This might be the saddest song ever written — and as we approach Labor Day next week, a stark reminder of why the labor movement was (and is) necessary. The first time I heard this was at a Woody Guthrie anniversary concert at the Brady Theater in Tulsa a few years ago. It made me mad then. It makes me mad now. If it doesn’t make you mad, I have serious questions about whether you could pass Philip K. Dick’s empathy test.
Heard this the other day while I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel on vinyl. Great song, and I happened to listen to it while I was reading The Dharma Bums, which was sort of a nice fit — a road-trip song like “America” goes well with Kerouac.
“Before the winter fire
I’ll still be dreaming;
I do not count the time.”
— Sandy Denny
Ten years ago, trying to cope with the onset of winter and the quiet depression that seems to settle over me with the first frost and stay until the first baseball player reports to spring training, I decided to set up a blog where I could record whatever nature happened to be doing in my yard every day. I thought winter might seem more tolerable if I spent a few minutes in the garden every day, looking for signs of life.
A decade later, I’m still looking, and although there have been some periods of extended silence here while I worked on other projects, I keep coming back. In many ways, this blog has become a kind of touchstone in a life prone to sudden changes and unexpected adventures.
I can’t begin to list everything that’s happened, but it’s probably worth mentioning that since I set up this site one cold, clear night in Red Fork — a cup of Red Zinger at hand, a rat terrier curled up on the floor beside me, and visions of spring dancing in my head in lieu of the more seasonally appropriate sugarplums — I have lost twin nieces; gained two nephews and two nieces; lost and regained a career; spent four years teaching sophomore English, a job that nearly killed me the first time I tried it but probably saved me the second; lost Scout; gained Riggy, Walter and Lil Miss; painted an artcar; learned to play guitar (badly); moved 450 miles; gleefully turned 40; and last but certainly not least, written and published my first novel.
A decade later, it’s a cool, rainy night in Cape Girardeau as I sit at my desk 450 miles from Red Fork, a cup of Wild Berry Zinger at hand, a different rat terrier curled up on the floor beside me, and dreams of spring still dancing in my head. The details are different; the essence is the same.
“I have,” Sandy Denny once said, “no thought of leaving.”
This is the best news I have heard in a long, long time. As the former sponsor of Daniel Webster High School’s first-ever Gay-Straight Alliance, I cannot begin to explain how happy I am today. This morning, my kids — ALL of my kids — can marry the one they love, and would-be theocrats have nothing to say about it.
On an unrelated note, here’s Day 2 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I bought this by mistake at the dollar store, forgetting I’d already bought the frame I needed for a picture I wanted to hang up. I don’t have anything else this size that needs to be framed, but I bet somebody else does. Into the giveaway box it goes.
I have no idea how I have managed to get this far without posting any Harry Belafonte. We’ll remedy it with this live version of “The Banana Boat Song” from 1997.
I thought of Harry Belafonte this week because there was a reference to him in Selma, which we saw Monday night, and which I highly recommend. (And the scene with the Belafonte reference reminded me of why I’m proud to be a folkie. Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary have always been on the right side of history. God bless ’em.)
I was thinking about Rosanne Cash last week when Ron and I visited Johnny Cash’s childhood home in Dyess, Ark., on our way down to Memphis. I like this song a lot. First time I heard it was on a Peter, Paul and Mary tape I bought in high school. This is a pretty version.