I’m always interested in the story behind a good song. “Carefree Highway” is one of Gordon Lightfoot’s most popular offerings. He released it on his Warner Reprise 1974 album “Sundown.” It has a free and easy feel and I found it relatively easy to learn.
Carefree Highway is the actual name of a section of Arizona State Route 74 in Maricopa County connecting I-17 to Darlington Drive near the town of Carefree. The Highway rolls through desert mountains, Saguaro cacti, and the mesas of Tonto National Forest.
Driving from one southwestern concert to another, Lightfoot saw the name Carefree Highway on a sign and thought it would make a good song title. He wrote it down and quickly added the lyrics on some scraps of paper. The song then hibernated in a glove compartment for eight months. Lightfoot says in one of his interviews that he almost forgot about it. Fortunately, he rediscovered the lyrics and wrote the tune for the song. Once released, “Carefree Highway” reached the top of the charts in the US and Canada.
In the lyrics, Lightfoot reminisces about a brief love he had with a woman named Anne when he was twenty-two. He wonders if Anne ever thinks of him as often as he thinks of her. In his song, “For Lovin’ Me,” released in1967, Lightfoot sings about all of the hearts he’s broken as a wandering lover who can’t be tied down. In “Carefree Highway,” the tables are turned. Anne quickly dumps Gordon. (Can you hear the cheering women in the background?) As a sidenote, Lightfoot no longer sings “For Lovin’ Me” since it is now politically incorrect.
This phrase came to me when I woke up this morning. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds interesting. So…let’s go exploring.
It could be someone telling me to recall the wrong turns I’ve made in life. To be honest, I haven’t made that many, but I’ve made enough. I’ve come perilously close to crashing and burning more than once.
I believe each one of us is walking a tightrope across a broad and deep chasm. Somehow, most of us are making it across. We are doing so by the hand of grace. Because we are loved. You might even say cherished. It’s easy to forget this love, but it is always there, like a gentle hand, guiding us on our way. I may often feel alone, but truly, I am not.
I hope these words help you on your journey. Have a wonderful day!
Gordon Lightfoot is one of those rare individuals who resides in the top echelon of his profession. It takes a huge deposit of raw talent, hard work, intestinal fortitude, and luck to reach the level of success Lightfoot has achieved in the music business. Amidst all of this recognition, Gordon remains a simple and straightforward man. He is a survivor with no plans to retire. At 83 years young, Lightfoot once dodged death when his manager found him lying on the floor of his dressing room with a burst aorta. Lightfoot has navigated numerous romantic relationships, spawned six children and five grandchildren, remained close with his offspring, and outlasted most of his contemporaries, not without some regrets.
When he comes on stage these days, Lightfoot often uses a misquote inaccurately attributed to Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In November of 2021, Lightfoot had the honor of re-opening the newly renovated Massey Hall in Toronto in a live performance. He has played the historic concert venue more than 160 times.
Lightfoot released his fifteenth original album in 1982 on Warner records. The songs on the album are slower and more contemplative than many of the songs he released in the prior decade. As is his custom, Lightfoot compiled the album’s songs from scraps of notes he collected in his briefcase and tapes he recorded at home.
Of the album’s title song, “Shadows,” Lightfoot has made a few somewhat vague comments. He says it was the best song he had at the time, and that it is about a particular problem he was going through in his life involving a man and a woman and nature.
I feel the song is quite beautiful. I’ve learned it the way Lightfoot plays it. Here is my cover of “Shadows.”
I’m watching an interesting film titled “If You Could Read My Mind.” The Canadian documentary is about the life and career of Gordon Lightfoot.
Lightfoot arrived in downtown Toronto as a young man after growing up in Oridella, a small rural Canadian town. Since there were no clubs to play in at the time, Gordon landed a job in a bank to earn a living. Lightfoot was about to earn a promotion when he told his manager that he had decided to leave the bank to accept a role as an extra on a square dancing Canadian TV show. Lightfoot’s manager found it hard to believe that the young man was leaving a good job with a future to go square dancing.
As folk music became commercially viable in the late sixties, clubs began to spring up featuring promising musicians. Gordon landed a spot in one of them. He stood apart from the crowd because he performed many of his own songs in a characteristically pure voice. After he developed a following, a club owner invited Lightfoot to perform at his club across the street at twice the salary. Lightfoot gratefully accepted the invitation to perform at the Riverboat, Toronto’s premier folk music club.
With his beautiful voice and prolific outpouring of quality music, it was only a matter of time before Warner/Reprise records rewarded Lightfoot with a one million dollar recording contract, an unheard-of number for a Canadian singer. His first album with the new label was released in 1970 when Gordon was forty-two. Lightfoot had left United Artists after five albums because he felt they did not represent him adequately. “Sit Down Young Stranger” shipped 80,000 copies before sales stopped dead. The album “had no legs” in the industry’s parlance. Warner changed the name of the album and picked a new single to lead it off. “If You Could Read My Mind” became a runaway hit when an announcer on an important local radio station kept playing it. Sales of the album ballooned to 650,000 copies. The rest is history.
Here’s my cover of the song.
Gordon Lightfoot is not a “legend in his own mind” as Dirty Harry said about the perp he was about to blow away. Lightfoot is a genuine “legend in his own time.” He has been performing live well into his seventies and beyond. It is said that time waits for no man. Time may have made an exception in Mr. Lighfoot’s case.
The police are at the front door of the beach house to investigate a strange report.
