The Meaning of a Tree

by The Field Hymnal

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credits

released August 1, 2017

nate roberts - mandolin, guitar, banjo, vocals
jared demeester - bass, vocals
angelee berrian - vocals
luke panning - fiddle

recorded by drew elliot at hope college studio on may 11, 2016
mixed by drew elliot
mastered by karl fleck
album artwork by hope olson
design by kallie spidahl

all music by nate roberts
all words by nate roberts except:

upon the mountain’s distant head (poem by william cullen bryant)
a fond kiss, and then we sever (poem by robert burns)
when the year grows old (poem by edna st. vincent millay)

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about

The Field Hymnal Holland, Michigan

Angelee Berrian - vocals

Luke Panning - fiddle

Jared DeMeester - bass

Nate Roberts - mandolin

Rooted firmly in bluegrass but with a love for new sounds as well, The Field Hymnal draws inspiration from nature and poetry, and from jokes told poorly by dear friends. If music can be a meeting place, The Field Hymnal is a door that is always open, with food on the table and laughs to be shared.
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Track Name: Lawbreaker
what will you do if they lock me away
and if there are guards there to block my escape?
tell me, will you dig a hole that will set me free
or will you break me out while the guards are asleep?

will you need me to tell you what crimes i’ve committed
or how many years from the law i have hid,
and then will you simply trust me that i had my reasons
for everything i did?
and I’m done now, believe me

i’m a lawbreaker but you don't have to reform me
‘cause my days of crime are done.
i’m different now so let bygones alone.
i don’t do well when i’m under authority,
though i promise i’ll behave.
but then again i’m a lawbreaker.

when i was younger my compass was shaky
but now i’ve discovered a path that is straight
and i’m never going back to the ways of my youth,
even if the crooked road is looking shiny and new.

then again things aren’t always black and white, but shades of gray
and a wise man once told me to acknowledge my nature
so maybe once a week i will let down my guard
if it’s for the common good or if rules get too hard.

i’m a lawbreaker but you don't have to reform me
‘cause my days of crime are done.
i’m different now so let bygones alone.
i don’t do well when i’m under authority,
though i promise i’ll behave.
but then again i’m a lawbreaker.
Track Name: Thorns
there’s a fence to jump, maybe four feet high
and though it’s clothed in thorns,
i’m waiting for you on the other side.

once you’ve cleared the fence, there’s a mile or two
to reach the closest town,
but once we’re there you’ll never have to hide.

so follow me dear.
don’t you stop to catch your breath
and don’t let your fear slow you down
or keep you looking over your shoulder.

you might tear your clothes
while you jump the fence,
before you’ve cleared the thorns.
but it won’t matter where we’re going to go.

so follow me dear.
don’t you stop to catch your breath
and don’t let your fear slow you down
or keep you looking over your shoulder.
Track Name: Upon the Mountain's Distant Head
upon the mountain's distant head
by william cullen bryant

upon the mountain’s distant head,
with trackless snows forever white,
where all is still and cold and dead
late shines the day’s departing light.

but far below those icy rocks,
the vales, in summer bloom arrayed,
woods full of birds and fields of flocks,
are dim with mist and dark with shade.

’tis thus from warm and kindly hearts,
and eyes where generous meanings burn,
early the light of life departs,
but lingers with the cold and stern.
Track Name: A Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever
a fond kiss and then we sever
by robert burns

a fond kiss and then we sever;
a farewell alas forever!
deep in heart wrung tears I’ll pledge thee;
warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee.

who shall say that fortune grieves him;
while the star of hope she leaves him?
me, no cheerful twinkle lights me;
dark despair around benights me.

i’ll ne’er blame my partial fancy,
nothing could resist my nancy;
but to see her was to love her;
love but her, and love forever.
Track Name: Cinnamon
“come in from the cold and warm yourself,
though you’re the type i’d welcome in.
but hiding never helped me in the past
so i guess this time i was as well submit.”

she offers him something to eat and drink.
“i don’t know you well, but have a seat.
i’ll put the pot on. would you like some milk?
i admit that you’re not one i’d hoped to meet.”

then she adds just a teaspoon of cinnamon
to her tea and the smell takes her home again.
then she changes the pillowcase in the guest room
just in case consolation needs a place to stay soon.

her guest stays for just an hour or so,
then he wearies of her company.
she is tired but she’s immovable.
“you can stay, but you won’t take a thing from me.”

then she adds just a teaspoon of cinnamon
to her tea and the smell takes her home again.
then she changes the pillowcase in the guest room
just in case consolation needs a place to stay soon.
Track Name: Don't Take Too Long
mama tucks you into bed, you say your evening prayers
and then you count your sheep
not knowing that the outside world
has planned a party for while you’re asleep.

stray dogs have brought the drinks, stray cats are playing cards
and the owls are singing songs.
the dancing won’t start till after you’re asleep,
so please don’t take too long.

sunset, moonrise
and the creatures wake.
you dream, wolves dance
and the bushes shake.

