Writing “Shiver”

I was born to David Wagner and Mary Catherine Bolster 31-years-ago today in Iowa City, Iowa. They were 25. I was induced on a Friday, and born on a Saturday morning at 12:51 a.m. Sunday afternoon, my father left for Waldorf, Maryland, to begin teaching chemistry at the local community college. My mother, brother and I would join him some three weeks later.

This birthday finds me a little groggy, unshaven and sunburned from the long weekend in Nantucket. It’s a magical place, there on the edge of the Atlantic. The fog rolls over ever-shifting shades of green beach grass set off against the silver-blue sea. At night, it is only crickets and the pounding surf just over the dunes. It washes everything away so quickly, so completely.

We had a birthday BBQ Monday night amidst a torrential downpour. Despite the blowing sheets of rain, despite the lightening and thunder, Mr. Rogers, our neighbor in Madaket, joined us for desert, and a verse of “Happy Birthday.” I told him that I think of what we talked about last year: that popular culture is full of things that are shallow and complex, and that we need more things that are deep and simple. “Deep and simple is what’s going to save us,” he said. We talked about being an appreciator instead of a judger. We talked a little about September 11th. And then he was off into the stormy night, navy blue Keds and all.

All that time and space and quiet had me considering some Big Questions. Like what am I doing with my life? What am I doing with my music career? At the MTV? What’s next? Mortgages, 401ks, marriage, kids… Like I said, Big Questions. And I’m not sure what is next, or what the answers to those Questions are. But I know I’m not a kid anymore. This is it, prime time. It’s pretty exciting, really. And maybe just a little scary.

Anyway, I wrote a “keeper” Monday morning after a long run in the rain. It’s called “Shiver,” and it’s a different kind of song for me in some ways. I was thinking about so many things at once, everything jumbled in my head: about my cousin’s impending divorce, the nature of relationship, of how two people build something together new and different than they individually planned for themselves. I imagined the song from a woman’s point of view. A woman who lived somewhere in the Midwest, like Kansas. A woman who has lived with something, or nothing, for a long time, just waiting for it to change. But it doesn’t. And so she’s decides to leave (but probably doesn’t).

Anyway, it’s called “Shiver.”

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