Voices and Memories

Monday Morning Musings


“I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could”

Dar Williams, “Iowa”

“We are not lost in the mortal city.”

–Dar Williams, “Mortal City”

“We both know what memories can bring

They bring diamonds and rust.”

–Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust”

“This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton

Shining like the memories

Inside those silver buttons.”

–Mary Chapin Carpenter, “This Shirt”


I don’t go to concerts very often,

but this weekend, there were two.

strong women, with beautiful voices

their voices shined and stirred memories,

diamonds and rust.


My daughter and I went to see Dar Williams,

her husband drove us through the puddled night,

the city lights glowed through the mist,

reflected on the streets of the mortal city,

but we were not lost.


And we ordered food and wine

sharing platters and talking

of friends, family

(her sister would have loved to have been with us)

of TV shows, of her house-to-be

a special momma-daughter night



I remember when I first heard Dar Williams,

I was driving home from teaching a night class,

listening to Philadelphia station, WXPN,

hearing “When I Was a Boy,”

and I thought,

Who is this woman?

I have to find this album

And I did

sharing with daughters

(young voices of strong girls)

who sang along, even not quite understanding the words

until they grew older,

And now here we are, one of them with me at a concert

in this mortal city

It is a wonderful concert

And she is generous to others

Sharing the time with local author, Liz Moore

Who reads from her latest novel, The Unseen World

And joins Dar on the chorus of “Iowa”

And for several hours we

forget about the candidate who never had a way with women

(Voices of women will be heard.)


In between concerts

my husband and I get a visit from our daughters’ friend,

our older daughter’s friend since kindergarten,

younger daughter was the little sister she never had.

I watched them all grow up together.

(Diamond memories, comfortable like an old shirt)


She had messaged me,

she was coming home and had been dreaming of my cookies,

the cookies we call “Mommy Cookies” in my house,

she wondered if there might be some this weekend,

And I said I could make it happen.

How could I not?

So she stopped by and picked up the cookies,

enough for her boyfriend to try one.

She says she likes where they live,

a people’s republic in Maryland

the town will take in refugees

(voice of the people).

She’s a strong woman,

like my daughters

all working to make this world a better place.


So then that night

(Sunday, if you’re keeping track)

my husband and I drive back into the mortal city

we see the rainbow flags and signs

of the Outfest celebration in the Gayborhood

(Voices of love, is love, is love, is love is love is love

is love is love)

And though the rain has finally stopped

it is cool and windy,

We eat at a bar–

my husband laughs when I say,

“It is a good night to eat in a dark bar.”

He picks a beer to drink

I order wine

We both have the Belgian frites


And we sit and talk before walking to the Academy of Music

(I’ve never sung in such a beautiful hall before,” Mary Chapin Carpenter says.)

and it is beautiful

and she sings,

and her voice is beautiful and strong.

(I remember, diamond memories, of my daughters

singing along to “Passionate Kisses”)

She reveals a bit of hero worship for both Lucinda Williams

and Joan Baez

who then comes out on the stage,

elegant and strong at 75,

with that voice

that distinctive soprano vibrato

(Who doesn’t worship her?)

She begins with a folk song

“Pretty Peggy-O,”

alone on the stage

the way she probably sang at the start of her career,

and she sings her way through the years

(memories of diamonds and rust)

and she sings alone

and she sing with others

all strong, beautiful voices,

and despite claiming she is tired and her feet hurt,

she sings several encore songs

including “Imagine”

because we need this song,

and “The Boxer,”

another song of another mortal city

still timely,

as we hear what we want to hear

and disregard the rest.

She ends with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

wanting it to carry us all home,

she sings with a laugh and says “Good night.”


In the car

(traveling home from the mortal city)

I read the texts from my daughter

(a strong woman with the voice of an angel)

She has filled me in on the debate.

I turn on NPR,

I hear a strong woman

and I hear the other voice

that I hope will fade like rust

leaving only a slight orange stain

We know what memories can bring,

diamonds and rust.












31 thoughts on “Voices and Memories

    • Thanks, Cindy. I had never seen her in concert before. It seemed like it was about time. She was amazing. And Dar Williams is wonderful in concert. She is very engaging–she talks about every song.

