Song #13 // Blind Pilot, “Packed Powder” [And Then Like Lions]

A hard frost coming tonight and all I can think about is my daughter sleeping on the floor.

I was trying to get just a bit of reading in between the time that everyone else went to bed and I too succumbed to sleepiness when I heard her muttering plaintively, first to herself and then to anyone else listening. Within seconds I heard her shuffling in the hallway behind me.

It’s been a recent regression, her getting up in the night, her leaving her bedroom, her sleeping on the floor. It’s all compromises these days: when to let her sleep in the bed, when to push back bedtime stories, when to stop blaming her (or ourselves.)

I can now admit that I was surprised she so easily let me usher her back into her darkened room, away from the brightly lit living room and into a faint smell of urine. She collapsed onto her blanket and I laid next to her, stroking her hair in ways I haven’t exercised in years. I silently monitored her breathing, gauging when I’d be able to make my escape. It happened quickly, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

And so she slept, bum in the air as if she gave up midway in a half crouch, her head turned away from me. There in the halflight I could look at her and think of all the ways she was like me, and all the ways that I both loved and hated that. Eventually she turned her head back toward me and though her breathing was still heavy I knew I had missed my chance to leave.

She won’t remember this, tomorrow or the next. She’s more likely to remember me, years from now, from the misguided Internet spats I post to people I disagree with. I’m old enough now to go back and delete those, but stupid enough still to let them rush my face with hot anger. I express my strong emotions online like a broken sprinkler, spraying indiscriminately, and yet in person I dry up and lose my voice. Why?

And what kind of father do I want to be? What kind of father does it make me that my most tender moments, my most gentle and caring, are when people are asleep? Can I be that way in the light of a new, frozen day? Would it make me any better? Would it make a difference?

The only sounds now are the clicking of keys and later the turning of pages before I click off the light and wait for the heater to knock on before I slide past her open doorway, another compromise that I’ve learned to live with. The same kind she’ll have to make much later for living with me.

I’ve written about Blind Pilot so much through the years–from meeting Israel for the first time in Ann Arbor, to how their music makes me cry as winter sunlight descends behind the San Francisco hills. There’s nothing I can add here that will top those memories. But just the same, I do need to say that this song in particular is a favorite of mine from this past year. It’s beautiful, and worth a quiet listen when you’re sure everyone else in the house is asleep. If it doesn’t make you want to try again and wake up as a better person tomorrow then, well, maybe it’s not time for bed just yet.