La belle fleur sauvage

La Belle Fleur Sauvage is one of my favorite Lord Huron songs. The title means “the beautiful wildflower.” It has the pathos of an anti-love song; the flower does not deign to be partnered with a man.

What you're looking for won't be found easily
It grows upon the mountain in a sacred place
Up beyond the clouds, in ancient ground, so they say
And many men have died trekking up that away

What motif has been more captivating to the male mind than a beautiful, dangerous woman?

The song, though a favorite, can be read as problematic. It is about a man who would be the one to pluck this women-flower, and, when he dies, he wants her lying by his side in his grave.

Once he's gazed upon her, a man is forever changed
The bravest men return with darkened hearts and phantom pain
Ages come and go but her life goes on the same
She lives to see the sun and feel the wind and drink the rain

I prefer to focus on the eery imagery describing the woman.

She reminds me of the Loreley/Lorelei, a siren legend born on the shores of Germany’s Rhein River. The myth was derived from a particularly perilous curve of the river. Dangerous not only because of strong currents, but also because of the echoing effect of one bank’s steep rock face, which was named “Loreley” in part from the German verbs lureln (to murmur) and lauern (to lurk, lie in wait). There are many forms of this myth, but Heinrich Heine’s poem “Die Lorelei” immortalized her. A statue was erected to commemorate her spirit.

The fairest maiden is sitting
In wondrous beauty up there,
Her golden jewels are sparkling,
She combs her golden hair.

She combs it with a golden comb
And sings a song the while;
It has an awe-inspiring,
Powerful melody.

It seizes the boatman in his skiff
With wildly aching pain;
He does not see the rocky reefs,
He only looks up to the heights.

I think at last the waves swallow
The boatman and his boat;
And that, with her singing,
The Loreley has done.

The Lorelei lurks there, even still: the last major wreck was in 2011.

A beautiful wildflower, indeed.

Music for Travel: Homecoming by Josh Ritter

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.

Exploringly yours,

Alaina

(Also, check out Josh’s own notes on the song.)

Music for Travel: Astral Weeks by Van Morrison

I love having a soundtrack to my travels.  This way, I can hear the song at a later point in life and recall the memories and experiences I had while on the road.  Typically, the most poignant songs for me are the ones that have an aching or longing theme, particularly for home or a person.

There are a couple of songs that I loved during my trip to the United Kingdom, but the first song I’m going to showcase is… Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.  If you’ve never heard this work of art (or if you have) take a listen below…

I heard this song while I was staying in Edinburgh, Scotland (shout out to BBC Radio Scotland).  Having been raised on Van Morrison (shout out to my mama), he already holds a special place in my heart.  However, I only recently started to really explore his music catalogue.  When I heard this song on the radio, it blew me away.  I had heard it before, but never really listened.  The melody of the guitars, the flute chirping along in the background, the fluttering strings – it puts me in a mind for spring.  A blindingly sunny, bluebird skies kind of day.

And then the lyrics.  It’s a song about a woman that Van is watching as she goes about her domestic life and caring for her child.  It listens like a love song, but not a love that has happened in this place or time (“In another time, in another place” are lyrics Van repeats toward the end).  As such, the word “astral” is defined as relating to or resembling the stars.  In addition, the astral plane is “a supposed non-physical realm of existence to which various psychic and paranormal phenomena are ascribed, and in which the physical human body is said to have a counterpart.”  It’s a song about a deep desire for a love that is not of this world, time, or place.

The following lyrics solidify my love of this song, and highlight my longing feelings of home and the people I love while I’m traveling.

From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
And I stand with my arms behind me
And I’m pushin’ on the door
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?

This song conveys the desire for love, the desire to want to be with someone that you cannot be with in this very moment.

Give the song a listen and let me know what you think.

Exploringly yours,

Alaina