  1. I love how beautifully your brings together your words, memories, and current events. 🙂 You brought back a few memories for me. The World Cafe, XPN (my favorite radio station), and Monk’s. I need to get back to Philly someday soon. It’s been a long while.

    • Oy. Pardon all the typos. It appears to be a symptom of the flu (that’s my excuse for now, lol!). I do wish we could edit our own comments. That first sentence should read, “I love how beautifully you bring together words, memories, and current events.”

  2. How wonderful to have seen Joan Baez sing Merrilan how wonderful to still have your daughter’s oldest friend approach you for cookies as they used too.
    Your words flow like my favourite records around me. It’s like being able to relax in safety.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  3. We stayed up late for the debate, because we had a Skype session with a friend going through a devastating loss (priorities), then watched the debate on dvr (more priorities). I think the earlier session colored our perception of the debate, since being immersed in concern for another can’t help but translate into resentment and scorn for someone lacking any sort of empathy except for the plastic concern spewed by Trump (when he’s not assaulting people with his own brand of verbal abuse). He certainly didn’t disappoint, using every question on relevant issues to attack current policies without stating his own solutions. He performed as expected. (Sorry for the rant.)

    Both concert experiences sounded wonderful. Joan Baez – what a treat!

    That looks like a nice Belgian ale, maybe a dubbel, that your husband has in the photo.

    • Thanks, Ken. DT induces rants.
      I hope your friend is OK. That is definitely a priority.
      The concerts were both great. Thanks.
      I forget what my husband ordered from the long, long list, but it was Belgian. He said it was very smooth. (He actually said, “If you liked beer, you would like this because it’s very smooth.”) He was also intrigued by a Dutch beer flavored with chili peppers, so maybe next time.

  4. This from a Marian time capsule: I joined a record club in the early 1960s and Joan Baez was among the first LPs I remembering buying – couldn’t get enough of her.

    Your Monday posts always serve up nourishment for both body and soul. Thank you!

  5. I am so happy you had your music, as well as daughter and husband.
    I know and respect these fine singing stars of light. I liked Mary Chapin Carpenter when she first started, have loved Joan Baez over the years, and I have only heard Dar Williams twice on a talk show, as a guest. All have fantastic, “legendary” voices, Merril!
    I have a 45 record of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and wish I had John Lennon’s “Imagine” but have The Beatles on Apple Record Label.
    Those Belgian frites look delicious! What kind of sauce do they serve with them? 🙂

    • We no longer have any records. Do you play 45s?
      The concerts were great. You might enjoy Dar Williams, too. Try the album “Honesty Room.”
      The Belgian frites were delicious–though a bit salty. The dip was Bourbon mayonnaise.
      Daughter and I had eggplant fries that we really liked at the World Cafe with a horseradish ranch sauce. (We had all vegetarian munchies there–seitan “wings” and black bean hummus, as well as the eggplant fries.)

      • Ooh, yummy bourbon mayonnaise sounds delectable, Merril. 🙂
        I will head to YouTube y listen to Gar Williams, Merril. She sang on a CBS Sunday Morning, but so long ago, I forget where I saw her on another guest spot. . .
        I babysat for a family in the 90’sfor a whole week to “trade” for the husband taking my cherry stained 45 player (on front of my middle school stereo) home to fix, “Orthophonic High Fidelity RCA Victor.” It only plays 45’s. Mainly Apple label Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Pat Benatar, found at a garage sale (80’s not 70’s, I think.) Johnny Cash “A Boy Named Sue,” flip side is”What Is Truth.” Oh, my Dad loved “Trailer for sale or rent. . . King of the Road!” I have one Elvis I think left, (“I Can’t Help Falling in Love.”) It has a stack of little books and an antique clock to move or I could tell you. . . I wish I had Neil Diamond! He replaced all of the others after awhile. I wrote about his 2013 or so album on CD.

      • I need to look up Dar Williams, not Gar Williams! Oops! Glad I didn’t say this wrong both comments I made.
        A really tender children’s illustrator is Garth Williams. Sweet bunnies and I think the Little House on the Prairie pictures.
        My brain waves just criss-crossed, so the care and nice to chat with you.
        I was in a bummed mood since I had purchased two tickets to Renaissance Festival and a man I have dated since May has decided that something at our work is draining our relationship, as well as silly rumors. So rare to be sitting alone, no grandchildren nor a boyfriend. Oh well!

