Wow. Just … wow. If I still taught, this would totally go into my figurative language unit.
Wow. Just … wow. If I still taught, this would totally go into my figurative language unit.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still, somehow,
It’s love’s illusions I recall;
I really don’t know love at all.
Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, ‘I love you’ right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends are acting strange;
They shake their heads and say I’ve changed.
Well, something’s lost when something’s gained
In living every day
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose, and still, somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall;
I really don’t know life at all
– Joni Mitchell
Once again, I find Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece resonating for me in a new way.
This week on Facebook, a friend posted a link to some website’s ranking of 200 careers. This website — employing methods of data analysis almost as credible as those used to measure progress under No Child Left Behind — attempted to quantify the “best” and “worst” jobs of 2013 and declared newspaper reporter the worst.*
Most of the people weighing in on the conversation were disgruntled journalists who agreed they had the Worst Job in the World. I read their comments and wondered why, in an era of shrinking budgets and shrinking newsroom staffs, anyone would remain in a job where he or she felt overworked and underappreciated.
Actually, I didn’t wonder. I knew, because years ago, I was the same way. Instead of savoring the moments that make journalism the best job in the world, I let myself get caught up in negativity and focused on day-to-day annoyances and frustrations, forgetting that hassles are part of the human condition.
I really didn’t know love at all.
I don’t take my life as a journalist for granted these days. I’ve been through my share of “tears and fears,” and after five years away, I look at my profession and feel unbelievably “proud to say, ‘I love you’ right out loud.”
Old friends reading this probably will “shake their heads and say I’ve changed.” I don’t care. I’m not interested in something that’s lost. I’m too busy savoring something that’s gained.
* I had to laugh when I saw “stress” cited as one justification for the low ranking. I’ve taught in two urban high schools, and if the toughest part of your job is a deadline, you really don’t know stress at all.
Folk Thursday didn’t happen here, because I wasn’t home. I was busy having The Greatest Folk Thursday Ever at the gorgeous Stiefel Theatre in Salina, Kansas:
Recognize her? Here’s another clue:
Fine — I’ll just spill it:
My awesome friend Greg — pop culture connoisseur, photographer extraordinaire, and proprietor of TheLope.com, which you should bookmark if you haven’t — has some well-connected friends who arranged a little meet-and-greet with Ms. Collins after the show. Greg is often known as “Ace Jackalope’s Driver,” as he is the owner of Ace Jackalope, a flocked toy jackalope from Wall Drug, who dresses up in appropriate costumes and poses for photos with various celebrities. As you can see, Ms. Collins was willing to play along, which I thought spoke well of her. (I don’t trust people who refuse to be seen with Ace.)
In that top picture, which Greg shot, I was laughing because I had just informed Sweet Judy Blue Eyes that I was a couple of days away from moving to Rush Limbaugh’s hometown — whereupon she turned into Sweet Judy Side-Eye. Like Chantal Biya caliber. It was, as the kids say, epic. We also talked about her recent anti-Monsanto activism on behalf of honeybees, which of course I as a beekeeper appreciate more than she will ever know.
Even if I hadn’t gotten to meet her, it would have been worth the trip, because my seat was awesome (second row, but nobody was in front of me), the theater was gorgeous (more on that in a future post), I had a wonderful time with Greg and his friends, I got to hear part of the sound check from the lobby, and for her encore, she sang “In My Life,” which particularly resonated in light of the timing.
This isn’t from last night, but it’s fairly recent:
We’re moving tomorrow, so I’ll probably be out of pocket for the next few days. I hope to have Internet service set up at the new house by mid-week. I’ll try to post pictures of the new house, the new office, and various other things then.
I … this … I just … um … wow … it’s …
OK. Lemme catch my breath and try again:
Here we have Michael Ball — MICHAEL. FREAKIN’. BALL. — singing “Both Sides Now.”
