As I mentioned on Facebook last week, I'm attempting to create a weekly blog. I wanted to make Wednesdays my writing day but I was very distracted yesterday with daily life stuff and I just felt uninspired. I decided I'd wait until something hit me. Most of you have caught on by now that I'm a self-proclaimed advocate of amazing women, particularly in country music. Wildflowers, I call them. So, this morning I did a quick Google search of famous people born today to see if anyone sparked my interest. I came across some pretty impressive names: Bob Dylan, Queen Victoria, Patti LaBelle, John C. Reilly, just to name a few. But one name jumped out at me...Rosanne Cash. She was born 63 years ago today to Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian. Happy birthday, Rosanne!
To be honest, I never followed much of Rosanne Cash's music until a few years ago. Of course, I was familiar with her first #1 country hit "Seven Year Ache" but that was about it until I read June Carter Cash's autobiography, Among My Klediments. I was portraying June in a production of Ring of Fire at Barter Theatre and became fascinated with the whole family. I promptly ordered Rosanne's book, Composed, which I confess, I have not yet read but I did begin listening to her music. As the daughter of a very well-known father myself, I feel a kinship toward her in a way that only children born in the public eye can fully understand. I hear her angst and rage but also her desire to glorify and please her dad. It's a cyclone of emotions, and I love that she has done what I haven't yet accomplished; she's allowed listeners into her life through her songs, in her own words. I really admire that because it's extremely challenging to be so brutally honest and exposed, especially in a high-profile life where you are expected to uphold a particular image that is stamped on you at birth. She had a ridiculously high bar set for her, as the daughter of The Man In Black and as step-granddaughter of The First Family of Country Music. I believe she's met that bar and she did it her own way, which makes her pretty cool in my book. She is definitely a wildflower.
So, I stopped by her website and clicked on the first video I saw. The song is called "The Walking Wounded." The melody and instrumentation aren't flashy, rather the song's beauty is its simplicity. The melancholy guitar and strong, steady vocals give power and focus to the dark, solemn lyrics. That's my kind of music. Interestingly, the lyrics are an adaptation of a poem written by her father about PTSD and the Vietnam War. The grayscale imagery on the video greatly adds to the experience of the song, taking it to places outside of war and into lives of people we all know.
The title struck me and so I decided to see if this title was inspired by another work. As my friend and mentor, Amanda Colleen Williams always says, great writers read. So, I had a feeling that this title could lead me somewhere interesting and educational. I was correct. I don't know if I stumbled upon coincidence but it doesn't really matter. It's a great title and I found some fascinating corresponding works with it, all of which led me to contemplate the upcoming Memorial Day and its purpose.
First, I found a review on Walking Wounded, a novel by Sheila Llewellyn. The book follows the lives of two men who meet in a military psychiatric hospital in 1947 and recounts details of psychosurgery procedures circa WWII to treat what we now call PTSD. It sounds gruesome but it's now on my "to read" list. The reviewer (unnamed) mentions a poem of the same title by Vernon Scannell and sites it as inspiration for the book. The reviewer also points the reader to Robert Graves' 1938 poem, "Recalling War," which upon reading for the first time is heavy and difficult for my brain to fully absorb.
So, I went searching once again, this time for a simplified explanation of Grave's poem. That, I did not find. But I did discover an academic and didactic essay by Andrea Trocha-Van Nort that I found incredibly interesting. It's an arduous read for someone like myself who has not been in literature studies for a long while. However, I do recommend trying to read this essay, as it provides some unique insights into our military's current state of affairs and motivation among many soldiers. I won't begin to try to untangle the text because my skills are inadequate but it made me think about the glorification of war and how we must not allow ourselves, soldiers or civilians, to become unmoved by the cost of war because of its normalcy in our world. I may be off target but that was my take from the essay and from Graves' poem.
In conclusion, I urge you to take this Memorial Day weekend seriously. Of course, enjoy your long weekend with your family but remember to also appreciate the sacrifices that enable you to live your pretty incredible life. Maybe take a few moments to read poetry by Scannell, Graves, Wilfred Owen or Seigfried Sassoon. Listen to songs that make you think, like Rosanne's "The Walking Wounded," Johnny's "Man in Black," Kate Smith singing Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" or check out this Songs of War playlist or this Women on War playlist. It's getting easier to become somewhat indifferent and desensitized by war because it's constantly in our periphery yet not directly in focus. But this Memorial Day, I'm really going to check in with myself and mourn the tremendous losses our nation and the world have endured. I want to make a plan to fully explore the freedoms I often take for granted and decide how I can be a better citizen to my nation, a good steward of the earth, and a friend to all people. I hope you'll do the same. Happy Memorial Day and be safe!