Blog Your Blessings: 'Thunder Road'

The long ride home from North Carolina to Connecticut on Wednesday became a sojourn on E Street, a full-immersion baptism into the music of Bruce Springsteen. That miracle called satellite radio brought me version after version after version of hits such as "Badlands," "The Rising," "Johnny 99," "Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep," and "Thunder Road." There were no repeats; each version was a new experience.

Bruce closed my 13 hours in the car with the words, "I'm just a prisoner of 'Thunder Road.'" Which made me laugh out loud. And smile. And think. This is a song I have never much liked, though I very much like Springsteen. Last night I fell into my bed wondering, how can I like this guy's music and dislike this song that, by his own account defines him?

Back to the miracle of satellite radio. Somewhere along Route 270, I listened to an early version of "Thunder Road," and he sang with such plain passion that I didn't mind at all the line that has been my sticking point all these years--when he tells Mary, frankly, "You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright/Oh and that's alright with me." How dare he?, I used to wonder.

In Maryland (where I never like to be because it is neither North Carolina nor Connecticut but this Thing in the Way that seems to go on for way too long), I thought, "So what do you want, Sandy?" The answer: a perfect world. Tell her she's beautiful because in your heart you see her that way. Make the magic be there. Write the love poem I have always wanted. Be perfect.

But the magic is in the honesty of seeing her just as she is, saying so, and for all that--not nevertheless--calling her a vision.

You've got to do your time with someone and genuinely love her to say it right--and get her to climb in the car with you. You desire her for who she is and not for some idea of her that suits your ego. This is the love poem I have always wanted--but I didn't get it.

The love that can say that is the love that sticks around, takes the trash out, cleans the bathroom for you, and wants you with a desire that isn't afraid to leave the lights on as it holds you close and looks you in the eye.

I told a friend recently that I knew I needed to climb out of the Sandy boxes--my old ways of seeing and doing things that are comfortable for me but are also limiting (and, way too often, damaging). I realized this need for change when I was looking at my photos from my December trip to Topsail. I noticed that more often than not I zeroed in on what I wanted at the expense of the rest of the world. I robbed these bits and pieces of their context. They are perfect, but what good is that in the middle of nowhere? None at all.

This time around, I challenged myself to take in the big picture even as I focused on one pelican, one heron, one one-inch clam in a puddle.

Looking at those tightly cropped pictures from Christmastime, I realized that that closing in on what I like at the expense of everything else reflected the part of me that can be unforgiving. It's what it's supposed to be or it isn't--and if it isn't, straight to hell with it, and let's by all means turn up the damned heat.

Right now, I am not looking for the perfect world. I am in it. Right now, I want to make it good somehow. Make it real.


  1. I don't think I'll ever comfortably crop another photo. There's a lot to think about here.

  2. I am always amazed how you can express yourself with such elegant prose. My angst or thoughts sound like spits and sputters. Oh in that perfect world...

  3. Wow. Really powerful observations, Sandy. Part of what makes that kind of honesty in love so appealing, is that women know whether or not they deserve to be called "beautiful" and if they know its not true, no matter how many times the man says it, no matter how sincere or passionate, it never really feels right.

  4. wow what insights, think it has to do with expectations and how they get in our way of seeing what we have that though imperfect is real and part of the now moment. Also realizing the opposition or less than perfect moments, relationships, etc. is for our education. YOu are learning much-thanks as always for sharing it in words. Writing our deepest thoughts helps us on the journey called LIFE.

  5. Food for thought in every sentence.

  6. Darn! And I love to crop!! I have never been a fan of Bruce; but I will sure listen to his music with more respect now. Thanks for that!
    For a more perfect world!! Cheers!

  7. Gives me a lot to think about .. tho I have never been a fan of Bruce's...

  8. I've sort of been thinking along these lines a lot lately. I told a young friend of mine to tell his girl she's pretty, especially if she isn't, and then later thought about how I don't believe my husband when he says I'm beautiful... because he doesn't mean it. Seems like a screwed up way to do things. All those relationship rules sort of stand in the way of honesty...

  9. Anonymous4:46 PM

    "I obviously lived the book, but they read it." -Nikki Sixx (Sixx A.M.)

    Out of this, the song:

    "Life is Beautiful"

    I've cried at too many funerals for people who had unfinished business. I've cried for lost opportunity, for missed connections and for life unread.

    Life is beautiful. It is meant to be lived until it's ragged, tattered, worn and soft. Your words speak so much- and within them, the challenge to see panaromic views uncropped, to hold a rose with all its thorns, to light a candle and thank the match.

  10. Sometimes it is good to crop and sometimes the big picture is needed. It all depends on what you need to focus on at the time. Your photos are always pleasing anyway.

    Nuts in May

  11. What an incredible post, Sandy, and I agree with the others -- yours are very powerful observations and so very true. So many of these same things kept me locked up in myself for a very long time. I can't say that I learned quickly or that I've even achieved getting where I want to be, but I have stopped cropping the pictures. I've learned to enjoy it all. To get out of that box that I, too, lived in, looking for the perfect world! And we are in the perfect world right now. Thank you, one more time for the inspiration! Have a great weekend and enjoy!


  12. Wow -- talk about food for thought. I have a feeling that I'll be mulling over your thoughts for quite some time to come, especially when it comes time to take a photo of something that really appeals to me. Do I focus alone on what attracts me or keep the context? Food for thought is all kinds of situations.

  13. Bruce is smart enough to know what's important...and that beauty isn't enough.

  14. You are very intelligent and compassionate person. Enjoy your moments. Thank you so much for sharing, Sandy.

  15. Thanks for this nice article, Sandy.

  16. Sandy: about your question, I have not skied for some years, but I wish to start again. I like so much that sport!

  17. Thunder Road is one of my all time favorite songs as you well know, I am glad that you got to enjoy this great piece of music as it was meant to be enjoyed. With passion.

  18. Dear Sandy Carlson,

    What can I say ?Nothing more than u have written... it your text. ANd when U wrote about Maryland..believe me...I love there...hahahhaha and <i closed my eyes and thought about the moments taht lived there in 1999. I lived good things between Maryland, Gaitherburgh and West Virginia.

    Now...I know how much I would like to go back to USA.

    and I amc erta<in taht I will think of u as a u´re...simply a sweet person..

  19. Sandy, you already know the One who loves you from everlasting to everlasting! He writes you a love song and is still writing that song every day in the sunrise, the sound of the birds, laughter, rain, all of the creation! He turned on the lights of heaven for you. His unfailing love for you cost Him his life. And His undieing love for you raised Him up to love you forever! There is a line in a song that I like and it says, "It's more like falling in love, than something to belive in." Your right about the "Big picture."

  20. Oh, what a lovely metaphor for the small, safe world I try to maintain--that cropping business. THANKS for sharing your insight--road trips are like that for me too.

  21. Dear Sandy--
    What a thoughtful post--

    Are you familiar with Richard Rohr's work? He is a Franiscan priest (that flies against the authorities but he has such stature that they leave him alone). Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque.
    He is a big picture thinker about our culture and Christianity.
    Awhile back he did a series of lectures, available on CD of what he calls 'True Self...False Self' and does a masterful job of helping us see how we mask our real selves in the search for the idyllic image only to find our hearts closed in on themselves. Worth finding them. I think they're available on Amazon but for sure on his website.

    Thank you, as always, for your honesty and depth. You are loved, just as you are.

  22. What an insightful post. You've sure got me thinking now.


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