An unconscious body lies on the kitchen floor. Two Daytona Police deputies are knocking on the front door of the beach house mystery writer Jacob Cassel rents. It’s going to be an interesting morning for Jacob, his super-smart girlfriend, Amy, and Arcon, an AI from the other side of the Milky Way. If they can survive the morning without being thrown in jail, they are expecting a visitor from the planet Aneleya to arrive later in the evening bearing a cornucopia of gifts for the human race. Instead of gifts, the visitor arrives with dire news about a doomsday device threatening the destruction of planet Earth and the entire solar system.
Welcome aboard for this suspenseful interstellar journey in the third volume of The Silver Sphere Series.
The three volumes of the Silver Sphere Series can be read independently and in any order.
Jim Brickman collaborated with Tom Douglas to write “The Gift.” Jim wrote the melody and Tom wrote the lyrics. Listening to many of Jim’s love songs, I can’t help but think that the man has a heart the size of Kansas.
I found an entertaining video on YouTube describing the story behind the making of The Gift. In the video, Jim reveals a healthy sense of humor about himself, and Tom tells the story with a healthy dose of humor. Here’s an edited version of the story’s opening. For the full version, click here.
Jim: “The Gift is the first song I wrote with Tom. It just felt right from the beginning. I have a recollection of our first meeting, but it’s not very clear. I’d like Tom to give his version of the story.”
Tom: “Mine’s not gonna be very flattering.”
Jim: “That’s alright. They know me.”
Tom: “So, I get a call from my agent saying I have America’s foremost Romantic songwriter and pianist who wants you to do a song with him. Needless to say, I was more than a little intimidated. I’d just moved to Nashville with my family, and I was nervous about everything. So, I walk in to meet Jim for the first time, and he’s matter-of-fact. ‘Hi. Good to meet you.’ That sort of thing. Then he starts in with, ‘I have this song with a title, The Gift. Here’s the goal: I want it to be spiritual, but not religious, seasonal, but not Christmas, and, I want it to be a love song.’
Tom (continued): “So, I’m thinking to myself, I made a terrible mistake leaving my hometown of Dallas. I was kinda like stunned, and Jim goes, ‘Here’s the melody. I’d like the syllables of the words to match the music.’ “And I’m thinking, really? Anything else? So, he goes ahead and plays the melody and I record it. Then he says, ‘Oh. One last thing: I need it by tomorrow.’
And so on. Let’s get to the music. Here’s my version.
When Jim Brickman began taking piano lessons at the age of five, his first teacher reported to the boy’s parents that he showed little promise as a future pianist. The student didn’t follow directions. He did things his own way.
I can think of four reasons why Jim’s first teacher thought so little of his potential. Either the boy was unusually rebellious, lacking in talent, or mentally ill. The fourth reason proved to be the right one. Jim was born with extraordinary talent.
Fast forward a half-century. Jim Brickman is known as one of the world’s foremost Romantic songwriters and solo pianists.
Brickman started his career writing advertising jingles. To call the man persistent is probably an understatement.
To his credit, Jim has recorded twenty-one number one albums, thirty-two top radio hits, and he has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. He is also a published author and appears on his own radio show, “The Jim Brickman Hour.” Not bad for a kid with no potential.
Many of Jim’s songs have been covered by leading pop singers such as Carley Simon, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Logins, and others.
“The Love of My Life” is one of Jim’s better-known and typically beautiful songs. I’ve adapted it for the acoustic guitar. Here’s my version.
By Developing the Habit of Focus and DisciplineYou Will See Your Dreams Come True.
The Explosive Conclusion to the Silver Sphere Series
Volume 3 Coming Early April
On Amazon Worldwide
An unconscious body lies on the kitchen floor. Two Daytona Police deputies are knocking on the front door of the beach house mystery writer Jacob Cassel rents. It’s going to be an interesting morning for Jacob, his super-smart girlfriend, Amy, and Arcon, an AI from the other side of the Milky Way. If they can survive the morning without being thrown in jail, they are expecting a visitor to arrive from the planet Aneleya later in the evening bearing a cornucopia of gifts for the human race. Instead of gifts, the visitor arrives with dire news about a doomsday device threatening the destruction of planet Earth and the entire solar system.
Don McLean released his iconic album, “American Pie,” in 1971. The title song epitomizes the era of the nineteen sixties. A famous lyric from the title song; “the day the music died,” refers to the day Buddy Holly’s plane went down. Holly and the other passengers, including Ritchie Valens and The Bigg Bopper, all died in the crash. The song “American Pie” goes on for some nine minutes to memorialize other landmark events of the era in rich metaphors. Some of the other outstanding songs on the album include, “And I love You So,” “Crossroads,” “Empty Chairs,” and “Vincent.” I’ve covered these songs in earlier posts on this blog.
“Winterwood” is an upbeat love song featuring McLean’s typically vivid imagery. Technically, the title of the song does not exist in the English language. McLean invented the name to evoke the sights and sounds of a snowy mid-winter day with the sun peaking through barren tree branches and birds chirping in the background. The image came to Mclean as he rode through mid-winter streets recalling fond memories with his wife by his side. The image and the related memories stayed with the artist for six months until he finally wrote “Winterwood.”
The technique is a departure from the finger-picking method I used in many of the other songs I’ve posted. “Winterwood” is played entirely with a guitar pick (flat picking). I abbreviated the introductory lick because it might have taken me six months to learn.
