I am standing atop a hill on the southernmost island of the Puget Sound. With my feet wobbling over weeds and rocks, I look out to the silhouette of a person skipping stones in the water, leaving tiny puddles that chime into our delicate conversation. An abandoned ferry casts shadows over the sound’s black body; anchors drag down the pacific fog. Between gathering ripples and the spellbound sky, a lilting holiness rises; daytime is limber. Just beyond the water, a penitentiary sleeps between the mountains, peaceful, cradled in the arms of insanity’s ghosts. Where our demons lie, mercy abounds.
And when these tiny movements settle in my eye, a flock of birds take flight, painting quick, shadowy strokes against a wayward wind, only to escape the land.
For all the images that stalk my sleep, these are the expansive ones. They jolt across the Nashville skyline, the skinny sliver of twinkling neon I can see from my bedroom window.
It is an unsettling feeling, to know that there is a place two thousand miles away, where nature conducts the rhythm of the days, the dewy mornings and the frosted dusks. In truth, I am not an urban person. But salvation is a practice, and in order to know what you are, you first must live the opposite.
For now, I am fully committed to the security of the unknown. I prefer to live in the uncertain, from cities to couches to alleyway dives. Attachments would blur my observations, and observations breed the gentlest kind of love. I can fall in love with a stranger’s smile; I can fall in love with a skyscraper’s height. I am most at peace with my surroundings when I belong to nowhere in particular; when I begin sprawling roots, I long to be anywhere else.
Foreign Fields chronicles my return from a utopic future that I cannot yet accept; for a week, I listen exclusively to the forlorn harmonies that mimic my departure from bedded lakes and winking trees. Their debut album, Anywhere But Where I am, projects a faraway land that trails behind footsteps; it is a long and overdrawn veil, sweeping shadows of memories that dance inside its folds.
Strings and synthesis intertwine to birth a celestial sound. It is rare to find music that so easily blends two perspectives; Anywhere But Where I Am is both the aching distance between a person and their home, and the wonderful fantasy of existing, timeless, in this place. Perhaps it is the way a puppeteer feels on stage, pulling the strings of a marionette world, transforming lifeless fabric into the magical reality of our imaginations.
It is the last song, “Fake Arms,” that melds these disparate viewpoints into one absolute, that familiar and often fleeting moment of finding a home inside the throngs of love, that subtle cosmic brush against another person’s soul. “If I leave this town for Tenn, I’ll see mountains again, but if I can’t see you, I’ve lost it all my friend,” softly whispers over acoustics, and that tiny cluster of downtown buildings watch over me, sleepily, lowering their gaze as I pull the string on my lamplight.
On the island in mid-September, the trees drip downward, bowing to the sweet windfall- all shades of green, each a glowing orb of fertility- to taste what we desire is our greatest strength, so long as we can let it roll back from our hands, and climb upward, softly and happily, to Where The Willow Tree Died.