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The "I Dreamed of Rain" Story

by Jan Garrett, 2014

I grew up in Loveland Colorado,  a small town on the front range of the Rockies, 50 miles north of Denver.  Our family had a cabin in the mountains, up the Big Thompson canyon, and I spent a lot of time as a kid day-dreaming in those sun-dappled aspen glens, pretending to be an Indian princess or a wily frontier scout in my cool Western Girl jeans.  The river sang to me, and I spent long afternoons basking in the fragrant pine breezes.  Everywhere I looked, the world was alive.  The birds and the woodland creatures were my personal friends, the grasses and wildflowers knew me by heart, and I felt like God had my back, no matter what.

It was an idyllic time.  Every summer afternoon around 2:30 there would be a thunder shower in the mountains that would last maybe 15-20 minutes.  You could practically set your watch by it.  You'd feel the storm gathering ahead of time, and then the clouds would burst, everybody in the little tourist town of Estes Park running for shelter.  Afterwards there was that delicious smell of rain.  Everything would be washed clean, and the world would start over. 

That freshness got installed in my DNA, along with an unshakable sense of peace and well-being.  If there were rough spots and boring stretches throughout my childhood, I have largely edited them out.  I remember the rain instead, starry summer nights, and music everywhere.

The summer of 2002 was very dry in Colorado, and wildfires were raging all over the western US.  It was a helpless feeling, not knowing when a blaze might start close to home. The political scene was equally uncertain, everybody still spooked by the 9-11 attacks, a lot of fear and suspicion in the air.  George W. Bush was president.

I put myself on alert.  The entire month of June that year felt like a Vision Quest, but without the council of wise elders.  I looked everywhere for signs and messages.  Nothing budged.  The fires raged, and so did I.  It was an excruciating time.  My sweetheart husband JD Martin and I wrote a song called "The World is on Fire."

And then, in the midst of all this, quite unexpectedly, I began to have dreams of rain.  In my sleep at night I would find myself in the midst of long and luxurious soakings, everybody drenched and laughing, all old resentments & debts forgiven, the long drought forgotten.  I'd wake up oddly but gratefully refreshed, with that faint familiar heady scent of summer thunder showers in the back of my awareness, even though outside the sky was still hazy with smoke.  I began to feel the rhythms of Grandmother Earth, ancient peacemaker and keeper of cycles and balance.  My heart broke, and something shifted on the inside. 

It was the afternoon of the Fourth of July, 2002 (great timing) right in the middle of our yearly backyard pickin’ party, when we all saw the big grey thunderclouds gathering.  The lightening flashed.  We grabbed the chips & guacamole, cut the fiddle tunes short, and dashed for shelter, hooting and hollering.  It had finally begun to rain.  

Fast forward to January 2003:  Ugly rumors were starting to circulate that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the US should wage a pre-emptive war on that desert nation and its people. I remember driving through Nevada and seeing a newspaper with photos of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan.  They were just little boys.

JD and I continued on to LA to play some gigs and visit friends.  Early one morning I heard the sound of rain on the roof.  A simple melody started coming into my awareness with these words:  "I dreamed of rain, and the rains came, soft and easy, sweet and clear."  It was a very comforting thought, and I could feel that familiar fresh scent of rain weaving in & out of the music.  I listened for the next line......and then the left side of my brain bullied its way in. 

"Hey, you know, the next line is gonna have to rhyme with 'clear.'  So.....um......how about 'and washed away my fear?'...."

Before I could even begin to comment, I heard a great rush of wings and all the song angels whooshed into the room.  "NO!" they all yelled, "Don't even go there, don't even bring the fear thing in."

"OK," I said, slightly miffed.  "But it has to rhyme."

"No it doesn't."  (Angels are very sure of themselves, especially the musical ones.)  "There are plenty of fabulous songs that don't have rhyming lines.  Poetry doesn't have to rhyme.  Just feel deeply into the rain.  Feel the impending war.  What is it your heart really wants to say?" 

I remember blurting out "I just want peace to spread over the land!"

"Great," they said.  "Say that."