“True Colors” is a song with legs. It started out as a song written for a mother in a traditional ballad format. Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly wrote the song in 1986 and offered it to Anne Murray, a popular singer at the time. Murray passed on the song. Cyndi Lauper took it and creatively revamped the format into a stark and breathtaking version.
The song became a hit worldwide because of its universal appeal. The songwriters acknowledge that Lauper was the perfect artist to adapt the song partly because of her bold style. Released as the title song on Lauper’s 1986 album, “True Colors,” is the only original song on the album that the artist did not help to write.
In 1998, Phil Collins covered the song on his “Greatest Hits” album. Australian country music star Kasey Chambers covered the song as the theme for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2007, Cindy Lauper launched “The True Colors Tour” to support gay rights and fight hate crimes. In 2016, Justin Timberlake and actress Anna Kendrick used the song in the soundtrack for the movie “Trolls.” Kodak also used the song to advertise their film stock.
Like I said: The song has legs. Here’s my version.
When someone shows you their true colors, don’t try to repaint them.
Time After Time is a Cyndi Lauper song. I’ve never been a big fan of her music, but that only means it doesn’t resonate with me in general. She has a big enough audience without me. This song caught my attention when I heard Eva Cassidy sing it in her beautiful, unique style. It has taken me a few weeks to learn because the fingering is complicated. Eva Cassidy is known for her divine vocals, but trust me, she can play the damn guitar.
The meaning behind a lyric can create a strong connection to a song. It can help you to form a bond with a singer-songwriter. It lets you know the artist has gone through some of the same things you have. Cyndi Lauper’s hit Time After Time is one of those songs for many people. The song was the second single for her debut album, She’s So Unusual. It was actually the last song written for the album, but it made a lasting impact on the album and Lauper’s career.
A TV Guide advertisement for a science fiction movie sparked the idea for the song. Using a simple set of piano chords, Lauper co-wrote the song with Rob Hyman. As the song evolved, for Lauper it became a response to an ex-lover who was “lost” and in need of help. She can’t move forward without him by her side.
Over a two-week period, Time After Time was written, recorded, and mastered straight to the album. There wasn’t time for a demo. The song went on to become a number one hit in the United States. Here’s my version of Time After Time “Eva Style.”
Breaking a big project down into little steps makes it possible to achieve the final result.
“Crossroads” is another great song by Don McLean. It first appeared on his hit album, “American Pie.” Although the song is not as well-known as the title song and some of the other songs on the album (“Vincent”“And I Love You So” and “Empty Chairs“) Crossroads is nonetheless moving and beautiful.
On the surface, the song is about a man remembering a long-lost love with a sense of regret and a desire to turn back time. I believe the subtext of the song has a larger and more universal meaning: hope and happiness can be found with anything that joins us on the inevitable journey of life. It doesn’t have to be a lover or anyone in particular. It can be an idea, a thought, an emotion, or even an absence of something or someone. An absence can be as strong a motivator as a presence.
On the album, McLean performs the song on Piano. Fortunately, my good friend and tutor, Jerry’s Guitar Bar, has transposed the song for guitar. Here’s my version.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. BELIEVE IN A POSITIVE OUTCOME. AND, IT WILL BE SO.
Like many of us, Don McLean suffered through difficult passages in his life, many of which are reflected in his music. He wrote and recorded “Empty Chairs” when his marriage was failing. Despite the subject of lost love, I feel there is incredible beauty in the lyrics and the melody, and Mclean’s unique guitar style. If you are tired of lost love songs, I recommend listening only to the melody and the guitar.
Although the title is mentioned just once in the song, McLean chose the symbol to sum up his feelings and state of mind at the time. The title is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings of empty chairs. Mclean sympathized with Van Gogh and admired his paintings as revealed in his song “Vincent” recorded on the same album: “American Pie.”
The tutorial and the song are best played in the key of G. There are a few high notes I’ve done my best with. Please enjoy my version.
Be positive and stay faithful. Love will bloom anew.
If you are a child of the 1960’s/70’s, then you’ve probably heard of Don McLean’s memorable hit song, “And I Love You So.” What you may not know is that the song was widely covered by other recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley and Perry Como. Yes, I said Perry Como.
It is a paradox that McLean created such beauty in his music while being a monster in his personal life. His controlling, verbally abusive treatment of his daughter left her with serious psychological disorders. His behavior ruined his marriage. I guess we are all Jekylls and Hydes. The differences individually lie in which side prevails and to what degree.
In a career that spanned decades, Don McLean wrote and recorded twenty-two studio albums, four live albums, and 16 singles. He is best known for his song and album of the same name, “American Pie.”
I’m constantly amazed at the way major recording artists create unique compositions to express their music. “And I Love You So” features an original picking method combined with interesting chord shapes. To learn to play a song the way the artist does is a great way to expand your musical scope and technique. It took the better part of three weeks to master this song. It has some beautiful riffs in it. Here is my version of McLean’s hit. I hope you enjoy it.
Take the next step that’s in your wheelhouse. This is the path to your success. Don’t overreach. Falling off a cliff is no fun.
I’m reposting a blog previously titled “Vincent: A True Lover.” I’ve decided to re-learn the song closer to the original.
“Starry, starry night/ Paint your palette blue and grey/ Look upon a summer’s day/ With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”
Those words came to Don McLean as he gazed at Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 painting “The Starry Night.” Soon, he had a masterpiece of his own: “Vincent,” a 1972 hit that he released right on the heels of his defining epic “American Pie.”