Sadly, nobody has posted the whole thing on YouTube yet, so you only get to hear a minute of it. But what a glorious minute. It’s not available in the United States until next week, but for now, just knowing this magnificent thing exists is good enough for me.
Michael Ball. Dear Lord.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
So a weird thing happened the other night. My mom had just finished reading my novel, and she had e-mailed me with her thoughts on the manuscript. In my response, I described how one of the book’s final scenes had drifted into my thought as I pulled into San Jon, N.M., late one night, too exhausted to drive another mile, and checked into a tired little motel a half-mile from the defunct business that had inspired much of the novel’s setting.
I’d gone to New Mexico in search of inspiration that weekend, and I found it in the surreal combination of cold and wind and darkness and desert. What I didn’t realize was precisely what I had found.
As I told Mom about that night and the way it had inspired my perception of one of the novel’s secondary characters — a kind, generous woman facing a terminal illness with grace and selflessness — a name popped into my head: La Llorona.
I had seen La Llorona mentioned once in a Tony Hillerman novel, and I was vaguely aware that she was a weeping spirit, but I knew absolutely nothing else about her.
I Googled her and was somewhat unnerved to discover a painting of La Llorona that bore a striking resemblance to the scene I’d imagined that night in San Jon, where I’d spent the evening curled up in a threadbare motel room, listening to the wind wail outside. Leave it to me to conjure up a 500-year-old infanticidal Southwestern banshee without even realizing it….
In the course of my online research, I made the delightful discovery that Joan Baez had recorded a song called “La Llorona” — so of course it had to be this week’s Folk Thursday offering.
Meanwhile, the benevolent character in my novel has taken on a slightly different persona. She’s still benevolent, and I still love her, but with La Llorona informing my perceptions, she has taken on a darker backstory, and her benevolence seems to be the product of a tormented soul in search of redemption.
This is what I love about writing fiction: Spend enough time with your characters, and they will eventually write much better stories than anything you could have come up with on your own.
Ron found this one. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard.
Ron suggested this:
John Fullbright is scheduled to play at Woodyfest this summer.
Incidentally, it is now 139 days until Woodyfest.
Monday night, I went to bed early, feeling a little icky. I woke up sometime around 3 a.m. in excruciating pain and spent the next twelve hours feeling like the result of some unholy union between Linda Blair’s character from The Exorcist and John Hurt’s character from Alien.
I mention this not because I want to talk about sickness, but because I want to talk about love.
No matter what Madison Avenue tries to tell you, love is not a box of chocolates wrapped in red foil, a diamond ring, or any other shiny object. Shiny objects are pretty, but they are also incredibly distracting, and they tend to pull our attention away from what they’re supposed to represent.
Love isn’t flowers or candy or cliches. Love is taking care of someone who is so disgustingly ill that she could pass for something out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, escorting her back to bed when she’s too weak to walk on her own, pulling her close to quiet her chills, and whispering, “You are loved” until she stops sobbing and falls into a fitful sleep. Love is a cup of ice chips and a warm blanket and a thousand other little kindnesses that make the rough, scary times just a little more bearable.
Tonight’s Folk Thursday offering was Ron’s only request for our wedding. All the other music was either ’60s folk revival (“Since You’ve Asked,” “There Is Love”) or Broadway (“Love Changes Everything”).
Somehow it all fit together and worked, as our lives have done for the better end of 15 years.
I love you, Ron. Thank you for taking care of me … in sickness and in health.
I’ve had “Love Song to a Stranger” stuck in my head all day and wound up playing it during my guitar lesson. (Score another one for the hippie: Zaphod had never heard it before. I think I am slowly but surely turning him into a folkie….)
I really like this version. Very simple, very sad, and very pretty — and could Joan Baez be any more gorgeous here? She makes that line about “dark eyes that melted your soul” seem very convincing.
I wish she’d come to Oklahoma. I haven’t had a chance to see her in concert in almost 20 years, which is way too long.
A new song from the elder statesman of the folk revival. Thank you, sir.
(Hat tip to Ron for sending me the link.)