In continuing my Music for Travel series, I offer Homecoming by Josh Ritter for your consideration. Again, BBC Scotland (specifically, the Roddy Hart Show) played this gem. I had heard of Josh Ritter, but never really heard his music, and gosh darn it, this song hit me right in the feels. I heard it toward the end of my trip (in Edinburgh, Scotland) just about when the wanderlust transitions to homesickness. So, naturally, I listened to it on repeat until two in the morning, drinking red wine, and dreaming of home. Take a listen…
This song is about exactly what the title says: homecoming. Coming home, in the epic sense, is a journey the hero completes once she has passed the test and been transformed. In this song, Josh sings of a home from which he has been torn away, a girl, and the places they were together.
The intro is calming, like a lullaby. After the melody kicks in, the drums really take off. It’s a forceful ballad, one I turn up as loud as it goes. I stamp my foot to it around the kitchen.
Josh tells a story more than sings a song. In this way, he transports the listener back to his or her own hometown. His hometown, he says, is his everything, it has his heart. Josh calls upon memories in his listener, and, in a haze, they appear: the people – family and friends – the listener left there, the girl the listener kissed or the boy the listener touched. It’s empowering and sad; the listener recalls the reckless invincibility of adolescence, while understanding, now, that everyone is mortal. The season is changing in the song, but the listener knows that for everything there is a season.
What treasure would the listener find at home? Josh sings of a girl who is “not like the other girls,” he sings of wine and nights shared. He treats the details with sacred reverence, referencing the Tree of Good and Evil, miracles, and oracles. Indeed the past, a dreamy confusion of the owner’s thoughts, has it’s own kind of spiritual mysticism.
I feel a change in the weather
I feel a change in me
The days are getting shorter, and the birds begin to leave
Even me, yes, yes, y’all
Who has been so long alone
I’m headed home, headed home.
The nights are getting colder now
The air is getting crisp
I first tasted the universe on a night like this.
Maybe it’s because it is fall now, or maybe because fall is my favorite season, but the promise, the thrill, the desire, of tasting the universe seems within my grasp. (Though, I think for Josh, “the universe” might be a metaphor for something else….)
Returning home signifies the culmination of a journey, the end of travel. Is home where we make it? Or where we feel it? Or somewhere we cannot ever really go back to? If you return physically home, is it still “home” if you yourself are transformed? Or is home the cozy place where your mom still does all your laundry? : )
Give the song a listen, and let me know what you feel.
(Also, check out Josh’s own notes on the song.)