Occasionally, I hear a song that I have to play again and then a few more times following, letting the lyrics settle in and do the work that art does. I find that certain songs seem to show up at just the right time to make me pause and feel and grow. Unsurprisingly to those who know me, this is also why I go through periods of time when I don’t listen to music, despite how much I love it. Sometimes, I’m just not up for feeling and growing and all the painful stretching that comes with it. Those bouts are never long though, because music reaches me and brings me to life. I can’t go long without it, because going without is like going without me. In the fall, when the weather is finally cool, I love to drive at night with my windows rolled down. I play my music loudly and it fights with the wind in my ears and the feel of the night air pricks my skin. In those moments, I feel unstoppable.
I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift since her first album. That first cd lived in my truck and kept me afloat through college classes and field experiences. It filled the air during trips as a new bride when the absence of words indicating a disconnect I hadn’t seen before saying “I do” left me numb. Each new album she made supported me in whatever new life event I was having. My toddler son even learned to shake his hands with me and dance around the house to “Shake it Off”. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to recognize that the song that showed up randomly when I let Spotify surprise me yesterday was a Swift song and I was very grateful to be holding a purring cat at the time. Some people see Taylor as a country star who left her roots and turned pop while others have labeled her as one of the greatest lyricists in this century. I don’t actively read music articles or keep up with interviews and such. I just know that I’ve grown up with Taylor and she hasn’t yet become someone I don’t value as an artist.
Swift is known for leaving clues and surprises in her albums. She sends her listeners, those willing to follow the evidence, on treasure hunts and many things have more than one meaning. Her song Bigger than the Whole Sky is track number 15 on an album released in October. To most, this is inconsequential. To those who know what October 15th is, this is very likely intentional. To those who know what this day is personally, Bigger than the Whole Sky may be one that is added to the playlist that helps you remember when no one else does.
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Swift may mark this day for herself or for someone else. Regardless of why she wrote this song, her lyrics are relevant to the thousands of people who may never be whole again because a part of them is gone and will never return. I’m grateful for her honesty now, just as I always have been, because someone will feel some warmth, some clarity, some affirmation from her transparency. Someone may feel a little less alone and another might be more patient, knowing that tragedy shapes a person. After falling apart, even when we’re finally put back together again, we can’t ever be put back the way we were and some things will always be “sick with sadness” as Swift describes.