Your Bow May Bend
Left alone a seed to sadness grows
Burrows down where thoughts may hide
And breaks up in your cellar floor
And let the water pour, inside
Fill your cup with all the ash and bone
Digging down to see her eyes
And though the archer’s bow may bend
A lie that’s never told, begins
Abide with me my son
And sing a life that’s done
Help for helpless ones, I’ll find
Now our arms begin to bend and break
Skin and hair and hearts still grow
We’ll sing her death
We’ll sing her death.
Yolanda Teresa Dottor Price
I began writing Your Bow May Bend as I remembered the death of my grandmother. The experience of her death had been profound. Her death was not easy, she cried out for god to take her, she pulled at the tubes, and we were left wondering what to do. And in that moment the only thing that felt right was to sing to her. Yolanda Teresa Dottor was born in 1924 in a small town in northern Italy and made her way to Bethlehem Pennsylvania by way of Ellis Island in 1926. My Nana joined the Moravian church when she was 11, walking across town to the small Edgeboro Moravian Church. A poor immigrant who always felt like an outsider, my Nana finally found a sense of place in the Moravian Church and in the music that surrounded it. She worked several jobs to afford the weekly payments on a piano so that her brothers and sister could practice and sing together. She dedicated herself to her family and to her church and worked tirelessly in their service.
75 years later my Nana lay in her hospice bed while we sang her songs from the Moravian hymnal. And on the afternoon of June 10th, 2009 my mother sang Abide with Me at her bedside. And when she looked up my Nana had passed. She had disappeared into the song. After her death we met at the Edgeboro Church for her funeral and her Lebenslauf. In the Moravian tradition, when a person dies those close to her tell her Lebenslauf, her “life path.” I had always known my Nana by the stories of her life that I was told by my mother. But when my Nana’s brother stood up to tell the story of her life, I heard about a woman I had never met. While working on the songs for In Spirit I was thinking so much about the stories we tell each other, and how the stories I had been told of Nana had defined her. And when that story changed, she changed. The Lyrics to “Your Bow May Bend” tell the story of her death.
Mary Carol McCulloch Hardy
My Nana almost never spoke of her life, her youth, or the past. On the other hand my Grandma Mary was a wealth of stories, songs, and memories of her life and those that came before and after her. My Grandmother, now 87, has an entire room lined floor to ceiling with binders. Her “journal” spans 80 years. Illustrations, poems, songs, letters, teachings, friendships, lovers, and family. That room also contains hundreds of tapes filled with the same. A life long musician and free spirit, my grandmother met my grandfather in a pit orchestra, lived with her second husband in a cabin in the woods called Wilderness, travelled the world, wrote 3 full length musicals, hundreds of songs, books of poetry, and taught thousands of children music lessons. Her life history is an endless treasure of secret musical societies, fantastical fairy friends, and children to teach. While Nana had lived in a world of tight lipped regulation, Grandma Mary lived in a world that became whatever you told it to become. As I worked on “Your Bow May Bend” it became clear to me that the stories of these two women had always been the most important to me.
I made several trips down to Scottsville Virginia to record with my Grandma. First in 2011 to record some of her favorite original songs, and then in 2012 with Brandon to try and record stories of her childhood and her poetry. My Grandmother has Parkinsons, and with this her mind doesn’t travel in straight lines. But I’m not sure it ever did. I took these recordings, and added them to just a few moments of the hundreds of tapes my grandmother has from the early 80s and 90s. These are the voices that you hear at the end of In Spirit.
We thought we’d bring you just a few samples from those visits to Virginia in 2011 and 2012
“Why Do You Sing?” 1967 from the musical “Mr. Collins’ Steam Ship” recorded in 2011
“Medication” 1980 from her songs for the children of Yogaville, recorded in 2011.
“Star Sings” 1969, recorded in 2012