Let the Children Play

Children need to play. Playtime is so important and is something that is not fully appreciated. I taught music full-time at a local non-profit preschool for two years and the most valuable thing we did was play. Play could mean dancing to 80’s disco hits, shaking egg shakers, or pretending to be different animals making various animal noises. Or play could simply be running around outside in the playground, engaging in make-believe stories, splashing water, rolling down a hill. Really…it’s so essential to allow the imagination and creativity to blossom freely and take on a life of its own.

One day last year, I had just read an article about quantum theory and time, talking about how all we really have is the present time, meaning there is no trail of time that exists behind us and no road of time ahead of us to walk down. There is just, and has always been just, the present.
Children have that magic quality that allows them to fully embrace that concept. There will be plenty of time later in life to worry about the future, or reminisce about the past…but right now, the ability to play is the ability to live in the moment. iPads, iPhones, and other electronic devices can wait for a later day. 

As I sat down in the play yard, watching the children play, I began to formulate an idea for a song, about how all we have is the present moment.  Not long after, within a matter of days and weeks, more songs came into my head. Almost all of them, I thought of while I sat and watched the children playing. Children possess a special kind of innocence that is so often lost or becomes clouded over when they become adults. They have that ability to love just for the sake of loving, love that wants nothing in return.  

Before long, I had written 10 songs in just under 3 months, and was soon in the studio, recording what would be my 4th CD, Beautiful Things. I am quite sure that the innocence and beauty of those children are somehow captured in those songs. Along with the inspiration I get from the mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, and waterfalls. Central Oregon I find exceedingly beautiful and grounding. The most beautiful things of all though, are what we feel in our hearts.

The song below, I wrote roughly 20 years ago. It is about a little girl, a prodigy, who isn’t given that opportunity to play. Maybe all she really wants to do is to run in a circle, and fall to the ground…

Prodigy

(c)1996 Victor Johnson

Watch her fingers run
She plays for everyone
A child prodigy
So fine and so free
She’s traveled far
In planes and big cars
So famous she will be
But she is only three

Chorus:
She won’t get to play with the children today
She must practice hard so she can go to Julliard
And she plays for big crowds
But she is not allowed
To play with her friends
For her practice begins
And it never ends

And if she were free
She would go out on her own
To feel the wind
To make her head spin
To run in a circle
To fall to the ground
Around, around
Round, around

girl-playing-piano

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Sept 10, 2001

Fifteen years ago, I had flown to New England for a weekend of celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell with friends from friends from far and wide. It was an incredible weekend, with lot of music, and little sleep.

On Sept 3, I boarded the plane to fly back to Atlanta from Boston. I was in a pretty good mood already. But I remember the flight being just spectacular. For some reason, the clouds just seemed more heavenly than usual, and the sky was just completely beautiful and breathtaking. I wrote down a few lines, with the idea of a song, about my lovely flight home.

On Sept 10, I finally sat down in Athens, and wrote a song called “Parsonage Lane” with an unusual tuning that I found hauntingly beautiful. I haven’t used many unusual tunings but it felt just right for this song.

“Flying out of Boston
Lifting off the ground
On a highway paved with clouds
Where do they go
Wind around tall white castles
Valleys long and vast
They seem to go on forever
Today.”

began the song.

“Yet I know I must soon go
To wander among the clouds
Where the roads go on forever
They always take me home”

the last verse read.

The song was finished so I posted the lyrics to the Joni Mitchell Discussion Group I belong to that evening, feeling very elated. I had captured the beauty of that flight and the weekend.

The next morning was Sept 11, 2001. I was actually clued in by someone on that email group, from Ireland to turn on the tv. I was horrified, along with everyone else, and spent the day in a daze. And for several months, I was haunted by the fact, I had just written this beautiful song about flying home, and the very next day, the complete opposite had happened. The last verse in particular stuck with me, how the roads among the clouds “always take me home”. Only this time they didn’t. Perhaps it was the last song about flying, ever written before the 9/11 attack? Maybe an intuition, to capture the beauty of being in a plane, before it was utterly, irrevocably lost?

In the past couple of years, I have written several songs to honor the victims of tragedy, with the intent to capture their beauty in a song, beauty that shines even after they are gone. I think that was the purpose of this song as well. To capture that innocence and beauty. In contrast to the destruction that took place the following day.

In 2002, I spent the better part of the year recording the CD, Parsonage Lane, engineered and produced by Chris Rosser in Asheville, NC, with this song as the title track. You can hear “Parsonage Lane” below.

Listen here:https://www.reverbnation.com/vict…/…/26626654-parsonage-lane

clouds-from-sky