Lovely Update Below!
Things I don’t know:
I don’t know composer and colleague Mary Grigolia, although I feel like I should.
I don’t know when I learned this, but it was sometime between the Louisville General Assembly (summer 2013) and the Florida Chapter UUMA retreat (spring 2015).
I don’t know why I never heard it or sang it before then, because everyone else seems to have this in their bones.
I don’t really know what it means.
I know this rose will open.
I know my fear will burn away.
I know my soul will unfurl its wings.
I know this rose will open.
Honestly. Maybe it’s the gloom of a stormy autumn morning, or the restless sleep, or the metaphorical neurons taking a holiday, but I’m really not sure what this is about. There’s an unspoken ‘when x happens’ at the end of each lines and I am unclear what the next part of that sentence is.
It’s a gorgeous piece, made more gorgeous by gentle improvisation that comes from sitting around a circle with Jason Shelton and Amy Carol Webb on a quiet evening.
But I’m finding it lyrically baffling.
And I think that’s okay.
October 31: Jed Levine introduced me to Mary Grigolia shortly after reading this post and in our exchanges she lovingly shared the origin of this song with me:
I wrote this song when I was in seminary, taking a class on death and dying. Our assignment was to write our eulogy, which of course means the good words we’d like to remain of our lives. I thought and thought of what to say, what not to say. And decided that as a songwriter, I needed to say it in music.
After I decided “I” would write a song for my project/paper, I set the perfect ambiance: prepared a tray with journal and pen, tea and healthy snacks, went outside into the perfect afternoon, to sit under they Meyer lemon tree in my back yard, ready for and courting inspiration. I spent several hours journaling and grateful for the beauty of the afternoon. And no music came. None. Not a note. And I realized the hubris of the ego saying it would write the song. Scooping up everything, accepting the folly of my presumption, as I was balancing the tray, coming through the door (yes, a literally liminal experience), I realized I was singing something under my breath. And it was the whole round. Complete.
What I take from the experience is the great responsiveness of the Universe/Spirit/Deep and Creative Self, when we allow ourselves to be present, to listen, to sing along, but not to assume we can control its scope or view.
I Know This Rose is the answer to my invitation (to the deep Self). The way I hear/feel it, I am the rose; opening is in my nature. Even when it comes time to let go of this body practice, I know this rose will open.
And although I may feel afraid of the changes, afraid of the unknown I can’t control, afraid of allowing the ego to follow the calling of something deeper, I know those fears will burn away (in the fire of transformation, this very physical practice of loving and living and letting go).
And as my fear burns away, I know, I trust that the wings of my heart, my soul, will unfurl their (my) wings.
Yes, I know this rose will open. I am the rose. We are all the rose. Opening.
May we all trust in the opening!
I was friends with Mary when she wrote this song as a Starr King Student. We sang it all the time. Her work is very accessible — rounds and simple songs for many occasions. Once she stayed in my cottage in Berkeley while I was away and she needed a place to stay. In thanks, she wrote some songs to lyrics of my choice; I chose the writings of Howard Thurman for inspiration, and some mighty fine songs came out of that effort. She has a couple of spiral-bound song books (I think they are titled “Between the Lines,” but I could be wrong about that) that should be in the library of every music director.
[…] Note: There’s a lovely piece from Mary Grigolia about her song I Know This Rose Will Open, from an email exchange we had, about the origins and meaning of that song. After you read this, go […]
Oh wow that choked me up. Thanks so much for this update. It really means a lot to me, especially because I’m taking a class on death and dying next semester.