Like Van Gogh’s painting, Mclean’s “Vincent” has touched a broad array of hearts and minds over the last 50 years. The song, the painting, and the book “Dear Theo,” written by Van Gogh’s brother, have certainly touched my heart again and again. I’ve always thought that Vincent’s style was at least in part inspired by his mental illness. To me, the brush strokes reflect an altered state of perception similar to the hallucinogenic patterns seen under the influence of Mescaline or LSD.
Van Gogh labored in obscurity until his self-inflicted death at the age of thirty-seven. He sold only a few of his paintings during his lifetime. Today, Van Gogh is a household word, and his paintings each sell for fifty million dollars or more. “The Starry Night” is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
Here’s the updated version of “Vincent” played closer to the original recording by Don Mclean.
Thought for the Day
When your world shrinks, your issues amplify. Keep your world and your perspective broad, for your own happiness, and the happiness of others.
In 1964, Gordon Lightfoot wrote one of his most memorable songs: Early Morning Rain. Lightfoot, a Canadian singer-songwriter, has become a folk legend. Along with his crystal clear singing voice and accomplished guitar playing, Lightfoot has written a library of outstanding folk songs depicting historical events and all manner of love relationships. To single out a smattering of Lightfoot’s top hits is to do the man an injustice. “Early Morning Rain” appears on his 1966 debut album Lightfoot! Before he released the song, another Canadian duo, Ian and Sylvia, recorded it in 1964. Many other folk singing notables (Peter, Paul, and Mary) also adopted the song.
The genesis of “Early Morning Rain” can be traced to Gordon’s 1960 stay in Westlake, Los Angeles. At the time, Lightfoot became homesick for his Canadian roots. He remembers going to the Los Angeles International Airport on rainy days to watch the aircraft take off and land. The memories of the flights launching into the overcast skies stayed with him. In 1964, while caring for his 5-month-old son, Lightfoot remembers thinking, “I’ll put him over here in his crib, and I’ll write myself a tune.” In that moment, “Early Morning Rain” was born.
The lyrics refer to someone down on his luck who stands at an airport fence to watch the thunderous take-off of a Boeing 707 airliner. The theme of the song suggests a jet-age musical allegory to a hobo of bygone days loitering at a railroad yard to steal a train ride home. Lightfoot credits the popularity of the song to his steady improvement as a songwriter.
I’ve always loved this song. Lightfoot strums it. When I heard Eva Cassidy perform the song using a picking technique, I had to learn it her way. Unfortunately, there were no guitar tutorials available. Since Eva plays “Early Morning Rain” close to her version of “Kathy’s Song,” I was able to figure out how to play EMR three-quarters of the way she does.
Why do I bother to learn how to play these songs the way these great artists do? It’s simple. I become a better guitarist with each song I learn. Most importantly, I enjoy it immensely. Here’s my cover of the song.
Thought for the Day
Am I doing the world a favor if I add one more sad voice to the wailing, no matter how artfully I express it?
When Jacob Cassel and his telepathic AI companion discover a dead body on a lonely Florida beach, it is only the beginning of an adventure that holds the fate of our world and the destiny of other worlds in the balance.
Each book in The Silver Sphere series is “free-standing.” You can read these books in any order. The author provides enough background information in each novella to orient readers to the characters and other relevant details.
Here’s an excerpt from one of first editorial reviews to come in:
“What I liked most in the novella was the flippant, often tongue-in-cheek humor that made it a light-hearted read, with witty dialogues and evocative descriptions. The characters are vividly drawn and the three-way relationship is realistically established early on. It’s not hard for the reader to suspend his disbelief and join the trio as they careen toward their ultimate goal of saving the planet. The writing is clear, literate, the vocabulary is perfectly attuned to the genre, and it is a real page-turner. I read it in one day and I am looking forward to reading Book 3 when it is available. Anyone looking for an enjoyable day curling up with a fun book will not be disappointed.”
Who doesn’t remember Simon and Garfunkle singing Kathy’s song? The answer is probably tons of people under the age of thirty, but who’s counting? The remarkable Paul Simon wrote Kathy’s Song. It was released in 1966 on the album Sounds of Silence. Along with the title tune, Kathy’s Song remains one of the duo’s most popular tracks. It is poetic, lyrical, and deeply moving.
Nearly thirty years later, along comes Eva Cassidy with her celestial voice and consummate guitar playing. Her version of Kathy’s song is characteristically unique and beautiful beyond words. If you like this kind of music, I urge you to listen to Eva’s version on YouTube. Eva doesn’t need an orchestra or a band to back her up. She plays and sings Kathy’s Song solo, and steals your heart away.
I’ve enjoyed learning how to play this song “Eva Style.” I found a good online tutorial by a guy who calls himself Ivor Sorefingers. Here’s my version.
It’s not really been that long. I just said that to get your attention. Have I got it? Good.
When Jacob Cassel and his intra-galactic associate, Arcon, discover a dead body on a lonely beach, it is only the beginning of an adventure that holds the fate of our world and other worlds in the balance.
Paddy and Tom Clancy came to America intending to develop lucrative acting careers. Little did they know they were destined to succeed enormously in the music business while making a tremendous contribution to the form, awareness, and appreciation of classic Irish folk music.
