A good portion of the material on Reflections was composed when on the road, “gypsy” that I am, over the Winter of 1999. I was in a small rural town in Pennsylvania for several weeks and had the good fortune of finding an old church which housed a handsome, well-tuned Baby Grand and whose kind pastor offered me its access whenever I wanted. It was within this great old church that I retreated on cold wintry mornings to avail myself of the quiet sanctuary and to release my inspiration. This highly productive so-called “retreat” in Pennsylvania gave birth to five songs entitled Cafe Window, Watercolors, Swans on The Susquehannah, Quiet Goodbyes and Roof With A View, all ‘reflections’ upon my time there and the incidents that so colored my mind and heart.
It is often in small rural towns that animals don’t see the kind of care they should. Companion animals such as dogs and cats are more neglected than not, and their survival depends more on the kindness of the occasional watchful and compassionate neighbor and less on a not-so-devoted owner. During my stay, I became one such neighbor and had a number of dogs on my daily roster for “check-up”. I know were I not destined to be an artist, I most certainly would have ended up a Veterinarian, (or perhaps I was in a past life) for my love of these most innocent of creatures is most assuredly unparalleled.
One of the dogs on my daily route, a loving lab/hound “mix” whose name I would later learn, was “King”. King had the eyes of a dog resigned to his fate; the kind of eyes that glimmer dimly with an ancient hope of freedom, in simplest terms, a better life. He was housed outside, 365 days a year, in a metal wire compound at most 8′ x 5′ with a concrete floor, which in-turn housed a wooden dog house, a metal pan and an old rusty water bucket which was usually frozen over. The only uplifting factor was that this bleak abode overlooked the banks of the Susquehannah River. It would be my chosen task each day to add fresh water over the frozen block and to bring scraps from a meal and of course, to provide the usual round of dog biscuits. This and a bit of attention; a few strokes of the head accompanied by kind, reassuring words, would often be all that altered the monotony of his day. One afternoon, I was turning down the street to head back to my humble hotel room when I saw that King was perched on top of his doghouse, gazing out and down to the river below, his lonely silhouette gracing the winter sky. It is this haunting image that remains in my mind even now, an image of loneliness, of endless waiting, and one, that worst of all, I knew I could not change.
So, it was “King” then that I will never forget and who inspired the song, Roof with a View:
Wonder what I see, along the lonely river?
Watch it as it rolls, it carries me away..
Upon my roof I ponder,
And it gets me through the day..
One reviewer from Music Scene described my work from my previous CD, like this: “The diverse musical background that Sweeten possesses electrifies Passage to the point where she could tell you a story and not be as effective. The stories she plays tell volumes.”
And yet, this is one story I had to tell. While my music speaks for itself, listeners seldom know a composition’s true inspiration. Now perhaps King’s story will inspire others and serve to remind that Life’s experience is far and away so much more vast than any single one of us; it is what we give to Life, all Life, and not take from Life, that makes us whole.