I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tum-bl-ing down…
It is generally understood that songwriter Carole King meant these lines as a metaphor, presumably for falling in love, possibly also sexual climax.
I’m no lyricist, but neither makes much sense to me personally. I prefer that the earth and sky stay put, regardless of my romantic and/or carnal practices. As far as I am concerned, it’s nice to know what to expect—from the earth, the sky, sex, life. When everything goes exactly to plan, I feel safe, and when I feel safe, I feel free.
Despite my eccentricities, I am not what anyone would call a free spirit. My spirit is actually quite contained.
Not trapped, exactly, but enclosed in some sort of existential doggie fence. When my metaphysical self wanders too close to the boundary, I zap her. Bzzzzzzzt. Right in the superego.
A truly free spirit could handle a little bit of earth moving or sky tumbling. She might even enjoy the ride. She definitely wouldn’t blame herself for not somehow managing to hold the earth and sky in place by sheer strength of will.
Do you ever think about the fact that the earth is spinning at sixty-six thousand miles per hour? And how, if you could somehow bounce yourself out of gravity’s grasp for a minute or two, you would land miles away from where you left the ground? Is it possible that it can happen while you aren’t paying attention? Because it feels like I bounced sometime in 2018 and I got put down somewhere strange.
You see, things are changing in spite of me. Some of the dependable constants of my adult life are proving more unsteady than expected. The horizon upon which I’ve always focused my gaze seems to be only one of several possible options—did you know the horizon goes all the way around? The sky isn’t tum-bl-ing down, but it definitely looks closer than it once did. Very suspicious, this sky.
Looking at it one way, this all beckons to a sense of adventure I thought I had left behind long ago. It’s a new world! I feel my heart start to trem-bl-ing!
On the flip side, I hate it so much.
The truth is, it is only on the surface that I am the ebullient, artsy type. Deep down, I am a neurotic little control freak with a desire for order that borders on the fetishistic.
Carole King understood this, though. When “I Feel the Earth Move” was released as a single, the B-side was “It’s Too Late.” She chose to take an anthem to falling, to letting go, to losing control, and place it opposite the world’s most rational break-up song.
There’ll be good times again for me and you
But we just can’t stay together, don’t you feel it too
Still I’m glad for what we had and how I once loved you.
Get a load of Carole. On the A-side, so wild! On the B-side, so mature.
She wrote these two songs in the immediate aftermath of her break-up with her co-writer/co-parent/first love Gerry Goffin, with whom she wrote such classics as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Loco-Motion,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and a dozen more songs you definitely know well enough to hum along to. Together, they were genius squared. They took the sixties and set them to music. They were iconic from their first collaboration as teenagers.
So when that relationship imploded, collapsing under the weight of the changing times, and the pressures of parenting, and the obligations of success, and a million other things tumbling down, it must have felt like the earth was moving…and not in the sexy way. Like the sky was falling, and would never stop falling. Like she had left the surface of earth for a moment and landed in an unrecognizable country. It must have felt, at first, like she could never love again, never write again, never sing again.
But she did. She wrote about the earth moving under her feet. And she wrote about her sensible breakup. And she wrote the rest of fucking Tapestry.
And for the first time in her career she put out records where she sang her own songs, and on the cover she put a picture of herself in her home, with frizzy hair and bare feet, looking like a person and not a superstar. And that album sold thirty million copies and won Album of the Year.
She did all of these things while taking care of her small children, and moving her family across the country, and making new friends and finding new loves. She wrote her way through the end of the tumultuous sixties and into the uncertain seventies and she kept writing.
Fifty years later, there are a few things Carole King and I have in common. Both of us are mothers. Both of us are writers. Both of us have wildly unmanageable hair keeping our wildly unmanageable brains warm.
Both of us know what it feels like to have our worlds toppled and our internal gravity reversed, but long ago Carole learned how to create works of genius in the chaos. At some point, she learned how to trust that she would find her way home whenever she touched down again.
She must have learned all this while parenting, while worrying, while writing, while making it up as she went along.
Hopefully, Carole and I have that in common, too.
Theresa Weiler is a writer/singer/speaker/seeker. She lives in metro Detroit with her husband and four children. Follow her on Twitter @sometimesreese and Instagram @realtheresaweiler.