wild things wake up in the forest while you sleep.
trees and animals have secrets that they keep.
you thought everything was sleeping in the dark,
but birds and maples trees are dancing in the park.
Track Name: Helpless Then
put your words into a letter, bottled.
send them off to sea, and hope they’ll stay.
though the tide may pull your secrets seaward,
they won’t likely go, for long, away.

what’s buried is uncovered if it’s hidden by sea or land.
so better fall than hide a crutch, and let the world think you stand
on your own.

you can’t hide behind cheap consolation
for the thin you’ve lost can’t be replaced.
others have gone blind looking on the bright side.
darkness holds a cure for hope displaced.

what’s buried is uncovered if it’s hidden by sea or land.
so better fall than hide a crutch, and let the world think you stand
on your own two feet.
we’re strong until we taste defeat, and helpless then.
Track Name: If We Walk Slowly
you wait for me while i dress and i brush my hair.
i don’t want to leave, ‘cause there’s trouble that waits out there,
but you’ve already got your coat on, and you’ve got the car all warm.
you don’t seem scared or worried about the coming storm.

so hold my hand. i’ll hide my head.
if we walk slowly, i’ll keep moving
and i’ll stay with you if you stay with me.

the rain is throwing daggers, and the thunder screams.
the clouds are trying to trap us in the dark, it seems.
the lightning wants to hit me, and i know his aim is awful sharp.
if i get lost, i’ll be helpless in the misty dark.

so hold my hand. i’ll hide my head.
if we walk slowly, i’ll keep moving
and i’ll stay with you if you stay with me.

i’m scared on my own, but i’m not alone.
Track Name: Songbirds
upon the poplar tree are songbirds sweetly singing
i think they’re cardinals or sparrows.
i never learned to tell a songbird from it’s singing.
the differences seems so narrow.

there’s something about the sound of songbirds when they’re singing.
i wonder what it is they’re saying,
and what their poems mean, and are they improvising?
and when they’re singing, are they praying?
Track Name: A Day of Rain
the first day warm enough to go outside without a jacket on,
and i run out to play.
my mama takes a breath and yells her loudest out the kitchen door,
but i am out of range.

i hardly make it past the hardware store when rain clouds wreck my fun.
my playtime’s quickly through.
i head home sulking but my mama tell me rain is not so bad.
just look what it can do.

‘cause when the torrent soaks the ground,
color overtakes the gray and brown.
though the clouds look rather plain,
magic hides inside a day of rain.

april showers can’t bring may flowers alone.
they need help from the sunshine, and from robbins’ songs.
the spring rain teaches baby birds to sing,
so the cloudy days were bringing colors all along.

i put my boots on, and a raincoat, and i run down to the creek.
the rain won’t slow me down.
it makes a perfect day for stomping in the mud and catching frogs,
so you won’t see me frown.

it turns out rainy days are just as fun as those without a cloud,
if you don’t mind some dirt,
and though my mama has to wash the muddy clothes i wore outside,
she taught me rain can’t hurt.

‘cause when the torrent soaks the ground,
color overtakes the gray and brown.
though the clouds look rather plain,
magic hides inside a day of rain.

april showers can’t bring may flowers alone.
they need help from the sunshine, and from robbins’ songs.
the spring rain teaches baby birds to sing,
so the cloudy days were bringing colors all along.
Track Name: When the Year Grows Old
when the year grows old
by edna st. vincent millay

i can’t but remember when the year grows old
october, november, how she disliked the cold.
she used to watch the swallows go down across the sky,
and turn from the window with a little sigh.

and often when the brown leaves were brittle on the ground,
and wind in the chimney made a lonesome sound,
she had a look about her that i wish i’d forget.
the look of a scared thing, sitting in a net.

oh lovely at nightfall, the soft spitting snow.
and lovely the bare boughs, rubbing to and fro!
but the roaring of the fire, but the warmth of fur,
the boiling of the kettle were beautiful to her.
Track Name: Forest Hymn
the forest was man’s church
before he learned to build or dig a mine into the earth.
before his choirs did sing,
in the hemlock grove he knelt;
for his chancel he had spring.

the leaves moved in the wind,
and not by his command.
and yet he chose a roof
that he laid with his own hand.

the ancient winds still blow
and the treetops feel their breath;
towards the heavens they still grow.
under roofs our frail hands raised,
the face of god we seek.
on our own work we now gaze.

thy grandeur, strength and grace
are here to speak of thee.
so be it ours to muse
on the meaning of a tree.
Track Name: Slow Down Our Breath
silence broken,
soft words spoken.
i feel your heart beating, love.

silent weeping,
you’re not sleeping.
i know what troubles your mind.

so follow the waves of my chest,
together we’ll slow down our breath
and we will fall asleep.

noisy windows
by our pillows
keep us from finding our rest

i tread lightly,
nudge politely,
you don’t respond to my touch.

i’ll follow the waves of your chest,
i’ll follow and slow down my breath
and we will fall asleep.