"Toast" by Tori Amos (and thoughts about Leaving)

"Toast" by Tori Amos (and thoughts about Leaving)TOAST

I thought it was Easter time
The way the light rose
Rose that morning
Lately you’ve been on my mind
You showed me the ropes
Ropes to climb
Over mountains, and to pull myself
Out of a landslide
Of a landslide

I thought it was harvest time
You always loved the
Smell of the wood burning
She with her honey hair
Dallhousie castle
She would meet you there
In the winter, butter yellow
The flames you stirred
Yes, you could stir

I raise a glass, make a toast
A toast in your honor
I hear you laugh and beg me not to dance
Cuz on your right, standing by
Is Mr. Bojangles, with a toast
He’s telling me it’s time
To raise a glass, make a toast
A toast in your honor
I hear you laugh and beg me not to dance
Cuz on your righ;t, standing by
is Mr. Bojangles, with a toast
He’s telling me it’s time
To let you go
Let you go

I thought I”d see you again
You say you might do
Maybe in a carving
In a cathedral
Somewhere
In Barcelona

Just now, surfing through iTunes, I was inspired to write about this song. Like all the songs I love, it has very layered and personal meanings to me. It’s even in my book, I’ll get to that.

The song is the last track on Tori’s album The Beekeeper, which came out in early 2005. It was all I listened to for weeks on end. I loved it immediately. It had all these references to the divine feminine, a whole song structure based on a hexagon garden pattern, song titles like Original Sinsuality, Goodbye to Pisces, Mother Revolution, Marys of the Sea, Martha’s Foolish Ginger, Sleeps With Butterflies, and The Beekeeper and I had a huge crush on an author who was a beekeeper at one point. It was all perfect, and perfect timing, and I loved all the songs. A little softer than some of Tori’s work, and still insightful and powerful.

Consequently, I think I should add that I love Tori’s latest, American Doll Posse, for almost opposite reason. It’s way more sassy, with the song Big Wheel, in which she calls herself a milf, and other song titles such as Fat Slut and Teenage Hustling. I love it.

So, back on track here, that spring, I decided to quit my job at a camp, and move off the camp property and rent a room. Sometimes my life feels like a continuous process of moving somewhere a little less constrictive, until that new place feels a little constrictive, and moving on again. I’d done a l0ot of leaving at that point in my life. And this was yet another move, and it felt really big. I wasn’t leaving one school for another, or moving cross country, in fact I was hardly moving two miles away, but mentally, it was a big jump, into real adulthood, rent bills, more independence.

At the time, I thought of this song “Toast” all the time. I loved the camp, loved living there, just knew it was time to move on. Sometimes, as they say, love just ain’t enough. Actually, as cynical as this sounds, I’ve found that to be true a lot of times in my life, but maybe that’s a post for another time. I thought of the camp as having given me ropes to climb, and definitely a place that helped me get on my feet, get out of a landslide. So, this song spoke to me.

The truth is though, this song applies to a lot of situations. I’ve felt the same way when leaving anywhere that’s meant something to me, and with any significant departure. I get very attached to places, houses, weather and seasonal patterns in places I’ve lived. Sometimes I think I get more attached to place than I do to people, but I probably get equally attached to both. It feels like every place I go, I learn something from, have some sentimental attachment to and nostalgia for. Which gets hard, because the more places I go, the more places there are that I miss.

One of the places I miss most is Chestertown, MD, where I spent my freshman year of college, the year my book is about. I have never fully stopped missing the people and the place. Again, I knew I had to move on to something else, I had my reasons. I don’t know that I could have done it differently. And I still wonder, not as often as I used to, what might’ve happened if I’d stayed. I’ll never know. When I think about leaving that place, it still makes me sad. I still can’t read the chapter I wrote about leaving there (and I wrote said chapter three years ago) without crying.

And I think that’s okay. It means the place was meaningful, you know?

But anyway, since all my chapter titles are named after lyrics, I grabbed a lyric from this one for that chapter. I love, love, love things that are layered, have double entendres, hidden meanings, or reference other things. So one reason I especially chose a line from this song was because the song (though not the line I chose) references Mr. Bojangles. One of my favorite memories from that freshman year was an afternoon I spent with friends, playing in the snow and building a snowman who we named Mr. Bojangles, so the song always brought me back to that, which to me, made it an even better pick, sentimental-wise, for the chapter about leaving the place. Probably no one who would read the book would ever pick up on that, it’s too subtle I think, but it makes me smile.

That’s Mr. Bojangles and friends above.

But the song itself is so perfect. That year was like the first time a place/experience gave me ropes to climb, and boy did it stir some flames, and it’s also a place/experience I’ll never see again, never in the same way. Even if I went back there, which wouldn’t make sense for my life in any way, it wouldn’t be the same place, the same people, the same experience.

It’s part of what appeals to me about the song, that last verse. To me it says, there is no going back, no returning, just maybe some personal monument (that’s what I get from the whole carving in a cathedral bit, some small reminder). I can relate to that.

They say that you can’t step in the same river twice, and sometimes I think that’s one of the things I have the hardest time grappling with. There are so many places and people and times I’d love to step back into, re-enter, experience again, even with the low points. Maybe that’s part of why I love writing memoir, a way to go back, live some things twice, with all their layered, complicated meanings, their vibrance, whether it’s heartache or relief or triumph. Still it kills me that I can’t return to things. I have a hard time really wrapping my mind around the fact that sometimes a person or a place can be in my life and be good, intense, a huge learning experience, give and share so much, and not be forever.

I’m looking futureward to the next eight or so months, getting ready to leave this place, Orcas Island. Even though I’ve been in different houses, I’ve lived on this island for almost five years, and I wonder how I’ll feel about it all as I leave. I have a feeling I’ll be listening to “Toast” a lot.

~Emilia J

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3 thoughts on “"Toast" by Tori Amos (and thoughts about Leaving)

  1. Hey girl, love the Tori lyrics and love the pic – there’s Jillian!!!! I feel like I’ve known her for eons… great shot of you, too, and Mr. BoJ…I love leavings.. they’re just the beginning of beginnings… Peace, friend

  2. as tori’s song resonates for you, this post resonates for me. a hermit crab came to mind when you talked about moving somewhere less constrictive until that feels constrictive. sometimes you have to trade up, but its that transition and getting used to the new shell thats hard. its hard not to look back and go backwards. i tried going back once. and it really wasnt quite the same. and that reality was more disappointing. onward for 2008. looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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