After arriving in Greenwich Village in 1951, the enterprising duo quickly established themselves as successful Broadway, Off-Broadway, and television actors. During this period, the brothers also created their own theater production company which they named: “Trio Productions.” To help raise money for the new company, Tom and Paddy sang old Irish folk songs they had learned as children. They rented The Cherry Lane Theater in the Village and performed shows regularly on Saturday nights. Soon, they were joined by notable folk singers like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jean Ritchie.
Liam, the youngest of the three brothers, came to America in 1956. He joined his brothers in the singing group, along with his good friend, Tommy Makem. The group came to be known simply as “The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.” The group distinguished themselves with their rousing style of singing Irish folk songs and ballads, while staying true to some of the slower and more mournful tunes.
The group adopted a trademark uniform after their mother, it is said, read about the inclement New York winters. She sent her boys Aran jumpers (sweaters) to keep them warm. The boys wore the sweaters for the first time at the Blue Angel nightclub in Manhattan as part of their regular winter attire. The group’s manager, Marty Erlichman, had been searching for a kind of logo-look for the group. When he saw the sweaters, he knew he had found the “special look” he was searching for. Erlichman asked the group to wear the sweaters for their first TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. After that appearance, the Clancy Brothers and Makem wore the sweaters whenever they performed.
The Sullivan TV appearance aired to an audience of forty million. The TV show and the group’s nightclub appearances attracted the attention of a Columbia Records executive. They signed a $100,000 recording contract (a staggering sum at the time) with Columbia and recorded seven albums with the studio. While the members of the group changed from time to time, their success and influence on modern folk music has endured. In all, the group recorded 24 albums on various labels. In 1964, their albums accounted for one third of all the record albums sold in Ireland.
I first saw the Clancy Brothers at Carnegie Hall when I was a callow lad of seventeen. I went to the concert with my best friend. He remains my best friend today, even though he is half a world away. The song I’m about to sing has two names: “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” and “The Wild Mountain Thyme.” It’s a Clancy Brothers favorite. This one’s for you, Danny Boy.
Fifty years have flown by at supersonic speed. I can flash back on memories of my childhood and adolescence and remember them clearly as if they happened yesterday. I try to be present for each remaining moment. I forget. I get lost in my head. Again and again. A week slips by in a day. Does time go slower when we are young? I think it does.
How is time going by for you?
I thought Joni Mitchell wrote and popularized “Who knows Where The Time Goes.” It turns out a British folk rocker named Sandy Denny wrote the song and Judy Collins made it famous. A little research can go a long way. Here’s my version of the song based on the way the late great Eva Cassidy played it.
Science Fiction Writing Tip For Today:
“You have to be out of your mind while knowing what you’re doing most of the time.”
Have you ever heard of Steve Gillette? If you were alive in the 1960’s and liked folk music and folk ballads, there’s a chance the name rings a bell. Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented singer/songwriter. Many of his songs have been performed by artists you have heard of like John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Nanci Griffith, and Linda Ronstadt.
Steve has recorded seven solo albums. In 1989, Steve married Cindy Mangsen. Together, Steve and Cindy have recorded seven albums while touring across the country for decades. Steve and Cindy are truly wandering minstrels.
The Bells In The Evening appears on Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, the album, simply titled “Steve Gillette”, stands as one of Steve’s finest recordings. “The Bells” is a bittersweet (actually sweet bitter) song of love blossoming in the spring and fading away in the fall. It’s a song full of immense joy and sorrow that combine in a mixture of awesome beauty. The song is also replete with imagery. When you listen, what images come to your mind?
Please enjoy my version of “The Bells In The Evening.”
“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light.”
In these troubling times, it seems like the world could go off a cliff at any moment.
I remember what it was like in the nineteen-sixties when we lived under the threat of nuclear devastation. Today, we live under the veil of multiple threats: COVID, cyber attacks, totalitarian regimes, Jihad, the environmental crisis and a few others topping the list. Taken together, I believe these threats have made the world a more dangerous place to live in than ever before.
Can I/we do anything about these threats? Let’s try to answer the question with some self-inquiry.
I’ve noticed on WordPress that there is a lot of blogging about the pain of life: heartbreak, lost loves, loneliness, anxiety, and more. Sure, pain is part of life, and people can relate to it. My question is: Is there something else?
The news carries stories constantly about the daily tragedies that occur around the world. Last night, for example, I was listening to a CNN report about a horrible flash flood in Germany. It’s good to know about these things, but is there something else I can focus on?
If I am a compassionate person and I listen to the suffering of others, is there someplace I can go to find peace, strength, and even, God forbid, Joy?
How many people in the world interrupt their complaining to find this place? Does it exist? Have you found it?
And finally, if I find peace within myself, will the world be a better and more peaceful place to live in?
Think about it.
Before we close, I’d like to continue the inquiry with some questions surrounding the hot topic of vaccinations.
If you don’t want to get vaccinated because the short or long-term effects are unknown, do you stand a better chance of survival if you get the more virulent COVID Delta Variant?
Did you know if the rate of Delta infections keeps rising, there is a very good chance the virus will mutate into even more virulent strains? Quite possibly, these new variants could be immune to our current vaccines.
Do you realize that not getting vaccinated puts not only you, but everyone else in the world at high risk?
If you are in good health, what is your reason(s) for choosing not to be vaccinated?
It seems I can’t end without singing you a song. Talking about the sixties, here’s one that goes back there. It’s from Steve Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, every song on this album is outstanding, except maybe the first one. Steve Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented artist.
