microscopic bugs that live underground in little knots on
the roots. They suck nitrogen gas right out of the soil and
turn it into fertilizer for the plants. [They] are not actually
part of the plant, they are separate creatures, but they always
live with legumes; a kind of underground railroad moving secretly
up and down the roots.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees
The only true currency
in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else
when you're uncool.
I was having one
of those thin skinned, "I feel like an open wound"
days recently and I began to think about what it meant to be
thin skinned. I realized that normally we think of it as letting
other people's unintentional words puncture us when, if we were
at the top of our game, we would allow those same barbs to bounce
right off. But then I began to consider the possibility that
being thin skinned also allowed those clunky, really ugly things
inside us to appear more visible to the surface. Maybe on our
thin skinned days we're also more transparent.
For me, these types
of days always seem to coincide with sunny, on the brink of
spring days when the weather seems harshly unpredictable. You
can't decide if it will shine jagged, madly cheerful rays on
you or shout gusts of freezing air through your khakis. Sometimes
you wish it were only the cold so you would know how to prepare.
At the same time your winter-battered down coat begins to feel
the urge to hibernate, so you feel abandoned by the elements
and your protection against them.
On these kinds of
days I often turn to Middle of Nowhere because it's
like a promise. Middle of Nowhere is a covenant between
winter and spring. It establishes that it's okay to feel unsure.
Somewhere out there is orange and yellow and even warmth in
the midst of uncertainty. There's a part of me that senses ruefully
that this is not exactly the tone or message that Hanson intended.
But it is something that gets me through the beginning of spring.
Even the part that it is spring makes me feel that I'm displaced
because everyone is supposed to love this season of rebirth,
right? So, I listen to Middle of Nowhere. And, I realize
. . . that it is sunny, but the dark and stormy parts
are there too. Whew.
Yet as time goes
on, I feel more and more distant from the 11, 13 and 15 year
old musicians who created Middle of Nowhere. It also
seems as though Hanson themselves yearn for that distance too
. . . among their favorite albums are those in which the artists
"redefine" themselves, drawing a definite line in
the sand between yesterday and tomorrowPet Sounds,
Rubber Soul, Graceland, etc. My chunky,
ugly thoughts begin to surface: Isn't appreciation for Hanson
one of those deceptively comforting things that turn out to
be just a tragic symbol of how unsubstantial your life has been?
Doesn't continuing loyalty only promote more stagnation while
the world, including Hanson have moved on?
But then, I think
of the rhizobia. They quietly keep wisteria vines in glorious
business. They're unseen, but vital.Year after year, they keep
doing what they're doing. And yet, their activity helps maintain
the beautiful blooming flowers that have weathered the change
in seasons and return to brighten someone's day. Is the rhizobia
Hanson's magical, unseen influence in our lives? Or could the
rhizobia be the fans? Collectively the ones who still care?
Our days are spent, in part, attached to the roots of a larger
legacycompletely dismissed, except among ourselvesbut
somehow in a symbiotic relationship. There is a level of true
"uncool" that we must accept with this fact. In that
case, I hope these thoughts arrive as the gift, the only true
currency, I intended them to be.