Stuff (and Amanda McBroom’s Blessing)


Recently we experienced the warmest February day ever recorded in Boston according to a radio announcer on WBUR.


In the short run, I am very grateful for this lovely respite from wintry weather.

In the long run, however, I wonder what’s going on with the larger weather patterns and ocean temperatures on planet earth?

Our opposable thumbs — and seemingly insatiable desire for novelty and innovation — have helped us to create all sorts of stuff.

And much of what we have created needs power from fossil fuels (in the form of electricity, for example) to function or is actually made from fossil fuels outright in the case of plastic.

Plastic wrap. Plastic toothbrushes. Plastic containers to store leftovers. Plastic bags. Plastic bumpers on cars (one of which my sister’s dog was able to chew into pieces when he thought a small animal was hiding under it!)

Plastic plates. Plastic silverware. Plastic cups. Plastic shower curtains. Plastic bowls. Plastic bottles filled with water and laundry detergent and shampoo and apple cider.

Plastic dispensers for easy-gliding floss (which is itself made out of plastic). Plastic souvenir tchotchkes. Plastic electronic devices. Plastic credit cards.

The list goes on and on.

Today I listened to a news story about an area in Texas where we human beings have been extracting oil and gas for the past hundred years.

We’ve been blessed with an inheritance of solar energy accumulated by plants growing on planet earth for millions of years — and we are withdrawing it — and spending it — in the blink of a cosmic eye.

What an amazing inheritance!

Why are we squandering it to manufacture and then purchase stuff that doesn’t usually make us feel any better after the initial thrill of acquisition subsides?

Stuff that won’t decompose for hundreds of years — thus contaminating and altering all sorts of natural processes and feedback loops on land and in our lakes and rivers and streams and oceans.

Why have we not been taught to weigh the long-term consequences of our manufacturing and consumer choices?

I sometimes wonder what an economy would look and feel like which actually honored the long-term costs and consequences of fossil fuel-driven lives on the larger ecosystems which sustain the amazing, interconnected web of life on planet earth…

I am guessing it would be simpler and slower.

It was a growing awareness of all the stuff in my life which inspired me to write lyrics for a melody by Steve Sweeting many years ago which became the song “Stuff.”

I was visiting dear friends who had moved into a large new home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle — and reflecting upon the pros and cons of our very blessed — and privileged — lives.

Two years ago Steve and I recorded “Stuff” for a CD of his songs called Blame Those Gershwins.

I recently sent a copy of it to Amanda McBroom.

She is a songwriter and singer and teacher whom I met when I participated in a week-long cabaret conference at Yale.

I  — and many of my singing peers — love to perform her songs, the most famous of which is probably “The Rose,” which she wrote for the movie starring Bette Midler.

She has recently finished a new CD of her latest batch of songs called Voices.

I guessed that she might be sick of listening to herself (which one ends up doing over and over and over again when one is recording and mixing and mastering a CD) and open to the possibility of hearing something new.

And, bless her, I was right.

Here’s what she wrote back after listening to Steve’s CD:

“Thank you so much for sending the lovely CD!  It was such joy to hear your voice again. AND to listen to something that wasn’t ME for a change!

The songs are terrific. Your performances are nuanced and touching and lovely.

My very favorite is STUFF.

I think I have to have it.

Feels like it would something perfect for me to put in my repertoire if your friend is willing to share.”

Needless to say I was astounded and excited and humbled that she had made time to listen to the CD, that she liked Steve’s songs, and that she liked one of the songs to which I had contributed lyrics well enough that she might end up adding it to her repertoire!

Deep breath in…

Deep breath out…

It’s funny how something as simple as someone asking for the sheet music for a song I have co-written gives me a renewed sense of validation and encouragement to continue on my (still extremely humble) path as a songwriter.

Maybe it’s another example of the power of feedback loops — in this case feedback that Amanda found the melody and chords and ideas and arrangement of “Stuff” compelling enough that she might want to learn it and then share it with others.

Another deep breath in…

And another deep breath out…

Despite all of the larger patterns of disrespect and dishonesty and disbelief which are rippling around our country and around the planet these days, I will continue to count my blessings, continue to reduce my ecological footprint, and continue to sing — and sometimes write — songs.

Thank you, as usual, to Pixabay for the lovely images in this post.

Thank you to Steve Sweeting for entrusting his melodies to me.

Thank you to Amanda McBroom, for making time in her complicated life to listen to Steve’s CD AND then to send such uplifting feedback to us.

And thank you to YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

PS: I hope you noticed the irony of me ranting about all the plastic junk we human beings create and buy and sell on planet earth and then agreeing to make a CD recording of Steve’s songs — thus creating 250 shiny, round, flat pieces of plastic which will be obsolete junk within another decade or so…

Yet another deep breath in…

And deep breath out…

23 thoughts on “Stuff (and Amanda McBroom’s Blessing)

  1. Will, I find a karmic beauty in this peace and it is so well deserved. Please let us know if Amanda performs or records your song. Peace and love, and please, take my stuff!

  2. I haven’t listened to the song yet because my husband is still asleep in a very quiet house–but I WILL listen! I’m so pleased for you that you got such amazing feedback and support, just when you needed it most. There are so many things to worry about right now (not the least of which is the blizzard bearing down on us all!)–we all need our creative outlets to soothe us and remind us of the good . . .

    • Yes. Today we are experiencing a lot of snow and wind here in the Boston area. And our news outlets (and the fundraising staffs of our elected officials!) are dedicated to sharing what is most alarming, disturbing and scary (“if it bleeds, it leads…”) in order to generate ratings and raise money. So I agree with you that we need to find/make time in our daily lives for activities which “remind us of the good!” Music and art can definitely serve that blessed function. THANK YOU for reading and listening (once your husband wakes up!)

  3. I suspect that environmentalists who approach perfection may be neglecting other things that are equally important. At least you are aware that CDs have an environmental impact. If we all become more aware and compensate in small ways for certain things we value that play some role in global warming, it will add up to a better world,

  4. The plastics that we routinely use also include medical devices & petroleum based products also are in every process that brings things to our communities. We have a responsibility to teach and model conservation, repurposing, and living and loving the natural world. I try to carpool, and not buy thing s that would fill landfills. Sometimes going back to the primeval is hard to model for those who have the toys as it is for the developing world have lived that way for a very long time.

    • Yes, indeed. Our health care industry uses an extraordinary amount of disposable plastic stuff… That will be a particularly challenging habit to break/shift/replace!

  5. great post – the audio is a great addition 🙂 all my same qualms – beautiful days now always have bit of worry over global warming. am heartened, however, that even the sorts of people who never before seemed to care are starting to care…

  6. I really like this song. And the rendition in the recording. I can also hear it in Amanda McBroom’s voice. Yes! So nice to get really great feedback on the long journey. And thanks for liking my comment on Jan’s site–or it would have taken me a longer time to get here. The photographs are fabulous, too.

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