Author: Robert Force
Date/Studio: 2013 Synergy, Port Townsend, WA
Engineer: Neville Pearsall
Producer: Robert Force
Original Release: Did You (BSR151)
Current Release: Did You (BSR151)
About the time I was turning 60 my attention turned to taking stock of what I had done in this life. I had just outlived my father's age when he had passed. Things like that have a way of flashing on and off as milestones and can't be ignored. That's OK because I'm a person who thinks about these things. What was important? This song addresses that. I began asking myself the question, “Did you...?”
What eventually became the chorus laid the groundwork. Did I go where I wanted to go and do those things I wanted to do? Did I at last find love? Was that love returned? Did I have the opportunity to be the person I thought I was going to be? Did I do so in a way that had me reach out to my dreams? And after all that, was I content? Had I come to know myself?
Like a lot of my songs the theme sort of crashes around in my head for years as I pick at the threads of memory and circumstance that help me identify what is the song. What are the words, the images that faithfully and truthfully say what's important? What were these revelations and epiphanies that were turning points in my life-- those places, circumstances, people that shaped me.
I was in San José Del Cabo, Mexico with Janette and our close friends, Jim and Mary Daubenberger. On the tip of Baja California the sun rises over the sea and the sky is pink and hazy before it gives way to the startling blue that is there all day long. From our balcony you could see the brown pelicans in long lines swooping over the waves just off of the beach. There were the first lines of the song.
Later that day we were hiking along the empty, pristine beaches on the east side of the cape. Not a house or another person was in sight. The three of them kept going south as I went north to investigate a small tip of beach that was jutting out into the ocean. When I got there and looked back I could see where the waves had washed out some of my meandering footsteps. I went back to rejoin the group, kissing Janette when I got there. (She will always be my young bride.)
The song had now taken the form it was to be-- a literal explanation of important things. No metaphors. It was important that I had read to my children every night when they were growing up and that I would always would peek in on them after they had fallen asleep. In that glimpsed moment the enormity of unconditional love becomes very real.
The passing of my best friend Albert was another. I played all of our tunes for him as he lay in the hospital, painfully wasting away from a terrible disease. The drugs kept him drifting in and out. He couldn't speak. At one point I had to know if he was still there. I asked him if he minded my playing music. He said, the last words he was to speak, “I can think of no greater honor.” I looked into his eyes and knew it would be alright. He died two days later. Eventually, I had to move on with my life.
What else? How about the really big things? To find yourself standing humbled before creation, to know the exultation of praise for this precious life that is at once fragile and fearful and wonderful, to know that it is important to make peace with one's own passing before the time comes-- these are the eternal questions.
For part of the last verse I borrowed from Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson, a boyhood hero of mine whose books and poetry definitely had a hand in shaping the man I was to become. Yet, as I spun exalted under that starry sky, I still needed a closing line. Since I was already borrowing I found part of that in Psalm 139. One final question still needed to be answered. So I asked that question, too. Was any of the path of my life something I would trade for something else?