservoir, toward the Ute Mountains, finding myself wrapped up in the endless enjoyment of this 360-degree view.
The blue-gray water of the reservoir, framed by evergreen trees and the golden yellows, burnt oranges and blazing crimson reds of the leafy trees and shrubs — all mixed in with the occasional desert plant — dazzled me and provided a whole new view of what autumn could be like.
All of these scenes came to mind, just from hearing a single song.
Although this particular song spans only a few minutes, it managed to remind me of events that spanned hours and days.
It brought up an entire period of time in my life, reminding me of sights, sounds, smells, and emotions I hadn’t considered recently.
While this can sometimes be uncomfortable — some songs might even bring a chill up your spine –there’s a certain value in letting the music illuminate and illustrate some memories.
A song can remind you of a particular season, of your first best friend, of a favorite vacation, of a challenging period in your life, of a new beginning, of a rite of passage.
So much can be crystallized, condensed, into just a few minutes of music.
And there’s much we can learn from revisiting songs that remind of us our earlier lives, our earlier selves.
Music can tie a series of events together, provide a meaningful soundtrack, and offer a thread between our past and our present.
And when we take time to listen to the music that has filled our lives at various points, we might find ourselves re-experiencing a previous moment and gaining a better understanding of how it brought us to our present.
So dig out your favorite old albums, close your eyes and listen. You just might be surprised to find all the memories and treasures that are woven into your favorite songs.