I really think Aerial is perhaps my favorite album of hers, but I think that about every new album she releases. "A Coral Room" explores time and memory through the use of ordinary images like a crumbling seaside town and a little milk jug that belonged to her mother.
There's nothing overly emotional about the lyrics. It's not maudlin or sad. In a 2005 interview, Kate said that she was inspired by a statement she once heard about holding an item in your hand with the full awareness that one day it would break and be no more.
Proust also does it in the beautiful passage in Swann's Way in which he extrapolates his entire childhood out of a piece of cookie dunked in tea. I read that piece over 20 years ago and still keep coming back to it in my memory and looking it up to reread it, just like I listen to "A Coral Room" over and over again.
I agree that the artistry and the execution of this lovely marriage between our present and our past merit all the praise I can put upon them. I absolutely LOVE both the song and the passage. I just HATE what they do to me.
Maybe other people are able to reminisce happily and not mournfully but apparently I am not able to do that. Proust's original title in French is A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (forgive the lack of proper punctuation) which when translated by my high school French reads To the Remembering of Lost Time. I find that translation much more to my liking than the usual Remembrance of Things Past.
The past is lost time, time that won't come back. I can't go there in my memory or in my fiction and not be consumed by grief. I steer away from books like Nicholas Sparks writes, not because I think they are bad, but because I can't handle the truth.
I hate breaking open the wall around my memories. When I listen to that song, I get all choked up thinking about my dad, who died in 2003, and about my childhood and about those moments long gone that will never come again. And I just cry and cry and cry. I HATE that!!
Rather than pulling my childhood out of a cup of tea or a milk jug, I'd rather take Douglas Adams' stance and extrapolate my significance in the universe from a piece of fairy cake. Let me frolic in the happy shallows of the present than plunge into the deep waters of memory and loss. Maybe introspection like that is good for the soul, but I think it sucks to do.
Give me fun! Give me crazy times! Give me wild monsters and challenges to overcome! Give me romance! Just don't ask me to hold something precious in my hand knowing one day it will be gone forever.
Real life gives me that already, every single freaking day.