Music and memory

One of the few moments I look forward to in my day is my walk to and from work. Not that I actually enjoy walking. The walk home can be particularly arduous on long days. My feet are, more often than no, in extreme pain and it’s only the thought of making it home that keeps me going.

But I still look forward to those two twenty-five minute spans for one specific reason: music. I put my earbuds in and, with my only responsibility being putting one foot in front of the other and keeping out of traffic, I let my mind wander with the song to some imagining or another.

Now you might think I can do this at home, and I do listen to music more often than not, but at home it’s not the same. At home I have other responsibilities and distractions. I have to do the dishes, cook the food, clean the bathroom, fold the laundry, and a million other little chores and tasks. At home I have movies and television and internet. There’s Tumblr and Pinterest and dozens of other web sites to suck my attention. The music, good as it may be, is generally just another in a large cloud of distractions.

Don’t get me wrong, music at  home is good. It keeps me in a positive mood, more often than not, and quite often inspires me to get things done. Right now I’m being inspired to write these words by Ray Lamontagne singing “You can bring me flowers”, which is a song full of soft jazz and soul and so many feels you might just drown:


This lovely tune also illustrates why I love the music of my walks so much – my head space expands and I’m walking through an entirely different world. Walking while listening to my music lets me listen to my music with more intent and depth than listening to my music anywhere else.

It doesn’t hurt that walking to work inspires my mind to escape, and walking home in pain inspires my mind to flee, so the music is a very welcome and ready diversion.

Today’s music reminded me a of a significant lesson in my past. An old, old tune from the very early eighties taught me that all important lesson: A song doesn’t have to be popular to be something meaningful to you.

I loved Men At Work when they released their initial album and still enjoy “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now”, although both tunes have been overplayed enough that I have to be in an open and receptive mood to enjoy them these days.

But today my phone dredged up another tune from that album: Down By the Sea. It was one of the first tunes I ever fell in love with that wasn’t loved by everyone else I knew. It would have fit perfectly on a “Headphones Only” playlist, something I plan on setting up on my phone gradually.

Another song of theirs that stuck in my head as one of “My” songs was Be Good Johnny. At the time it epitomized my interactions with most of the adults in my family. Being six feet tall and over 200 pounds it was a mystery to every one of them that I had no interest in sports whatsoever. Be Good Johnny, to me, told the story of a child more interested in imagination than football or cricket, and that was me all over. I would have been better suited to a smaller, bookish body.