The most familiar things that oughtn’t be.


A memory:

When I was very little, I lived in this house. I still know the entire layout of the place like the back of my hand. The outside was made of old, weathered wood with the paint coming off. But the most interesting part about it was that on the upstairs floor, there was a part of the house that went over the road to a part of the house that we mostly used as a storage shed.

It’s more familiar to me than anywhere else. Just thinking about the house and its surroundings (it was pretty isolated) makes me feel an intensity and familiarity so strong I can barely stand it. If I ever become good at realistic drawing or painting, I badly want to make pictures of it. 

And as far as I know, the house never existed. I dreamed about it a couple years ago during a severe illness I was hospitalized for because among other things I couldn’t keep down my seizure meds. My only guess is that it combined the intensity of a fever dream with the overbearing familiarity-sense of a temporal lobe seizure. But it’s etched itself into my brain so thoroughly that it feels more familiar than the two houses I lived in during the ages in question. It hurts that I can’t ever go back.

The house isn’t the only thing I “remember”. The surrounding hills were amazing. They had rich deeply dark-colored dirt with white specks. Only the dirt wasn’t brown. On some hills it was black and on others it was a very dark violet.  There was also a wooded area a short ways away where the dirt was a more normal reddish-brown color, where my father used to walk with me (except he didn’t). All of this is saturated with a deep dark rich familiarity. 

Why am I talking about this?  Because there are other things, real things, that elicit the same sense of familiarity and “known it since forever” even if I haven’t. And the music of the Raventones (with an autistic singer/bassist/etc. at that!) is one of those things. I tried to trace it back to real music I heard back then, and got a partial match (not one most people can even hear, so it’s a very poor match), but not enough of one to justify the intensity of this feeling. The singer does live in a part of Oregon that my family has ties to, but I’ve never personally been there (that I know of) so it’s not that. 

A warning before I continue:  I’m not a music critic, not a connoisseur of any kind of music, not an expert, and I have never been able to keep straight the names for any of the particular styles, compare obscure bands, or anything like that. If you’re expecting that, go somewhere else. All I know is how different music makes me feel and that’s all I’m going to write about. 

Anyway, listening to their music is like… there’s the intense familiarity telling me I’ve heard this since before I was born (even though I haven’t), and there’s the multilayered synesthesia wrapping around me in visual and tactile ways. And then there’s all kinds of, I’d almost call them emotional landscapes. And those fill the moving-through-space parts of my head with great depth and intensity. 

And the experience is just more complete than ever happens to me when listening to music otherwise. There’s music that does some of these things to me, but never all at once in a way that’s actually harmonious between each other. And, a rarity even with music I enjoy, the sound frequencies are all ones that don’t ever make me want to cover my ears, not unless I’m reacting that way to all sound. If I had to pick one set of music for a soundtrack to my life or something, this is the music I’d pick. Not because of the lyrics or the fact that one of the musicians is autistic (I know lots of autistic musicians and no others affect me this way, although some do affect me deeply in other ways), just because the sound resonates perfectly on an emotional level. 

I have no clue if it would have this effect on others of course. So many of these things are personal. It’s not a reaction to the lyrics, which I rarely bother to listen to much, and when I do I can’t make out all of them and they’re not online. It’s not the style, which I don’t normally react to any particular way. It’s just a sense, that resonance that I can’t get rid of. 

Anyway, their album “odd birds” is available online a bunch of places, should anyone be curious about listening to them. The singer/bassist/etc. TR Kelley has music other places, but I haven’t been able to get it to download yet (they say they’re working on it). All of this is on the Raventones website

I listen to them any time I want to be completely wrapped in familiarity and, if not exactly safety, at least some sort of sanctuary where things make sense, not because they’ve been puzzled out by my mind, but sense as in sensual, and as in the parts of me that just feel when something’s right. And with this, every inch of it feels right on every level. 

If I don’t get the post out that I’m planning, this one could do for the next blog carnival. It’s not what I intend for it though. I’m just having trouble writing the other one, while this one wrote itself unbidden. (This keeps happening. And I have so many important things I’m trying to say. Not that this part of life isn’t important. But still, this keeps happening.  And it keeps being “the writing quality that pops out is all you’re gonna get” too, since I can’t actually read it well enough.) 


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died in 2014 and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

4 responses »

  1. The Raventones’ sound reminds me of the folk-pop music my father loved (James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel) crossed with my mother’s lite FM (Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie).

    What do you think of Vic Chesnutt? I like his music a lot but it’s more oriented toward lyrics than atmosphere. Maybe “atmosphere” is not the right word because it’s still very important in his songs…I suppose I mean less acoustic.

  2. Your description of the house is so beautiful, I love your description of the soils in the hills around the imaginary? house. Hard to believe it is not a real place.

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