The words and music came in quite sweetly over the next few days.  As a died-in-the-wool jazzer I tried to get fancy with the chord changes a couple of times.  That's when I felt the presence of the great 19th century American songwriter Stephen Foster come and sit on my left shoulder.  "Keep it simple, Dear."  Aaron Copland's spirit peeked over the other shoulder and pointed out that 4ths and 5ths are the most powerful vehicle for sweeping epic emotions.  I accepted the coaching, meekly and gratefully.

As each verse came through, I would get all goose-bumpy and cry projectile tears, in private.  I saw the pictures and I could smell the freshness all the way through.  But I was afraid to sing the song to JD for fear he would think it was sappy, too simple.  I got really shy about it.  It wasn't until we were back home in the recording studio, working on a new CD of original songs that I casually pulled out "I Dreamed of Rain.  JD needed to sing lead on one more tune in order to balance out the album.  As soon as he started singing the song in his key it took on a different energy.  He came up with that ear-catching heart-wrenching piano intro that sounds like a cross between raindrops and Marc Cohen's kick-ass tune "Walking in Memphis."  He laid down the melody in his velvet voice, and we layered in the harmony parts.  I was hooked.

We recorded it and released the album in September of 2003.  In June of 2006 we were notified that the song had been nominated for a New Thought Songwriters Tribute Award, whatever that was.  We had never heard of a positive music genre.  The ceremony would be held in Phoenix in July.  Hmmmmmm, Phoenix in July.  110 degrees in the shade.  And everything would be parched, since there had been no moisture, no precipitation of any kind for months.  But they were offering to fly us there and put us up at a fancy hotel.  So, hey, free adventure.  Air conditioning.  We went with bells on.

The night of the concert there were about 300 people in the hall, all very supportive, very enthusiastic.  All of the contestants were getting big applause, lots of appreciation.  Then we sang "I Dreamed of Rain."  Everybody in the audience got quiet.  Then gradually they started singing along, swaying back & forth, lots of tears and emotion, hearts wide open, and finally a big standing ovation at the end that went on and on.  We were surprised and gratified at the response, which seemed especially deep and heartfelt. 

The concert continued, but about 10 minutes later, somebody came bursting in through the doors at the back of the hall shouting, "It's raining!"  And sure enough, it was a deluge, a real downpour, raining cats & dogs.  The street gutters couldn't contain all the water.  Everybody ran outside in spontaneous celebration, like something magical was happening, all that life-giving rain. 

We won the award.

Since that night JD and I have sung the song at almost every one of our live performances.  It never fails to bring tears and open hearts.  And occasionally it rains.  Not always, of course, but often enough that if we're doing an outdoor concert we don’t sing "I Dreamed of Rain" until the last song of the last set, and we make sure that our equipment is covered ahead of time.

We hope this song makes your heart sing, as it does ours.  All is well.  We send you the freshness of clear mountain streams and moonrise over the aspen groves, green growing summertime, and the music that arises from the heart of harmony.  We're all in this together. (Click here to hear the song in its entirety.) Thanks for listening.

(Editor’s note:  Since it was written and recorded in 2003, the song “I Dreamed of Rain” has been recorded by a number of independent artists.  In 2009 Larry Nickel, founder of Cypress Choral Music (Vancouver Canada) wrote a choral arrangement which has since been performed by choirs all over North America. It has even been sung by a high school choir in Shanghai. Google it and see what comes up.)

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Jan Garrett is a Multi-award-winning songwriter, a jazz singer with a poet’s soul.  She is also a wilderness vision quester, and (yes) Certified Laughing Instructor who has toured with Steve Martin and John Denver, and has appeared on the Tonight Show and in Rolling Stone Magazine. The mother of identical twin daughters. she is a seasoned spiritual and creative guide who teaches with a twinkle, and inspires by example.

Jan and her husband & musical partner JD Martin, live and create their music in the mountains of Colorado near Aspen.  Their live performances and recordings are described as "rich and intelligent, a feast of musical endorphins and deep optimism, a velvet-hammer wake up call as satisfying to the soul as they are to the ear…..songs to open the heart and refresh the spirit.” 

 

 

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