Desert Queen

I don’t know if I’m really a desert queen, but I do know that the desert makes me feel better than any other environment I’ve ever been.  I used to think it had to be the beach, the ocean, but then I lived right here on the coast of California, and hardly ever go to the beach, plus I’ve discovered that coastal fog is rampant, and fogginess always makes me a little depressed.  Then I’ve lived in some magical forests, over on the other side of the Sierras, and big, old trees with beautiful pine cones underneath them, seemed like the best place on earth.  But it’s cold and dark often in the trees, and the same holds true for me as it does with the fog, I never feel warm, and I never feel really content.  I have loved the meadows around our old house in Michigan, making one area into a fantasy land called V-Land, because of all the trees that had fallen over and looked like upside-down V’s.   The cow pasture there was where I got married the first time, but there were prickers on the ground, mosquitoes in the air, and ticks waiting to jump off the plants!  The Minnesota prairies were desolate and lonely for me, and in Illinois with cornfield after cornfield, even though I love eating corn, I did not need to see it day after day.  And so I tried the city, and love many aspects about it as far as getting around on public transportation, being able to get to good grocery stores, movies, knitting stores and schools, but oh my, people are always rushing around and there is always drama, and it’s so darned expensive!!

Now I KNOW the high desert of Trail’s End is not a perfect place, it’s got drought, amazingly cold temperatures in the winter, and I’ve heard there are a lot of tarantulas and snakes, although I have to admit I’ve only seen one (and that was from the safe seat of the car), but it is MY place.  It is the place where I feel good, where my soul rests easy, where I can be quiet and alone or choose to be with others, where people have opinions, but are friendly.  So, for the purposes of this song I wrote, this is it for me, and a desert queen I am.

When I started this song I was looking for a more upbeat song than I usually write, and I listened to a Scottish fiddler playing a medley of waltzes to wet my whistle (so to speak).  Then I started playing it on piano, messing around with runs, and playing it up an octave from usual because of an important piano key that is now permanently stuck in the mid range of my piano.  I played and played, just getting it the way I liked it, trying to make a chorus, verse and bridge.  Then I decided it was time for words, and so I did my best trick for thinking of words — took the dogs for a walk.  I decided to just start singing, and see what came out.  Well, what came out was this little song about loving the southwest desert, and since then I have been refining it, so that the words and the tune pitches and rhythms would go together (as per my songwriting class at Berklee College of Music).  For two weeks I have had it in my mind every minute, I have had it in the background when I’m sleeping, I have played it a million times on piano, changed little parts here and there, challenged myself to do something I don’t usually do, and not fill it full of accidentals (notes in other keys), and had Sarita give her opinions on certain phrases.  I decided to start the song with the chorus, because it’s catchy and singable and a natural starting place,  and then change the words of the chorus a little bit at the end of the song. Whenever I worry about doing something unusual, Sarita says think of Bob Dylan, he started with choruses sometimes, he wrote words that nobody really understands at times, and he just does what he wants, and has gotten away with it quite well.  Okay, I’m no Bob Dylan, but I can sure experiment with some amount of confidence.  Then when I tried to record it, I realized that it was not in a key that was good for my singing voice, so I’ve had to change keys.  I’m not as good at that on the piano, but it’s good practice for me.  It’s like being in an altered world when working so hard on a song — and I have understanding for any other artist of any kind who has an ongoing project and has a hard time relating to the reality of the world around them.  It’s an obsession, albeit a rather wonderful one.

So I present to you my new song.  Oh, and the Shiprock in the sky is a big rock mountain in the Four Corners Area that looks like a ship, and is a spiritual place for the Navajos.  It is quite beautiful and majestic.

Desert Queen

I got the mountains, I got all the sunshine

A lot of the starry sky

Settling where my soul’s found a home.

And when I get discouraged

I look around and dream

Like a Shiprock in the sky,  I’m a Desert Queen.

I tried the beach, but the coastal fog

Made me think it would rain.

And forests of old trees would block out the sun

Filling me with pain.

I got the mountains…

And on the plains, corn grows on and on

The loneliness so severe

The meadows hide troubles, the cities hide crime

People filled with fear.

It’s truly coming home, when I see that big rock dome

And the air is sweet, high desert.

I got the sunrise, I got desert flowers

A lot of space to think.

In the old west my soul’s found a home.

I rarely get discouraged, living all my dreams

Like a Shiprock in the sky, I’m a Desert Queen.

Like a Shiprock in the sky, I’m a Desert Queen.


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