I don’t remember exactly how I came across the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette. I do remember looking at the track list and thinking “OK, mostly 80s music, with some baroque pieces thrown in, as well as a few tunes by new bands… It’s worth a look!”
As it turned out, the soundtrack was mostly a bust. I, of course, already owned all the 80s songs on the 2-disc album, and thanks to a “baroque phase” from a few years ago, I’m pretty much “done” with the whole pre-1750 genre. Most of the songs by “new” bands were OK, but didn’t leave much of an impression on me… most of them that is, except “Melody of a Fallen Tree” by Austin, Texas based post-rock band Windsor for the Derby. It’s one of those rare tracks that I instantly fell in love with. I threw it on my iPod Shuffle and listened to it over and over while walking, doing the dishes, etc. But my favorite story involving the song had to do with my last trip to Isle of Palms, South Carolina:
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and it was hot – not so hot that it’s not comfortable, but hot enough to remind you that you’re at the beach. Relief from the heat was provided by a constant, gentle breeze from the ocean. I was lying down on a beach towel with my back to the sand. I had my Shuffle on, but not so loud that I couldn’t hear the occasional roar of the surf or seagull overhead when the music hit a quiet point. I had been lying there for some time, and my iPod had worked its magic, randomly playing a whole bunch of tunes – mostly mellow tunes – that I wanted to hear.
You’re probably heard marijuana smokers talking about “zoning out” to a song; well, that’s exactly what I did when “Melody of a Fallen Tree” came on… only I was completely sober. I relaxed, then relaxed some more, then relaxed even more. I was completely awake and fully aware of my surroundings, yet I was so relaxed and calm that I almost feeling as if I were in a different state of existence. As the song played on, I felt my earthy cares fade away. I became fully aware of gravity pulling my back onto the sand. I could feel the existence of everything. There was everything yet nothing from the very tip of my nose, up through the sky, all the way to the very end of the Universe. I wasn’t simply a person on vacation on a beach, I was part of the everything that made up God’s creation. I felt the earth rotate through the aether, and it seemed to me that I should feel like I was on a roller coaster… but I was too calm to worry about it. I was too busy visualizing all of the uncounted trillions of atoms of everything that had made up not just me, not just the beach, not just the hotel… but all the atoms that made up Jupiter, Europa, Neptune and all the other planets outside our tiny galaxy. I saw how beautiful it was that that which made up which made the Sun and all the stars was the very same thing that made me me. Every part of me – every tiny little atom – was once nothing but dust floating through space. Though I was only 36 years old, the teeny, tiny bits of carbon that made me could have been spewed from a dying star billions of years ago and traveled across all the light years of the universe… just to make me me. And those tiny bits of carbon have been recycled over and over and over again. Perhaps one day, those bits of carbon would play a part in forming a mighty mountain. Perhaps they’d sit at the bottom of the sea for millions of years, until our Sun finally spent the last of its fuel and exploded, sending the parts of me back out into space, to float around for aeons… until those parts became someone else, somewhere else.
Right about that point – just when heaven and earth were merging into a perfectly beautiful synthesis of all things and nothing… Lisa tapped me on the shoulder.
“I’m hungry! We should get lunch.”
The beautiful moment I was enjoying – a moment that felt as if it could stretch out into infinity – suddenly came crashing down around me. I snapped at Lisa – not because I was mad at her, exactly, but because I had been ripped away from such a beautiful place. But then I thought.. “you know, a fried grouper sandwich would be good right now.”
And so I left that moment on the beach, where it will stay… forever and ever.