In advance of CONvergence this year, I actually managed to put all of our CVG performance from the previous year on YouTube, and it seems to offer a nice opportunity to talk about various songs and what they mean and where they originated. So I’m going to go through the performance each week for a while (excluding “Ode to Fanfiction” just because I’ve posted about it before) and give you the author’s notes about the songs we perform.
“Trial by Fire” was actually written in October 2002. Sarah wrote the vast majority of it sitting on my dorm room bed while I did homework in my sophomore year of college (she was a junior). The song went through a few relatively tiny revisions over the years, mostly because I’m really picky. We’d be singing it and I’d stop mid-word and look up at her and say, “I think that line/word/phrase is dumb. Can we do better?” and she would sigh and then we’d fix it. But, really, 80% of this song came out of Sarah’s brain.
That fall, she and I spent a lot of time taking walks out in the woods behind our college, particularly late at night. We were both working through a lot of emotional growth at the time, and so many nights the dorms just felt closed and airless. When we were out there with the wind and cold and stars and sometimes thunderstorms because why the hell not, it was like the world stood still and gave us time to breathe. Gave us time to remember what was real and what wasn’t. It also gave us time to talk, to lean on one another without wondering who was listening to what through the thin rooms of my single or whether or not a roommate would return to Sarah’s triple.
My favorite line of the whole song is one I added a year later: “Never thought that I’d fit my skin.” Because that’s the transformation I needed to make at that time. I needed to figure out who I was and then learn to be that person. I had been a person defined by everyone else, it seemed, a person who existed only in relation to others. I think it’s that way for most kids growing up. You’re “so-and-so’s kid” or “so-and-so’s sibling” and what YOU are is still nebulous and uncertain. And I learned that I didn’t want to be a person who made even one choice about myself based on anyone but me. I learned that I didn’t give the slightest of damns for what other people thought or felt or feared or cared. I learned that the person inside my skin was mine and mine alone, and I needed to embrace her. Weaknesses and failures alike with strengths and successes. I needed to be the person screaming from inside, or die trying. So I did.
The bit about “the wolf and the tiger” is a nod to how we and our whole group of friends claimed an animal avatar for ourselves, kinda like how people pick their patronus as a meme (though this was before Harry Potter really hit full cultural saturation). We all claimed two animals — one real and one fantasy/mythological. Sarah has always been a wolf, and I am and always have been a tiger.
Anyway, for two years we pretty much went out at least once a week on nights it wasn’t -40 degrees (thanks Minnesota!) and just let ourselves run free — metaphysically. Those walks, those discussions, those moments in the quiet dark, they helped us with the tough times in college and to step forward to become the people we were choosing to be. We faced the dark, faced the fear, and won.
The one CD Sarah and I ever managed to release is just 4 tracks, and this is one of them. That album is named “Fire on the Hill” for this song.
Also, in the live CONvergence version, we are joined by our friend Dave Stagner, who helped record and produce that album, and who plays an AWESOME electric guitar with us when we’re in the same place at the same time. He’ll sneak onto other tracks from that performance, and I love what he adds to our music!
*Please note that this entry has been backdated. Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds. So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here. Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!