Anyone who has spent time with beetles knows that weird things can have a deep and fascinating beauty.

Shana Cleveland’s “Walking Through Morning Dew” is weird in that way.

One may wonder, “What is that, and why is it buzzing?” Or one may just sit tight in incredulous delight.

Cleveland populates the song with sounds that seem like they’re on a mission, going somewhere. Right out of the gate: big stomp from the kick drum. High, cruising slide guitar, low drone from the upright bass and a whoosh of cymbals theatrical as morning mist. Then: is that a riding mower? Is it a bee? The sun comes out, in the wake of the first chorus: the drums saunter in, and Cleveland’s fingerpicking rises warmly to the fore. The song ends in a heat-haze of organ.

Cleveland’s lyrics are as bizarre as her instrumentation. She begins, “Little writhing worms hang down from where the new buds grew.” The day is being born, with its blossoms and its bugs. The lyric gets weirder, when in the second verse Cleveland again begins with the word “little” – this time referring to a baby, “little Ozzy.” The pairing insists that the weird can be beloved, and the beloved can be weird. No matter how strange you are, you don’t have to be a stranger.

The weirdness in this song is the weirdness you can see everywhere, every day, if you look.

It is uncanny to recognize, in a child’s face, the resemblance of a parent. It’s strange to imagine a lover in younger days, “in your crown and all surrounded by those girls you knew” and remember that even those closest to us carry unknown countries inside them. It’s weird the way dramatic transformations (night into day, winter into summer) are an ordinary part of riding around in time. Babies are bizarre, bugs are wack as heck, and love is a cardinal insanity.

In her forward The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. le Guin writes, “Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.” Manzanita, the album from which “Walking Through Morning Dew” springs, may not draw on the same science fiction tropes as Cleveland’s 2019 Night of the Worm Moon, but the form of its weirdness is, like science fiction, descriptive. Surprise is paired with recognition. If it seems far afield or “out there,” it’s because the field we’re living in is vast and crawling with creatures. We may not have expected them to show up in a song, but why not? They’re here with us, we’re here with them, “walking through / morning dew.”

Manzanita, described by Cleveland as “a supernatural love album set in the California wilderness,” came out March 10, 2023.

Spring is coming.