• Martha Clark Scala

Crossing the Bridge

Updated: Oct 4, 2019


February, 2018


Plaintive Lyrics Provide a Wise Prescription

Ever since an English professor in college led me to believe there was only one way to interpret the meaning of a poem we had been asked to read (and of course my interpretation was incorrect), I have been reluctant to offer my take on words penned by either poets or songwriters. Nevertheless, I’m compelled to write this month about some lyrics in a song by Sara Bareilles.

“Manhattan” is a melancholy song. I gather it was written in the aftermath of a breakup. I bet anyone who has loved and lost will resonate with Bareilles’ lyrics.

But it’s the bridge that slays me every time . . .

According to Wikipedia, the bridge of a song “is typically used to pause and reflect on the earlier portions of the song or to prepare the listener for the climax.”

Bareilles’ bridge arrives at the 2:27 mark of her music video.

These are the lyrics you’ll hear:

And so it goes

One foot after the other

‘Til black and white begin to color in

And I know

That holding us in place is simply fear

Of what’s already changed

~ Sara Bareilles

The music in the bridge is understandably mournful; the words describe grief with such profound brevity. Even if you don’t relate to Bareilles’ apparent focus on the end of a romantic relationship, her words speak universal truth about what occurs when we weather a loss.

Life changes so rapidly when something bad happens. A beloved dies. Someone close to you is laid off or fired. A scary diagnosis is rendered. Someone gets arrested, incarcerated or deported. The list goes on and no one can be exempt from these upsets and tragedies. I love Bareilles’ wise observation about our attempts to “hold us in place” in order to ward off the reality of what has happened.

So what are we to do? That is the million-dollar answer we want, isn’t it? What if we are not supposed to do anything but “one foot after the other til black and white begin to color in?” But what does that look like, you might ask.

Just as each of us have a different footprint, we have to find our way to a personalized blueprint for letting go our grip on that inclination to “hold us in place.” It requires that we step across a bridge from how it was before toward how it will turn out to be.

It’s a rough but necessary step to take. There may not be the same flavor of joy on the other side but I remain an optimist that there are other joys to be found.

"One foot after the other." It sounds so simple but we all know it’s not. Grief, in isolation, is a hard bridge to cross. For some, it may be easier to go side-by-side, like those who crossed the bridge in Selma, with fellow travelers. For others, it’s a solo journey, either by choice or circumstance.

There’s no right or wrong way to cross that bridge but here’s hoping your "black and white begin to color in soon."


Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page.

Prompts for Joy

Click here for a guaranteed giggle from Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell.

Click here to see how one woman found and created colorful art while grieving. Make sure you click on her Gallery link, too. (Thank you so much, Jan Herzog!)

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.

Pictured Above

Somerset Bridge, Bermuda: the world’s smallest working drawbridge, originally constructed in 1620, and rebuilt in the 20th century.