Stones In the Road

Stones in the Road is not a book. It is actually an album. And I don’t usually talk about albums, or at least not the way most people talk about albums, which is the way I talk about books.

Anyway, Stones in the Road is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1994 country/folk/rock/pop/guitary album. And the title track – I’m not much for the political opinions and/or references of people who are supposed to be creators, but the title track is beautiful. Here are the lyrics.

When we were young, we pledged allegiance every morning of our lives
The classroom rang with children’s voices under teacher’s watchful eye
We learned about the world around us at our desks and at dinnertime
Reminded of the starving children, we cleaned our plates with guilty minds
And the stones in the road shone like diamonds in the dust
And then a voice called to us to make our way back home

When I was ten, my father held me on his shoulders above the crowd
To see a train draped in mourning pass slowly through our town
His widow kneeled with all their children at the sacred burial ground
And the TV glowed that long hot summer with all the cities burning down
And the stones in the road flew out beneath our bicycle tires
Worlds removed from all those fires as we raced each other home

And now we drink our coffee on the run, we climb that ladder rung by rung
We are the daughters and the sons, and here’s the line that’s missing
The starving children have been replaced by souls out on the street
We give a dollar when we pass, and hope our eyes don’t meet
We pencil in, we cancel out, we crave the corner suite
We kiss your ass, we make you hold, we doctor the receipt

And the stones in the road fly out from beneath our wheels
Another day, another deal, before we get back home

And the stones in the road leave a mark from whence they came
A thousand points of light or shame, baby, I don’t know

Not sure why I like this song or even if I do. But it just seems like a lovely, lovely portrayal of what it might have been like to grow up, to be young and impressionable in that troubled time, and watch what happened to the world as you and it got older and things became troubled in different ways.

I don’t agree with my favorite artists on everything. You’re never going to. But Mary Chapin Carpenter is an artist, and the way she wields words is wondrous. The TV glowed that long hot summer with all the cities burning down, and you are a ten-year-old kid, who sees the burning cities on your television screen, stripy and bluish, and you ride your bike worlds removed from all those fires nevertheless. AHH. It is lovely lovely lovely.

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