A series of rivers, Headwaters is centered on the fluidity of time. After a year where time has seemed to ebb and flow inconsistently and all routine has been dismantled, I found myself writing in the medium of water.
Headwaters are the source of a river. The furthest point from where water merges with something else. They are not mighty. Just a network of small tributaries, like a creek, not necessarily picturesque, but they’re the most important part of the river. Water is fluid and inconsistent and sacred and indifferent. You can be miles down a river, but you’re still at the origin. And in that way, water feels like it has transcended time. That’s how these songs found me—the same way memories do, in that slivering, elusive water. As quickly as you come across them, you bend in another direction.
When I was sitting alone in my room in the southern summer heat, windows open, humidity fuming, a song called Human poured out of me. It was August, and all summer there had been such a tremendous sense of humanity, revolution, justice coming up against division, misinformation, fear. Like most regular, feeling people, I had such a strange mixture of emotions: grief, excitement; solidarity with the ways people across the world were showing up to love and support one another. I wanted so badly to run outside and be a part of it all, right then and there in that moment. But I was stuck at home. And in that strange swelling of simultaneous loss and the richness of witnessing so much kindness, I remember laying on the bed with the guitar, staring at the ceiling, and just singing “I wanna go downtown and look some stranger in the face.” I would be happy to see anyone. I just really want to hug someone. To jump into some icy swimming hole. To feel the surge of aliveness. And I felt so imperfect and raw, but I knew so did everyone else.
When I was thinking of migrant families at our border, I thought of the power of the Rio Grande, the absurdity of things like walls in the presence of the glittering, snaking Texas landscape. I thought of the man I saw sitting across the river in Mexico, gently carving a piece of wood, a red dragonfly perched upon a cottonwood limb, all of us taking a break from the heat at the river. I thought, if there is any symbol that can transcend the brokenness and hatefulness, it is this. The common power of water.
When I turned 27 and felt the weight of a decade in a conversation, I envisioned my present and past self in the form of a frenetic, uneasy current slapping up against a steady boat. I imagined my great grandparents in their garden in the golden embers of some evening and the timeless sensation of change, the colorful sunsets I’ve seen through their own eyes, decades later.
And in the same way I found the songs, waves breaking against my own roughness, only visitors, I’m passing them on to you now. May all of your rivers come back headwaters.