On Mounting Joy (And Misery)

You, dear reader, will recall that I grew up in suburban Philadelphia (the Iowa mythology not withstanding). Valley Forge National Park is just down the hill. As a teenager, it was just a place to get stoned and make out. Now it is refuge from all that is loud, fast, and shallow.

I’ve just returned from my third run in as many days there. The cold, steady rain has broken. It’s a blustery morning. Thick gray clouds scatter the pale winter sun into distinct rays.

There are two mountains there (hills, really): Mount Joy, and Mount Misery. They are split by Valley Creek, which leads to the Schuylkill River, which leads to the Delaware, which leads to the Atlantic. Yesterday I ran along Mount Joy, over a trail of quartz shards we called The Power Trail in high school. And, because Misery must follow Joy (must follow Misery, must follow…), I tackled Mount Misery. It is a steeper run, a rockier trail covered in bramble and brush. It is no wonder Washington’s troops named it such. I reminded myself as I ran, gasping and stumbling, that it’s supposed to be difficult. It’s supposed to be miserable. As some moments in life must be. But there is always satisfaction on the other side, on the ascent.

And so I am home now, staring out at the backyard. A sole crow sits high in a bare tree. The branches stretch and sway with the late November wind. The fields are yellow and barren. The creek is swollen and muddy. Winter is here. We rest now.

I can hear my mother practicing “Hollywood Arms” on piano. She’s going to accompany me at tonight’s performance, the eighth Livingroom Tour date. Tonight also celebrates my brother’s 35th birthday. I bought him a guitar. Perhaps someday he’ll accompany me too. Or, better still, perform his own songs.

In the morning we return to New York City, where I will resume my ‘normal’ routine for a few days before heading off to Ohio and Indiana for the next four Livingroom Tour dates. And then the finale: the December 9th Sin-é CD release performance with Kevin, Jason, Todd, Tony and Leslie.

All of which is fueled by the memory of Mount Joy, the spector of Mount Misery, and the knowledge that they must exist in equal measure. Without one, there could be no appreciation of the other.

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