Songs as Sanctuary: Cameron Dezen Hammon on Springsteen’s Thunder Road

Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

Once not long ago, at my lowest point of faith, of faithlessness really, after my father died and I was deep in the trenches of “nothing matters,” I listened to a podcast. This podcast in particular talked about putting things that inspired wonder or awe in you, into a “God box” in your mind. Like a sunset, or the sound of birds singing, or whatever. Put it into the “God box.” The guy on the podcast said it helped him recover his lost faith. I thought that was ridiculous.

I didn’t think faith could be recovered, like a wallet, or a pet who wandered off. I thought the podcast was sentimental. And goofy.

But the truth is I was desperate, so I decided to try to try it anyway. Later that day, my husband and I were standing in a parking lot, I was wrung out. Tired. Sad. And “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen came on over some tinny speakers that were piping music onto the patio of the restaurant where we’d just had coffee.

 

Matt and I stopped in our tracks, straining to hear every word.

“So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore/
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night/
You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright…”

I burst into tears. Throat closing, hiccuping, ugly crying. I put the song on once we got in the car and we listened to it at least 15 times. Ever since then, every time I hear Bruce Springsteen’s voice, I feel like it’s just for me. A secret message from God, or the Universe, or whatever I’m calling the ineffable today.

There is no content to this message from the ineffable other than a mutual acknowledgement of its existence. Maybe something like, “I see you; I know you’re hurting.”

The day we got back to Houston after evacuating to Dallas, the first time I was alone in my car “Atlantic City” came on my stereo. iTunes shuffle picked it.

Just now, “Streets of Philadelphia” came on in the coffee shop where I’m trying, and failing, to write. Message received, Universe. I’m listening.

 

Cameron Dezen Hammon is a writer and musician living in Houston. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University, and her work has appeared in The Houston Chronicle, The Butter, NYLON, The Literary Review, Columbia Poetry Review and elsewhere. Her music has been featured on Houston Public Media KUHF, Houston Pacifica Radio KPFT, as well as Houston PBS Skyline Sessions, and the nationally syndicated television program Oxford Sounds. She is at work on a memoir about religious culture shock.

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