“Back On The Street Again” is one Gillette’s best known songs. The song is about a lost love (there I go contradicting myself). It’s also about getting back up and moving on. I find the song to be touching and stirring. Maybe you will too.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
“I live for a sense of a feeling of purposefulness in this world, you know, that I could stop my life at any point and feel that my life has been worthwhile; that the people I’ve loved and my children have all reached a point where their lives are now going to come to fruit. And as far as something I live by, it’s to try to be as alive as possible and feel free to make my mistakes and try to be as honest as I can with myself.”
Kate Wolf–Singer Songwriter–1942-1986
Perhaps Kate Wolf had these thoughts in mind when she wrote the song “Unfinished Life.” It’s a haunting ballade filled with hard won wisdom, exquisite beauty, grace, and focused determination. The song is also ironically prophetic. Kate Wolf died tragically of Leukemia at the age of forty-four. Despite her abbreviated life span, she wrote over two hundred songs and performed them at venues in her native state of California and around the world. Kate’s life was, indeed, unfinished, but she left behind a treasure trove of beautiful music.
I first recorded “Unfinished Life” using a free-form guitar strumming method. Recently, while driving in my car, I listened to the song with a different pair of ears. I noticed the unique and highly effective guitar picking technique Kate used to express the words and melody of the song. After some trial and error, I’ve come up with a version that approximates Kate’s unparalleled recording.
“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”
Actually, IT has arrived. The eBook–Not the catastrophe.
Download the eBook Free on Amazon Now Through July 11th, 2021
The Silver Sphere started out as five episodes posted intermittently on this blog. I’ve deleted the posts, re-written the story, and now it is available on AMAZON worldwide for only $1.49. Download it today and treat yourself to an engaging, fun, Science Fiction thrill ride. To whet your appetite, here’s Part One. Click on the Spotify button above if you’d like to listento a professional narratorread it.
IT WASN’T REALLY a sphere.
I found it on the beach. Right at the water’s edge. Actually, I’m not entirely sure I found it. The sphere may have found me in some karmic sort of way. We’ll have to wait until later to sort it out because, as I will soon learn, time is in short supply.
First things first.
My name is Jacob Casell. Two days ago, I left a comfortable beach house to go out for a stroll in the middle of the night. The full moon and stars were my sole companions. I needed to think about the ending of my latest novel. I found the water and the salt air helped to stimulate my creative thinking.
The night was clear. I splashed my feet in the tips of the tides. I felt the crisp ocean breeze ruffling my longish hair as if it were saying, tell me your story. Before I could answer, I almost tripped and fell. A thing about the size of a basketball rocked gently in the water at my feet. I had the distinct feeling it was looking up at me, even though it had no discernable eyes.
The thing at my feet was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye. Not a human one, at least.
As I examined it, the sphere began to pulsate. I stepped a few feet away. The sphere flashed on and off like a strobe light. I wondered if the damn thing was about to explode. Suddenly, the sphere stopped strobing. Then, it spoke to me. A voice inside my head spoke in stilted English.
“Do not be alarmed,” the thing said. “The lighting effect was me reanimating my systems. No sense wasting energy while I was waiting for you to happen along. You certainly took your time, didn’t you? And, by the way, I’m not a ‘thing.’ I am a highly evolved organism. You can think of me as artificial intelligence. I am actually much more than an AI, but your mind is not capable of conceiving what I truly am.”
I drew back a few more steps thinking, I must be dreaming. This can’t be happening.
“For a man who writes novels, you display little imagination,” the sphere said.
I felt strangely comfortable speaking to the machine, as if speaking to a telepathic silver sphere was as everyday an occurrence as eating a tub of macaroni and cheese for dinner.
“How do you know I’m a writer?” I said out loud. I wasn’t in the habit of communicating telepathically, after all.
“I’ve absorbed quite a bit of information about you in the short time we’ve been together.”
“I’m not sure I like that.” I didn’t say it out loud this time. I thought it.
“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.”
“It matters to me.”
It seemed like the machine was surprised by my response and needed time to process it. I pushed the advantage. “It sounds like you were expecting me.”
“I was expecting someone. I suppose you’ll do.”
“Uh huh. Do you have a name?”
“You can call me Arcon. A-R-C-O-N.”
“Got it. I suppose you came here from some far distant solar system?”
“Next you will ask me: ‘do I come in peace?’”
“The answer is yes and no. I’m not here to hurt anyone, but there will be worldwide chaos if news of my mission leaks out.”
“That sounds ominous.”
“It’s nothing compared to what will happen if you don’t help me to complete my mission.”
“Since you appear to know everything about me, you must realize that I’m not at liberty to help you. I’m past my deadline for turning in the final draft of a manuscript. My editor calls to scream at me daily.”
“There is a much bigger picture here than your manuscript. I’ll dispense with the formalities and call you by your first name which, naturally, I’ve learned without your help. I’m getting cold and tired of soaking in this sea water, Jacob. Please take me back to the beach house your wealthy friend has lent you.”
“But I just told you—”
“Pick me up, Jacob. If I miss my deadline, you won’t have to worry about yours.”
This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.
Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.
He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.
He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.
The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.
“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”
“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.
“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”
Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.
The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.
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I see a woman shopping in a shoe department. She is long and lean, quite beautiful and unmindful of my lustful stare. She is like so many women men like me desire. I am a fool, of course.
What I want can never be satisfied by any woman. Even the most beautiful woman in the world cannot quench the flame that burns within me.
