Collecting Thoughts

As a writer and English major, I’ve made a hobby of thinking about the concrete meanings of phrases, but it wasn’t until the last couple months I started thinking about the phrase “collecting my thoughts.”

Thoughts are sort of like luggage on a long roadtrip.  You pack the night before, underwear neatly folded and placed beside your rolled socks and shirts and jacket, your duffle bag beside your backpack and a box of snacks with a water bottle and thermos of coffee.  Your guitar and banjo fit perfectly in the back seat.

After a couple days, you realize that dirty socks are starting to poke out of corners of your duffle bag, there are crumbs on the carpet (or there would be if the Walgreen’s and Hardee’s bags weren’t in the way), and you’re not quite sure where you put your flashlight.

The next morning, you discover that the neighbor’s cat stowed away, the thermos is on a countertop somewhere in west Texas, dirty socks have started crawling from underneath your seat, you’re eating grubs, and the engine has started sounding like an 80s punk band.

By the time you get home, you start to smell the offerings the cat left in your glovebox, your shirt is in rags, and you’re barefoot. And the car’s on fire. 

Anyway, our thoughts get scattered when we’re stressed or constantly on the move, and we often don’t have or make time to capture the things we’re encountering, or think about where we're heading.  I’ve been on the road or in planes or in school pretty constantly for the last 3 years, and I’m just now sitting down to collect my thoughts—to clean out from underneath the seats, throw away the stuff that needs trashed, clean off the flashlight and put new batteries in it, return my neighbor’s cat, and actually take the photos off my camera and put them in an album, and put the memories onto paper.  That’s it’s own adventure. 

On another note, we were joined at our almost-snowed-out show at Greensboro's Common Grounds by an Ohio native you should check out.  Gretchen Pleuss is one of those songwriters who manages to encompass worlds.  The music and singing is at once grounded and ethereal, solid and airy, with her acoustic guitar work underpinning sound samples, hypnotic electric guitar riffs and chimes.  Her songwriting is both intricate and insightful, with lines like:

Days pass like kidney stones around here
But each new year comes faster than before
Do feelings change with passing time
Or age like wine for richer or for poor?
("Noah and the Ark," From Birth, to Breath, to Bone)

Further, she freely jumps from the mythic ("Waves Like Drums") to literary ("Jane Eyre") to the local ("Noah and the Ark") and embodied ("The Unknown"): from Moher to Ohio to "The parts of me that neither one of us can understand/ It's in the way I hold my head and how I clench my hands."   I'll be listening to From Birth, to Breath, to Bone, and Out of Dreams for a while.