After reading a poem by my good friend and poet, Bethany Carrington, I was struck by the imagery of the falling snow, the grey skies, the quiet comfort of driving through the country with a friend.
Then, as this poem sat on my brain while I whittled away the moments of my day while listening to the random mix of the following songs, a story began to take shape. The story is half-formed, and the only similarity it has with my friend's poem is the image of the greyness. While her poem is comforting, this character's life is disconcerting. She is traveling where she does not wish to go. The snow, for her, is a compression, something that binds her wings, prevents her (or at least delays her) from the freedom she seeks. This character's name is Somber Grey.
I have attached here the songs that were playing as the "soundtrack" to this movie - or poem cycle - or prose-poems - whatever you want to call it. I just call them "notes" but I offer them now to whomever would like to flesh out the story a bit. I've given just the briefest glimpse into characters. I invite others to take and embellish (or even change completely) as they see fit.
Arcade Fire – Half Light I
Her name is Summer Grey. She’s 16 years old but hasn’t started driving yet. She has “changed” her name to Somber Grey, because that’s more in line with how she feels.
Tenth Avenue North – Times
Scene of driving through the wintry landscape. Somber in the back seat with her younger brothers, 14 and 8 years old. We see this through her headphones, we see them talking, the younger bouncing up and down in his seat, obviously irritating the older brother. We also see the mom in the passenger seat, her head leaning against the window. There is a tension between her and the father. If they speak, it is terse and brief.
Thelonious Monk – In a Walled Bed
Driving up to the to the house - they're spending Christmas with family who live in a suburb outside
of Chicago. She hardly knows them, but her parents keep in close contact. Since it is a long drive, the plan is to sleep over the night at the house and drive home in the morning, something of which Somber Grey is less than thrilled.
The Cure – It’s Over
meeting her cousins – all of them are younger, one boy in between the ages of her two brothers, and one girl, around 5 or 6
Nina Presson – Black Winged Bird
Meeting her grandfather, who lives with the aunt and uncle, because he cannot live on his own. He’s not very mobile, mainly sits in the chair, and is generally curmudgeonly.
Thenewno2 – Shelter
During the waning afternoon, the cousins and her brothers want her to go outside and play with them in the snow. She doesn’t want to. They go out to have fun.
Talking Heads – I’m Not in Love
(don't know what happens here)
Wailin’ Jennys – Storm Comin’
Somber walks into the kitchen, sees her father and her aunt. Her father’s back is toward her at the door, and her aunt is standing behind her father. Somber can barely see her around the wide expanse of his back and shoulders. The aunt, sensing someone has come into the room, looks around the shoulder to see Somber, and then turns away, wiping tears from her eyes.
Somber’s dad turns around to see her. His face is stern, like stone. He walks past her, brusquely, toward the other room.
Third Day – Movin’ on Up
Somber goes out of the room and gets her brothers and cousins together to go out for a snowball fight and sliding on the ice that has blanketed the street. This is a joyous scene, full of fun that only kids can have, rambunctiously bumping around in the ice and snow. Somber is determined to have some sort of fun in this scene. This is the only time we actually see her smile, and she has a beautiful smile. Even though she has forced some happiness into this day, still, she is happy for this brief moment.
Beltuner – Tikai Chaj
Aunt sets the table, and this scene is one in which all the adults are trying their best to have a “normal” Christmas dinner. The aunt and the mom move around each other, helping each other bring in the dishes, yet they move as though they are two boxers in the ring, circling each other, waiting for an opening to take a jab.
Keane – Sea Fog
Granpa takes call from either old army buddy or from a prodigal son. Image of him laughing, for the first time that day.
“river rolls the stone and it’s rolling me” is the line that really makes Somber Grey feel a part of this house, just like the apple that was embedded in the shell of Gregor Samsa in “The Metamorphosis” that’s how she feels here : like a stone embedded in the walls, and if she stays, eventually she will rot the entire foundation.
Ricardo Arjona – Piel Pecado
(again, don't know what happens here)
Wailin’ Jennys – Bird Song
?? - Auld Triangle (by the way I don't know the artist to this version. The Pogues do an excellent version, and even Brendan Behan - the poet who wrote it - sings it a-capella, which is grand. However, this version is more melodic than the other two versions, and better fits the tone that I envision for this scene. It's more mellow, more somnambulent . . .)
While everybody is winding down – the kids playing with their presents, and the parents sharing drinks, Somber steps out again into the night. She looks up into the cloud-covered sky as though looking for stars, almost willing them to break through the clouds to shine a little light, however slight, down onto this street.
Wailin’ Jennys – Asleep at Last
Somber looks in on her brothers and boy cousins, who have finally crashed. She watches her youngest brother, still restless, even in his sleep. That boy never stops moving. She goes back into the room she will share with the girl cousin. She watches her breathing. We see Somber watch the girl and in this scene we get a glimpse of Somber in the future, when she will be a mother, carefully watching over her children as they sleep, and then, and only then, she will be able to rest, knowing that the children are safe.
Tears for Fears – Song of Sorrow
Somber has a dream, and in the dream we suddenly are bathed in color. As the rest of the scenes have been shadowy, either grey or sepia-toned, this scene is a bright splash of various incandescent colors, almost like Technicolor films. She dreams of flying through the bright blue sky, over clouds that are flecked with gold light, reflecting and shining. She dips down through open fields, emerald grass, flanked by trees of kaleidoscopic colors, rotating and vibrating. Everything is alive, everything is moving.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Morning – breakfast – strangely, things are lighter today, happier. Somber’s mom and dad seem to have reconciled something. His hand lightly on her waist, with a gentleness we have not seen before. Even the two women seem to have a better relationship. Somber’s uncle seems to be more relaxed, and Grandpa is still blissfully happy, still talking about his old army stories that he had recounted with his old army buddy the night before.
Wailin’ Jennys – The Last Goodbye
Driving away - the mood in the car has changed. Or maybe it hasn't. You tell me.