The joys and sorrows of my relationships come and go like passing clouds. I need them, but…
I often forget what I truly want: You, my beloved. Beyond the fantasies and small desires conjured by a deceitful magician. Mind brandishes multi-colored shrouds in a deft attempt to lure me away from where You reside.
Your palace is more luxurious, more enchanting than any abode the world has to offer. Beyond words. Beyond imagination.
Beyond the boundaries I call myself. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of You. A flawless diamond. Perfection itself.
Too beautiful for these outer eyes to see. More precious than a hundred Spanish treasure ships. Waiting to be discovered.
Kate Wolf left a legacy of over two hundred songs that she recorded and performed in live concert. I’ve played a number of those songs here and in online groups. I’ve tried to embody and share Kate’s love, beauty, compassion, pathos, and joy. Now, it seems my journey with Kate’s music is ending with a few songs from her last albums. Here’s an upbeat one titled “Stone In The Water.”
Linda Ronstadt made this song famous. I’m playing Eva Cassidy’s version of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” close to the style she used to perform it. Paul Anka wrote the ballad for Buddy Holly, and Holly was the first to perform it in 1958. The song reached number 13 on the charts at the time.
Ronstadt and Cassidy, two great artists, are no longer with us. They both sang like angels and their legends have grown over time. Their music lives on and is enjoyed by a worldwide audience. This track is dedicated to the memory of Linda Ronstadt and Eva Cassidy.
I had never heard of Carrie Newcomer before a friend played one of her songs (“The Gathering of Spirits”) in an online gazing/meditation class. The song bounced around in my head until I finally had to learn it.
I bought Newcomer’s album of the same name, and I have to say the other songs on it are, for me, an acquired taste. However, I’m glad I was introduced to Carrie’s music and to this song in particular. She’s a unique individual and an unusually talented artist, as you’ll see by clicking on the link above. Here’s my version of “The Gathering of Spirits.” *
In case this blog is too short, here’s my version of another song by Kate Wolf titled “An Unfinished Life.”
Born in San Francisco, Kate Wolf started her musical career in the band Wildwood Flower before recording ten records as a solo artist. Her songs have since been recorded by famous artists such as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris. “Poet’s Heart,” recorded in 1985, is the last album Kate released before her untimely death at the age of forty-four. During her life, Wolf’s music was not widely known beyond the borders of her home state of California. Over the years, Kate has attracted a broader audience of millions who appreciate her beautiful voice, poetic song lyrics, and guitar/piano artistry. “Poet’s Heart” features several songs which have touched me deeply such as, “Slender Thread,” “Brother Warrior,” and the title song, “Poet’s Heart.”
Lately, I’ve been posting on Facebook images of late 18th century impressionist paintings and 1930-40’s Art Deco cars and architecture. I’ve also been listening to and playing a lot of Kate Wolf’s music. I believe the unifying theme of these adventures is BEAUTY.
What I’m about to say may seem odd, self-inflated, or downright delusional, but what the hell. I’m going to say it anyway. It seems that I’m undergoing a dramatic shift in consciousness. I’m focusing on, feeling, and sensing the beauty and light within me and around me.
I’m choosing to focus on this beauty, not as some kind of self-improvement practice. It’s something I want to do. I don’t have to impose it on myself. You might say “the sun in my heart is rising,” finally, after all these years of struggling to arise out of the negativity in and around me. It’s not that the negativity has gone away. It’s just easier and more desirable to focus on something better.
It’s something that comes from inside and outside of me. It’s something that is beautiful, peaceful, and fulfilling. It’s something that beats the hell out of the over-controlled grind of daily life.
I started with the intention of sharing a selection of the beautiful images and music I mentioned earlier. I may have gotten a bit side-tracked along the way. So, without further delay:
My version of “Poet’s Heart” written by Kate Wolf Copyright 1985
There is beauty within us. There is beauty everywhere in the world. All we have to do is to want to feel it and see it.
Even in the midst of darkness, this is the dawn of a new age. It may be difficult to believe it or see it, but it’s happening. Nothing can deny us our destiny in love. Not doubt. Not ignorance. Not fear.
Some of us are on the cutting edge of this new world. Kate Wolf was one of these visionaries. I’m a great admirer of her work and her music.
What makes Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting one of his most celebrated works? Created in 1942, Nighthawks is considered the incarnation of existential art, capturing the alienation and loneliness symptomatic of modern urban life. The following story is inspired by the painting.
I mount the time machine and dial the year nineteen-forty-two. I have a keen interest in the war years. Activities like storming the beaches of Normandy are not high on my priorities list. I stay far behind the front lines. I find the study of American culture during the war years fascinating. I stay away from heavily populated cities to remain inconspicuous. You might say I’m not truly adventurous, excluding, of course, time travel and my voracious appetite for knowledge. I’m a scientist, first and foremost. As soon as I’ve perfected my time-traveling technology, I intend to unveil it in a white paper report and work with a team to use my discoveries for the betterment of mankind.
I finish entering all of the pertinent data into the onboard computer and push the launch button. Seconds later, the machine deposits me in the small town of Independence, Ohio. On this trip, I find myself on a corner across the street from an all-night diner. My trans-spacial watch tells me it’s two-thirty in the morning. Materializing in small towns on deserted streets in the middle of the night is a proven method for avoiding stampeding crowds.
I’m a bit freaked out by the feeling of emptiness the town exudes. I console myself with the thought that I’ve arrived in the middle of the night and everything is closed except, it seems, the diner across the street.
