November 17, 2019

Greatest Songs of My Lifetime: All Borders Vanish Here

A road to Pienza

Greatest Songs of My Lifetime: All Borders Vanish Here

Our recent travels brought to mind one of my favorite songs of all time, from one of the best singer-songwriters around.

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 2012 album Ashes And Roses is a masterpiece I return to time and time again. She released this album after a time of great change, grief, and turmoil in her life, and every song reflects upon loss, what keeps us going, and journey we are all on together — whether we know it or not.

The first cut, Transcendental Reunion, tells of a gentle airport epiphany MCC had about the invisible bonds that connect us as we scurry about, pass each other unnoticed, wait in line together, pursue our affairs, and pray for traveling mercies. I’ve not found a better description of our common humanity than this verse:

We are travelers traveling
We are gypsies together
We’re philosophers gathering
We are business or pleasure
We are going or coming
We’re just finding our way
To the next destination
And from night into day

From twenty thousand feet high
I saw the lights below me
Twinkling just like Christmas
We descended slowly
And the curve of the world passed
With all of that flying
Above the mighty ocean
And now we all are arriving

Grab the carry-on baggage
Join the herd for the mad run
Take a place in the long line
Where does every one come from?
As we shuffle on forward
As we wait for inspection
Don’t be holding that line up
At the end lies redemption
Oh oh, hey hey, ah ah

Now I’m stamped and I’m waved through
I take up my position
At the mouth of the cannon
Saying prayers of contrition
Please deliver my suitcase
From all mischief and peril
Now the sight of it circling
Is a hymn to the faithful

Forgive me my staring
For my unconcealed envy
In the hall of arrivals
Where the great river empties
It’s handcarts and porters
All the people it carries
To be greeted with flowers
Grandfathers and babies
Oh oh, hey hey, ah ah

There is no one to meet me
Yet I’m all but surrounded
By the tears and embracing
By the joy unbounded
The friends and relations
Leaping over hemispheres
Transcendental reunion
All borders vanish here

We are travelers traveling
We are gypsies together
We’re philosophers gathering
We are business or pleasure
We are going or coming
We’re just finding our way
To the next destination
And from night into day
Oh oh, hey hey, ah ah,
Oh oh, hey hey, ah ah

In a giant bird’s belly
I flew over the ocean
From twenty thousand feet high
How those lights were glowing

Transcendental Reunion lyrics © Mary Chapin Carpenter Dba Why Walk Music

Comments

  1. senecagriggs says

    Me ‘n Benny singing at the top of our lungs during Biola weekly chapel – Like a River Glorious.

    Neither Me nor Benny survived our Freshman year.

  2. Being a bit older than you (I’ll be 79 in March), I know who Mary Chapin Carpenter is but I never listened to her music that I know of and I haven’t listened to popular music at all in years and years. Still, her lyrics seemed strangely familiar to me, perhaps because they reminded me of a poem I wrote 35 years ago when I did quite a bit of traveling for business. I’m more mellow now than I was then. Thank you for introducing me to her song.

    Intrusions
    by Robert Henry Brague

    Sitting in bleachers at the high school gymnasium,
    surrounded by parents and other fanatics,
    suddenly
    emptiness,
    anguish,
    despair.

    Standing at curbside with other mute strangers,
    waiting obediently in wind-battered silence
    to resume separate journeys
    as soon as the traffic light
    grants its permission,
    suddenly
    loneliness,
    bitterness,
    loss.

    Lying on blankets of uncertain vintage
    (the color of armies) near the brook in the park,
    watching the desperate joggers
    race incessantly in cool autumn sunshine
    only to be passed
    by their afternoon shadows,
    suddenly
    hatred,
    self-loathing,
    contempt.

    Circling in airplanes over night-fondled cities
    (pinpricks of light, reflection of stars),
    emerging unscathed from
    mazes of concourses strangely familiar,
    detained once again
    by reluctant luggage,
    suddenly
    rage
    at a world
    going mad.