      • So sorry to hear this, Robin. Too bad you don’t live near by, or I’d invite you over to share our nachos. 🙂
        I hope you’ll be able to go to the Renaissance Festival anyway.

  6. perfectly woven together…there is no way unfortunately for the rough beast slouching toward D.C. not to worm his way [double negative?] into our consciousness (at least this seemingly seems to be the straw that broke the beast’s back).

    first time I heard Dar Williams was driving along listening to the campus (Univ of Washington – go dawgs) radio (that is now KEPX) and heard:

    The waves are perfect and the sun will always shine
    But there’s got to be more to death than surfing all the time

    and I thought, too, “who is this person?” and then discover The Honest Room, and hear The Great Unknown that opens brilliantly:

    Once upon a time there was a nuclear family,
    And we lived in a family time,v
    And we’d unite in a family way.v
    And off the ancient mountain,
    They were splitting every nucleus.
    They said “don’t be alarmed,
    Just don’t try this at home.”
    And they were the mystery that made the world run
    And we had the power, ’cause they were the sun
    And we called them our heroes, and the future had come.
    They said,”look at the light we’re giving you,
    And the darkness we’re saving you from.”

    Soon they were bringing it into our showroom,
    And they’d unveil it with it’s title,
    Bring your family, bring your family,
    It’s the Great Unknown.
    You can look, but you can’t fathom,
    It’s the Great Unknown.

    End note: In looking up memory-refreshers on Dar, came across Dar Williams singing PIink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb with no other than Ani DiFranco. Ani is one of the great powerful voices, the one who gave the finger to the big record companies (long before the internet) and continued to publish on independent label, which consequently led them to “find” Alyson Morissette.

    • Thanks, Doug.
      I love “The Great Unknown,” and how she weaves together “nuclear family” with nuclear bombs and the Cold War. I think I quoted some of it in another post long ago. Honesty Room was the album I bought, and the station that played her songs when I first heard them, WXPN was then the University of Penn’s station.
      Dar Williams mentioned Ani DeFranco at the concert–I think that was Dar’s first big break to tour with Ani DeFranco?

  7. I love hearing about your little adventures and seeing the photographs. You have an easy, comfortable way of telling your tales — pajama stories 🙂

    “I hear a strong woman

    and I hear the other voice

    that I hope will fade like rust

    leaving only a slight orange stain…”

    I laughed so hard reading your words! Ah, Merril, you are sunshine.

  8. On YouTube I listened to “When I was a boy,” “Iowa,” “The Ocean,” and was liking her feminist anthem about Yoko Ono, telling her she should go solo. She is coming to Cleveland around my birthday so wrote the time and place, nice price and will see if younger brother, sister in law and I may go. Depends on the grandies and children who wish down here two and a half hours away from Cleveland in Delaware, Ohio. What will their plans be? 🙂

    • “When I was a Boy” was the very first song I heard of hers on the radio. Let me know if you get to see her. That was the only time I’ve seen her in concert, but she was so good-so engaging. She talked about every song. There was a special “Iowa” video at the end, so you may see that, too. And if this is part of the same tour, she will also have someone doing a “spoken word” thing first–probably a local person.

  9. Hi Merril,
    I always love reading about you and your daughters being together and how special that is. There’s a really special connection between you…the diamond. I’ve been having some moments like that with my daughter lately , especially since I started doing the adult ballet class. I am trying to do the same with my son too, especially as I know my daughter has forced him out a bit and his quota of my time, focus and affections has diminished.
    When you were talking about Trump and rust, I pictured that scene from the Wizard of Oz where they pour the bucket of water over the Wicked Witch and she shrivels up and dies. Perhaps, if someone could hose him down, he’s rust on the spot. The End.

    • Thank you, Rowena. It was fun going out with my daughter (and having our husband be the designated drivers).
      Your comment about the Wicked Witch made me laugh. If only someone could make him melt to a pile of rust!

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