People often ask me where I get inspiration for my music.
It can come from anywhere really. I once ran past a rusted wrench and a few crushed up cans of beer. Two songs were born of that.
About a year ago, I wrote a song called “Second Chances.” The original version was terrible—expected lyrics, stale chords. I sat at the piano fed up. I crumpled up the paper declaring that I was “done with second chances.”
That’s when the genius struck and the real song took shape, but this story is about how I arrived at “Second Chances” in the first place. You see, it all started with a tree—a Japanese Maple to be exact.
When we bought my former residence in 2004, it was two years young; the landscaping was newly planted and the Japanese Maple had been sown up against the house. I remember telling my then-husband that we should move it because from its current location, it would never thrive.
The seasons passed quickly. The kids kept us busy. Each year it grew over the sidewalk—a futile new branch. Each year I watched him trim it back, and each year I promised to move it next spring. Eleven years later, I decided to rectify it. I took my gardening tools and went to work uncovering the roots that had now established themselves under the sidewalk and across the lawn. My intent was to uncover enough of it and re-plant it in a location where it could do more than survive.
I snipped a few minor roots, and took stock of what I was doing. Was it more kind to let it endure its stunted feeble life or to risk its existence in order to prosper? In the end, I simply couldn’t do it. Even though it wasn’t thriving, I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it down in its entirety. I wrapped the severed roots together, covered them up with soil, and watered and cared for the tree as best I could.
I have since moved out of that home, but the tree is still there. Each year the owner trims the branches back, the ones that grow past their allocated, assigned locale. When I drive past and see that tree, it’s bittersweet. I am glad that it remained, but sad that I couldn’t save it—that I couldn’t help it thrive.
Decent story. Or it would have been if that were actually the end of the story. But magical things often happen to me.
When I moved into my new home that May, I was overwhelmed by trying to make a house into a home for my kids, so I didn’t quite get to the pile of leaves in the backyard until the fall. I have no idea how long that pile had been there, but it was at least from the previous winter and spring.
What I unearthed brought tears to my eyes and that song—“Second Chances”—to my senses. There, under the leaves, was a tiny, seemingly inconsequential Japanese Maple. How did it get there? Had the previous owners discarded it?
Determined not to repeat my last encounter, I took out my shiny, newly purchased chainsaw, cut down a failing tree, and made room for this sapling to flourish properly. I planted and watered it, and waited to see what the winter would do to it.
As I cleared the brush from its bed earlier this spring, I found that it had been redeemed. I don’t know how this is even possible, and I don’t really need to know. All I know is that there is enough magic in the world to believe that when we make mistakes and truly undertake steps to remedy them, anything is possible.
How did I complete that song, then? I sat at the piano determined to tell the story of second chances, of how the universe offered me an opportunity to start fresh and get it right.
It was terrible. I re-worked some of the lyrics and consulted a musician friend for some advice. “Don’t rhyme,” he offered, so I tried that. It was still terrible. I scrunched up the paper, threw it haphazardly across the room declaring, “I’m done with second chances. I’m working on my third.”
That didn’t sound half bad—and just like that, the chorus was born:
I’m done with second chances.
I’m working on my third.
Maybe it’s the fourth or fifth,
By now I’m sure you’ve heard
That I’ve messed up a time or two.
Mistakes, they lead me home.
I need something better than second chances.
‘Cause I’m done with second chances.
It hasn’t skyrocketed to the top of the charts…yet. The universe knows what it’s doing, and while I don’t think we get innumerable opportunities to start over, I do think we get way more than one or even two. I think that each day that we are willing to own our mistakes and let them humble us and transform us, we are one step closer to the truth of who we are.
And that is something I’d take a chance on.
Author: Christina Lenway
Image: Jill Wagner/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron