"Paint or Pollen" as written by and Aaron Nebeker....
Don't move an inch
Listen for a singing
Hitting in your bones like they were forks
If you hear what I hear
Don't just sit there
We are only strumming water
On this most unlikely chord

You got blown shore to shore
Not quite sailing
Riding on the trade-winds of age
Things blow in
Don't just cast them
You say it now, what you want to stay

I was once on a long boat
Star-mapping the night routes
Lightening the load
Just in case
Things float in to be taken
If you don't know by now, what will stay?

So don't move an inch
Don't move a single second
Until the shade behind your thoughts is not confused
'Cause I've felt your itch
I know the scent as well as any
Clotting your garden
Of paint or pollen
Brick in your mortar
Pedals to soak in
On the cracks
Thicker or finer
Milk in your water
Black in your primer
Wood in your brush
Now I am your cloth
Whatever you want
The best is upon us
It's a finicky muse
With only potential
To choose

Lyrics submitted by rockerbabe99, edited by only1laugh, AmiPetru

"Paint or Pollen" as written by Aaron Nebeker

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Paint or Pollen song meanings
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  • +2
    My InterpretationThe way I have always interpreted this song is that it is about inspiration. And more specifically, trusting your instincts and acting on your own inspirations regardless of your fears and apprehension.

    If you think about the first verse, imagine yourself getting a good idea. I think its talking about that time when inspiration strikes and you just freeze and you get a rush of thoughts all at the same time. You get a little anxious and excited and you get that gut feeling that you have something good. That's the "singing hitting in your bones like they were forts" (as if they were forts under attack) Then he says "if you hear what I hear/don't just sit there!" -- get up! write this down! do something, this is a good idea! "we are only strumming water on this most unlikely court" I don't know if it is COURT or CHORD, as in a guitar chord. I think it may be chord and the idea of strumming water, to me, means that they are only sitting there strumming away lazily and messing around on the guitar doing nothing important so nothing is being interrupted by this idea.

    The next two verses are similar to one another in my opinion. I think that both of them are suggesting that life is a journey and inspiration can come from anywhere. You might get blown around rather than smoothly sail to where you want to go, but it's important to realize that every situation has something to offer and when something you might see as trivial or disagreeable gets "blown in", don't just cast it aside, look for its value because it's there. Likewise, when you have an opportunity to speak up, do it. Just as life may blow you shore to shore, you can still be in control. "Say it now, what you want to say"

    The next verse is one of my favorites of any song:

    "so don't move an inch
    don't move a single second"
    Remember the first verse. When you get a great idea and you don't want to loose it sometimes you just have to stop what your doing and space out and just let your mind go wild with it:
    "until the shade behind your thoughts is not confused"

    "because I felt your itch
    I know the scent as well as any"
    The experienced speaker knows exactly what its like when you get that "itch" to create something. He knows what that 'aha!' moment looks like.

    The next part is my favorite part of the whole song. Each of these statements describe a fatal (or at least very problematic) scenario in the process of creating something beautiful. It is referred to as the:
    "clot in your garden
    of paint or pollen"
    The clot being the flaw and the garden of paint or pollen being the project. The "garden" can either be a gorgeous pictured painted on a canvas (garden of paint) or it can be a literal garden full of beautifully colorful blooming flowers (garden of pollen). When you are planting a garden, you want the soil to be very fine and loose. A clot in the garden keeps the water and nutrients from being evenly distributed and if a garden is full of clotted soil, it will have trouble growing.

    A "brick in your mortar" will weaken the structural integrity of a brick structure. what gives mortar its lasting strength is the binding together of many, many tiny particles. If a large object, such as a broken chunk of brick were to be accidentally added to a mixture of mortar, the binding process would be weakened at that point. The concept is similar to the "clot in your garden".

    "petals to soak in
    on the cracks
    thicker or finer"
    I am unsure of this part. I think it might be referring to the coming together of the idea, the petals are soaking in to the cracks of the idea, filling it out with beauty. But I feel like I am just stretching it to fit my interpretation. This part has always got me.

