The song “Call it Dreaming” by Iron and Wine is about seeing all of the shades of life at once, beauty and pain, and recognizing that underneath any emotion or relationship, there’s a simple aspect of being a tiny human part of a big, mysterious, natural world that ties us all together.
Being human involves saying our goodbyes, giving and receiving love, and accepting our role in the universe.
The song opens with a dreamy feel. Sam Beam, the singer/songwriter behind Iron and Wine seems to be saying goodbye to someone who he feels is leaving- whether through death or another kind of relationship-ending departure.
The theme of the song is that one lifetime is all we get, so we’d better use it well to share how we feel, and to carry the love forward into the future that has been given to us in the past.
“…The time of our lives is all we have
And we get a chance to say
Before we ease away
For all the love you’ve left behind
You can have mine”
Throughout Call it Dreaming, Sam Beam uses imagery of wind, rain, the sun, and the moon to bring to mind the ways that humans are tied to the natural cycles of life. Comparing the moon and the human body, both “like shining glass,” he’s drawing attention to our deep connection to the universe and the cycles of time.
To take it one step further- the moon is a reflection of the sun’s light. And if we, too, are shining glass just like the moon, then our reflection of the love we find in life is what’s natural.
Ultimately, Beam says, “We keep the light we’re given,” meaning that the love and care we are provided in our lives is meant to sustain and preserve us. Also, we’re meant to share it.
With the lyrics, “we can laugh without a reason” – and “our water isn’t hidden,” he’s saying that to laugh and cry are natural pieces of our life cycle as well. He includes healing as part of the natural course of things, and recognizes that pain is part of the process of being human.
His statement that we can “weep and call it singing” is another way of seeing the connection between healing and pain. He’s saying that things aren’t always what they seem, and, we get to choose how we interpret life’s inevitable bumps and bruises.
By the lyric our “hands hurt from healing,” we know that he’s seeing pain and healing as intertwined experiences.
The use of “we” throughout the song is a hint that Beam is conveying that these messages are meant to be bigger than any one singer/songwriter, but that we are all a part of these healing, life-affirming, cyclical parts of the natural world. Why is it that “the sun isn’t only sinking fast,” as he says? Because even as the sun sinks, the moon rises. Things happen in their own rhythm, whether we’re aware of it or not.
When it comes to timing, we know that our brief human lives will mean lots of goodbyes. Beam is offering to us the idea that saying goodbye is just another natural part of life’s processes. Again, he echoes this idea of a natural rhythm in life, offering comfort to us in that “every night knows how long it’s supposed to last.”
Notice that we don’t necessarily get to know, but the night itself knows. That line clues us in that he sees a meaning, a deeper knowledge and a sort of divine timing in the human experience.
Even though we can’t observe it, we’re meant to trust that it’s there. And while we know our time is limited and pain is inevitable, we also know we are part of this big, beautiful experience of life, which is worth all the hardship.
We also know there will be “love we left behind,” and he seems to say that this exchange of love through the expanse of time is what it’s all about.
About his own songwriting process, Beam said, “All my songs usually borrow from my own life but pull from fantasy or other people’s stories that you hear, or something you read. It’s fun as a writer to pull from all those different places, and to connect them.”
Call it Dreaming is a great example of Beam’s uncanny ability to pull imagery and emotion from different places in the human experience and connect the dots.
In essence, Call it Dreaming by Iron and Wine is about returning our love and care to the people who have loved us, as a way of connecting to a deeper meaning in life and our relationship to the universe. Connecting with and reflecting that meaning back to the world and to other people is our human way of participating in life’s natural cycles.
Here’s the official music video, depicting Beam out in nature, connecting with the community and the natural world:
Call it Dreaming Song Lyrics
Explore the full lyrics of the song Call it Dreaming by Iron and Wine: