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Nostalgia and the Search for Stillness in “Be Still” by Canyon City

“And the signs that line the drive are just a guide through / And the place you’re trying to find is just a feelin’…” Paul Jeffrey Johnson, for Canyon City’s song “Be Still”

Apple Music keeps suggesting me amazing songs on my personal radio station. The latest in a long run of tunes I’m adding to my daily rotation is “Be Still” by Canyon City. It’s a beautiful acoustic song musically, but the lyrics hit me really hard. They explore themes of nostalgia, memory, longing, and the ultimate search for stillness and peace in the midst of life’s complexities. 

I decided that analyzing these poignant verses further in writing could help me, and you my dear readers, appreciate the message it has to tell even better. Through this essay, I hope we can identify a deep-seated longing for simpler times, an introspection on the nature of time and memories, and a call to ground ourselves in the present.

Nostalgia and Memory

“Pack up the bags and lock the doors / One last look through the bed stand drawer / For the stack of cards sent years before / Ghosts of slow dance turns on the old scuffed floors.” – Paul Jeffrey Johnson, for Canyon City

These poetic lines take us back in time, conjuring images of moving out and leaving a familiar place. Memories are denoted by the stack of cards and slow dances, signifying the sacred spaces they hold for us. The old scuffed floors symbolize the imprints of past experiences, events that shaped and defined a bygone era. As much as they bring comfort, memories can also haunt the present, reminding us of how time can pass us quickly by if we keep trying to live in the past.

The Everlasting Yearning for the Good Times to Come Again

“Your first lost love and your childhood home / The songs on fading out radio / While the full moon hangs in the rear view road.” – Paul Jeffrey Johnson, for Canyon City

Johnson’s words here emphasize universal symbols of nostalgia and longing. The first lost love, childhood home, and fading songs from the past are motifs that every person can relate to at some point in their lives. There’s also a palpable sense of yearning, not just for the past, but for the feelings associated with it. This idea is further amplified with the imagery of the full moon in the rear view mirror, representing things we leave behind but that still loom large in our consciousness.

Transience and Permanence

“Some people leave, some stay / Some years just feel like a few good days / Like light that shines from stars long fallen.” – Paul Jeffrey Johnson, for Canyon City

Here’s a poignant reminder that Life is transitory. People come and go, and time seems to slip away faster than we can grasp. The analogy of the light from long dead stars captures this perfectly. Even after their demise, stars continue to shine, much like memories that persist long after the events have passed.

A Quest for Stillness

“Sometimes the light you need / Is just waiting ’til you stop.” – Paul Jeffrey Johnson, for Canyon City

One of the most striking messages of the song is the need for stillness amidst the chaos. In our relentless search for answers, meaning, or even memories, we sometimes forget to pause and appreciate the present moment. The clarity we seek often comes when we are still, when we halt our endless quests and just allow ourselves to be.

The Power of Love and Presence

“I can tell you one thing wherever someone loves you / Don’t look back don’t worry be still.” – Paul Jeffrey Johnson, for Canyon City

The song culminates with a profound reminder about the power of love and being present in the moment. In its many forms, love can provide a sense of grounding. This is a reminder for us to recognize the love that surrounds us in the present. It’s a call to let go of anxieties and worries and to find our peace in the arms of those who love us most.

Overall, ”Be Still” by Canyon City serves as a melodic reflection on life’s ephemerality and the human tendency to get caught in the memories of the past. Yet, amidst these reflections, it offers a serene solution—finding stillness in the present and grounding oneself in love. It’s a gentle reminder that while the past shapes us, the present holds its own magic, and we should cherish it.

Of course, this wouldn’t be one of my essays without some actionable advice, would it?

Why Stillness Matters

The hustlers out there likely find something hilariously paradoxical about listening to a song titled “Be Still” in a world that’s perpetually in motion. Yet, with notifications pinging, phones buzzing, and the to-do lists threatening to revolt if not attended to, Paul Johnson of Canyon City whispers in our ear: “Don’t worry be still.” I know that for some of you, the irony is so rich, you could spread it like avocado on toast and call it breakfast.

However, the calming melodies and thought-provoking lyrics of this song serve as an earnest reminder of a truth we often forget; yes, sometimes, it’s okay to do absolutely nothing. By nothing, I don’t mean scrolling aimlessly through social media or planning your next vacation in your mind. I mean truly basking in the vast, limitless plains of nothingness.

So, how can you “Be Still” when you’re naturally a jumping bean or otherwise invested in the hustle culture of the 21st century? Here’s some thoughts.

Seek Moments of Mental Clarity: Our brains aren’t designed to be in a perpetual state of hustle. Just like how your phone starts acting funny when you have too many apps open, our minds too occasionally need a reboot. Rest, for both our minds and bodies, is a natural, healthy thing to have, and to ignore that simply isn’t productive.

Regularly Cultivate Creativity: I write about creativity a lot, but even I sometimes forget that some of the best ideas I’ve ever had pop up when I’m doing absolutely nothing. That’s because stillness is the petri dish where creativity breeds. The problem is most of us dismiss the seemingly wild ideas we get in quiet moments when what we should be doing is writing them down and seeing where they take us. 

Practice Meditation, But Make It Fun: The age-old wisdom of meditation holds true. But, if you’re picturing yourself on a mountaintop, chanting and levitating, you’re doing it wrong. It can be as simple as focusing on our breath for a few minutes. There’s no need to aim for Buddha-level enlightenment on your first go, or at all. You need to find what activity relaxes YOU more than anything else and calmly go about doing just that.

The Power of Disconnecting: Remember the ancient days when phones had cords? (I grew up with them, so yes, I’m old). Try the 21st-century version of it. Tie yourself — not literally, good gracious — to a spot. But, leave your gadgets in another room, and just be alone with a good book or even just your thoughts. I also like to have a notebook beside me at such times. If you’re fearing taking such a moment – it means you really need it. In fact, I need to do this more… perhaps daily.

Take Nature Walks: Walking from your couch to the fridge to get a cold beer or soda pop doesn’t count as exercise. Instead, engage in a stroll amidst nature. Trees have a miraculous ability to listen without offering unsolicited advice. But believe me, they do hear you. Considering I live on an old Vermont farm, this is something I should do a lot more than I do.

With all this advice in mind, I’m thankful to have heard Canyon City’s “Be Still” thanks to an advanced music discovery algorithm. For me, it isn’t just a song; it has reminded me to find peace in places I’ve forgotten to look for it. Heck, it could even be an anthem for the modern soul. 

So, the next time you find yourself spiraling in the hustle, take a moment to relax. Channel your inner sloth and just “be still.” You might just find that in the midst of nothing, you discover everything. And, if all else fails, play this song on repeat. Sometimes, letting great melodies wash over you is an easy enough way to find the stillness you need most.

Listen to Canyon City’s “Be Still” on YouTube Music.

~ Amelia <3

Meta description: What does “Be Still” by Canyon City mean? Get insight on the song’s lyrics, and what makes it special.

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy. Personal Website: https://www.thephoenixdesertsong.com

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