    The "milk in your water / black in your primer" line is brilliant. If you have a glass of water and you add even a single drop of milk to it, it will become noticeably cloudy it will spread throughout the cup. You will never be able to get the original clarity back until you dilute the water significantly. Likewise: primer is a special type of paint used on canvas by the artist before it is painted on to smooth out the surface and give the paint a better texture to bind to. And just like the milk in the water, if you get a single drop of black in your white primer, the whooole bucket will turn a noticeable shade of gray and can potentially dull the colors painted over it.

    I love the "wood in your brush" line because I would never know what it meant if my dad didn't used to be a painter. I remember whenever he bought a new brush he would break it in on a 'scratch canvas'. He would run the brush all over the canvas in all different directions. He said this would get rid of any loose bristles that can get stuck in your paint and also would make sure there was no wood in the brush. Sometimes during the manufacturing process of wooden brushes a splinter of wood can get caught and stay hidden within the brush for a looong time. Imagine being half-way through your masterpiece, the best painting you've ever painted, and you pick up a brush that you've used 100's of times before and you make one broad stroke and a splinter of wood snags the canvas and tears a hole right through the middle...

    "now I am your cloth
    whatever you want
    the best is upon us"
    I can be your raw material, I can help you create something beautiful.

    "its a finicky muse
    with only potential"
    A muse is a source of inspiration. Something you keep coming back to when you feel lost.

    to choose
    to choose

    I know this is long, it is a lot longer than I intended. Obviously, I love this song. It is beautifully written/sung/played. 10/10
    only1laughon September 24, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI can honestly say I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it's STILL a beautiful sound. The band's debut album is perfect...every single tune. Paint can be colorful and permanent, although it can be covered over. Pollen floats through the air and sometimes creates life. And many people are allergic to pollen. Trying to put all that together to figure out the meaning of the song has not helped me WHATSOEVER over the past two years :(
    SweetCheeks2on February 19, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThe thing I like about art is that it means something different to everyone. My interpretation is that this song is about an essential choice someone must make.

    There are two points that reinforce the theme of a choice. First, the actual title of the song "paint OR pollen." A pollen paint job is actually a slang term defined by urban dictionary as "When it is spring and you are too lazy to wash your car and you car gets a yellow film on it and it stays" It seems odd then that the word OR would be inserted unless it was important. The second reinforcement is the two closing lines: "to choose to choose" (Blind Pilot)

    I agree with a lot of what only1laugh said from her discussion of the lines through clot in your garden to wood in your brush. (her/his?) comments are well worth the read.

    To be entirely honest, I believe all of the lyrics could address a potential relationship between the narrator and a significant other. The person he is addressing has to choose whether to pursue this romance despite past heartbreaks, this person can no longer ignore the situation. (I interpreted this from the metaphor BP makes about a struggling sailboat and from the metaphor of the tide carrying in things the addressed must chose to keep or discard).

    The narrator promises that he will be there to support the person he is addressing. In the line "I am your cloth" (BP) He is saying, that if you want to be free (clean) once more and try something with me, I can be the TOOL with which you wash the pollen paint job off. Paint is a fresh start or to keep this pollen film. Ultimately this is your decision. I don't want you to jump into something you aren't committed to or at least until you're absolutely sure of what you want. "Don't move an inch, don't move a single second, until the shade behind your thoughts is not confused."

    Though I chose to apply it to an intimate situation between lovers, it could just as easily be a non-romantic addressing. Or about another decision entirely. If you think so, or disagree, I'd like to hear your thoughts too.

    AmiPetruon November 24, 2012   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe first verse i think he's talking about how musicians hear things. like how theres music in everything. The second verse i think he's talking about a person that was used and washed up pretty much and didn't have much to live for. I think that he's just saying how music can just heal someone. And how magical it truly is. Or maybe he's trying to heal someone with his music. Idk thats what i think.
    amylou22on March 23, 2013   Link

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