If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to Instagram it, does it make a sound? – Taylor Swift, Oct. 2108
A handful of summers back, I found myself on a boat on a large river in northern Idaho. As we motored along the water, someone pointed to a large brown home that sat at the water’s edge with pastures and a beautiful barn. The home had a breathtaking steeple roof, divided by large glass slats—you can just imagine the warmth of the sun streaming into the living space.
“Shania Twain lived there.”
The pre-teen ghost of my past squealed in my heart, though my exterior just casually said, “oh cool.”
But seriously…the Shania Twain?
I have no idea if that home ever belonged to Shania Twain (something tells me no). But, over the years, I continually think of that spot along the river in quiet Idaho when I listen to Taylor Swift’s song “The Lucky One.”
For those a bit unfamiliar with Shania Twain’s story: she was a huge. massive. monumental success in the late ‘90s/ early-2000s. She was the darling of the country world. With songs like “Man I Feel Like a Woman” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much” dominating the charts, she was like a firework of stardom.
But exhaustion quickly set in. And she discovered she had Lyme disease, which resulted in devastating harm to her vocal cords. Then, her husband of 15 years left her for her friend. Needless to say: this talented songbird needed a break. All in all she took a 15 year hiatus from the music scene.
So when Swift decided to “disappear” after the pain points of 2016, it held echoes of Twain’s own run-from-the-spotlight. And it reminded me of song number thirteen off her 2012 album, Red.
“The Lucky One” made sense when it came out. It made sense Swift would be inspired to write about someone showing up and transforming themselves for stardom, then doubting others when they tell her she is lucky. And this was no different than when Britney Spears sang “She’s so lucky/ she’s a star/ but she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart” twelve years before in her song Lucky in 2000. The two songs have many parallels.
The part of “The Lucky One” that stands out like a candle lit in a dark room is the bridge (and we all know Swift loves a good bridge!).
It was a few years later, I showed up here
And they still tell the legend of how you disappeared,
How you took the money and your dignity, and got the hell out
They say you bought a bunch of land somewhere,
Chose the Rose Garden over Madison Square,
And it took some time, but I understand it now
‘Cause now my name is up in lights,
But I think you got it right,
Guys, homegirl basically saw into her own future. The song makes just as much sense in the light of 2019 as it did seven years before.
In her Reputation song “Getaway Car” Swift says “I left you in a motel bar/ Put the money in a bag and I stole the keys / That was the last time you ever saw me (go!).”
Swift took the money and her dignity and got the hell out. She chose a rose garden. She chose flowers and nature and quiet and love.
The music-lyrical house she’d built over the years was not torn down. “Actually,” she tells us, “I just built a bunker around it.” But, luckily, that bunker didn’t have to be all stone walls and cold moats. It can also be a place of lush nature and tranquil quiet and love. She was the lucky one—to surround herself with grounded people who loved her.
You don’t have to search far to see what the other side of the coin might look like. We all watched in horror (and painfully detached, foam-at-the-mouth-gossip-blog-awe) when Britney Spears unraveled in 2007. I think it’s tempting to forget just how scary it was to witness that event unfold—and how the outside world, and its demand of her, contributed so directly to that situation.
It is not easy to quietly step back. It is not easy to say, no, you do not get to take my picture right now. No, you do not get to be part of my blooming young love. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to Instagram it, does it make a sound?
I feel so thankful that Swift was able to trade Madison Square for her rose garden. Or, as it was described in the recent Vogue interview, “A human-scale basket that is short of shaped like a cocoon.”
As 2012 Swift would tell today-Swift: “It took some time, but I understand now/ I think you got it right.”
And now, we are the lucky ones. We get to glimpse inside that cocoon with the upcoming release of Lover. Come August 23rd, thousands of people will point to their deluxe editions with pages of Swift’s personal diaries and they will say “Taylor Swift lived here.”
PS: If you want to read a few other similar pieces I’ve written recently’ish, see below.