15 January 2013

for those moments in the woods

My friends Brenda, Beth, and I used to play a musicals games on gchat every day: one of us would change our status to a line from a musical {the more esoteric the line, the better: if you want to use Annie, it wouldn't be a very fun game if you posted "The sun'll come out tomorrow!"}, and then the other two, when they figured it out, would post another line from the same show.

It's the kind of game three friends who met in a class on musical theatre would play, and it's especially good if the three of you all work desk jobs now but still wish for that musical magic in your life.

Days at a desk can start to feel repetitive, like an homage to that Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, and you start to think that your life isn't all that exciting, no matter how much you like your job.

This is where musicals come in. {Actually, if I try even a little smidge, I can get musicals into most conversations.}

Brenda, Beth, and I share a love for Into the Woods, a Stephen Sondheim show about the "ever after" in fairy tales: How did it work out for Cinderella? What about Jack and the Beanstalk? And Little Red Riding Hood: She's a spunky little thing, but what about after she has her run-in with the wolf?

One of my favorite songs from the show is "Moments in the Woods"—this song that talks straight to that longing we all, I think, sometimes get hit with: something thrilling has just happened, and you wish: Couldn't life always be like this?

Couldn't my life always be trips to glamorous places?

Couldn't every meal be French?

Couldn't I wake up every morning rested, no matter how late I stayed up reading?

Couldn't I always feel like I was being twirled around in a ballroom while wearing a pretty dress?

Couldn't my life be made up of highlights?

The Baker's Wife sings about just that thought in "Moments in the Woods." The Prince has just found her in the woods, and he kissed her! Her, the Baker's Wife! The lady who's usually covered in flour and trying to buck up her husband!

She's astounded at how just the Prince's kiss made her feel like a different person—but she knows that that kiss and that moment are not real life. You can't build a life on a kiss in the woods.

Real life is out of the woods, with her husband, working together to build a better life. That thing that happened in the woods—well, that was just a moment.

She sings:
Just a moment,
One peculiar passing moment—

Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always "or"?
Is it never "and"?

That's what woods are for:
For those moments in the woods.

Oh, if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one.


Let the moment go!
Don't forget it for a moment, though.
Just remembering you've had an "and"
When you're back to "or"
Makes the "or" mean more
Than it did before.

Now I understand—
And it's time to leave the woods.
That part about how if life were only moments—these highlights {and lowlights} in the woods, away from our day-to-day joys {and struggles}—then we'd never be able to appreciate moments when they came along: That's the part that has stuck with me for years, the part that flits into my head every now and again when I'm sitting at my desk.

The day may be dull or frustrating, but it's my day, and I can appreciate its normalcy precisely because I also have days that are whirlwind curly-cues of joy.

Thank goodness for those moments in the woods.

Watch "Moments in the Woods" for yourself and see if you don't feel the same way I do. Ooh, you should tell me if you don't, and then we can talk on and on about musicals. I would love that.


  1. I picked today to catch up on all your blog posts I have missed and I am rewarded with a mention! So happy the Musical game is back on for 2013!

    1. How fortuitous! It's like you knew I'd be talking about you :)

  2. Love it. Love, love, love Into the Woods. And so very true. I try to use this thinking in particularly dark moments - without darkness, we cannot perceive the light - that sort of thing.
    Side Note: Made Pete sit and watch this with me last year. He loved it. I, however, was a slobbering mess of pregnancy hormones during the part that happens at the end of this song (don't want to give anything away) and its aftermath!

    1. Yes, this kind of thinking does help during dark times -- sometimes better than others. Sometimes you think: But this helps me see the light...and another part of you wants to tell yourself to shut up and that that's no comfort at all :)

      But most of the time, I find that it helps.

      Way to go on not giving away any details about what happens right after this song. You are a very excellent non-spoiler, Val.

  3. Ooh! Neat game! I’ll play:

    “Softly, deftly, music shall caress you,
    Hear it, feel it secretly possess you”

    About Into the Woods:
    I like the emotions and sentiments from that clip. I think your thoughts sum it up well. What I am especially impressed with is this actress’s singing abilities. She has a tough job of transitioning between dialogue and song repeatedly, often in the same phrase, and I think she pulls it off well. It makes me want to see the entire musical. From what I’ve read here and on Wikipedia, this seems to have the same type of premise as Wicked, a musical I desperately want to see some time.

    1. Oh, you should definitely see Wicked, Todd! I've seen it twice, so between the two of us, it averages out, I guess :)

      I've never seen Into the Woods, though -- live, I mean. There's a version on Netflix where they recorded the Broadway show, and you get to see Bernadette Peters, who is fantastic in this (she's plays a witch). I think they need to revive this again (I think it just went through a revival in 2002, so it might be too soon...).



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