Through the panoramic window, I see four people sitting at the counter inside. My curiosity peaks as I begin, once again, to study life in the past, this time eighty years ago. This morning will be different than the others in one important respect. It marks the first time I will interact with people and environments of the past. I feel that I’ve learned enough from my previous trips to take this momentous step. And, I can no longer resist the urge to relate to people instead of simply observing them.
As I cross the street, I check my reflection in the large window. I’m dressed appropriately for the era in a blue business suit and matching tie with black wingtip shoes and neatly barbered hair. I’ll blend right in. Swinging open the glass and chrome door, I enter the cafe and take a seat at the counter a measured two seats away from a man sitting by himself.
The small diner smells of stale cigarette smoke, fresh coffee, and the faint scent of body odor from the man two seats away. To my right, half the wall is fitted with small bins containing tempting muffins, cakes, and breads. Across the counter, a nice-looking middle-aged couple sit demurely drinking coffee. The man is wearing a gray suit with a matching hat, blue tie, and he’s smoking a chesterfield unfiltered cigarette. The pack lying by his hand on the counter tells me the cigarette brand. The man looks like a lawyer or a doctor. The woman is wearing a green silken cocktail dress. It sets off her blazing red hair nicely. By the looks of the two-carat diamond ring on her hand, I figure the couple is well-off and married. I suppose the couple is drinking coffee to sober up for the drive home after a festive dinner party.
The man behind the counter approaches me. He is undoubtedly either the owner, or someone related to him. This is an independent operation as so many of these places were before chain automats and eventually Starbucks put most of them out of business.
“Coffee?” the man behind the counter offers. Wearing a blazing white uniform, he’s a smallish man with wire-rimmed glasses who is going prematurely bald.
“Black,” I say.
“You must be new around here,” the man says.
“You could say that,” I reply.
Lifting his eyes from his coffee cup, the man across the counter stares at me. He tips his hat revealing bright blonde hair. Combined with his deep blue-grey eyes, he’s a dead ringer for Peter O’Toole in his signature role as Lawrence of Arabia.
“My name’s Kendall,” he says in a friendly tone.” I wonder if it’s his first or last name. I happen to hate my first name. Who names their kid Saul forty years after the war? It would be a good name for my grandfather. Not for me.
“And I’m Allison,” the woman next to him says.
I’m surprised by the couple’s friendliness. Maybe it’s the late hour and the intimate setting. Maybe people here are friendlier to strangers than they usually are in the other the small towns I’ve visited. Maybe–just maybe–this will be easier than I thought it would be.
“My name’s Saul,” I say to the couple. “Nice to meet you.” I turn to the man next to me, half-expecting him to introduce himself. It suddenly occurs to me that the guy hasn’t moved a muscle since I came through the door.
“Ignore him,” Kendall says. “He’s just part of the scenery.”
“I’m sorry for that unkind remark,” I say to the motionless man. He’s heavy set, dressed in a brownish green-striped suit, and looks every bit like a non-descript traveling salesman.
I turn back to the man named Kendall. “If that was a joke, I don’t think it’s funny. People have feelings. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”
The last thing I want to do is get into an argument with these people, but I can’t help saying something.
“You don’t have to worry about his feelings,” Kendall says.
“And what do you think?” I ask Allison. On closer examination, she looks uncannily like Julianne Moore in her role as Clarice Starling in the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
“Allison is new,” Kendall replies. “She’s still in training. She’s not supposed to talk much.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. “Who are you people?”
Kendall leans down and pulls a strapped leather briefcase from below the counter. He extracts a file, opens it, and begins reading.
“Let’s see. Saul Grossman, age thirty-two, engineer/designer employed by Raytheon Technologies, assigned to jet engine development, invented and now operates a time machine in his spare time. Does that about cover it, Saul?”
I am beyond shocked. Fear and anger compete to control me. Somehow, I manage not to panic. I don’t want to hear the answer to my next question, but I have to ask.
“How do you know so much about me?”
“You’ve been on our radar,” Kendall says. “Now that you’ve decided to interact with the past, it’s time for us to step in.”
I’m still in shock, but a ray of hope may be peaking through the gathering storm clouds. “Are you time lords, or some sort of benevolent time control agency from the future?”
“Sorry to disappoint, Saul. We’re your local branch office of the NSA. We made some adjustments to your time machine after reading your time journal in which you wrote, ‘I’m now confident that I can interact with the past to make the present better.'”
“So, you broke into my house without my knowledge or consent.”
“That’s about the size of it,” Kendall confirms.
I feel my intestines start to melt. “What sort of ‘adjustments’ are we talking about?”
“For starters, we’re not in the past. We’re in a computer simulation where the only thing that’s real is you.”
I try to imagine how this can be happening. Am I talking to naked human bodies floating in an electrochemical solution inside giant Pyrex glass tubs? Are they fitted with electrodes attached to their heads to facilitate thought-transference-voice-activation to their virtual avatars? Or is it a cutting-edge holographic computer program capable of interacting with a real-live me?
I reach into my pocket to push the button on my remote control extractor. I’m not going to stand still for this. Literally. I’ll be out of here and back in good old 2021 in no time–or a few seconds.
I try again. Still nothing.
“I forgot to mention we disabled your extractor,” Kendall says with a cheeky wink of an eye.
“So now what?”
“Now you stay here for the rest of your natural born existence, my friend.”
“You’re kidding. Right?
“Afraid not, Saul.”
“You can’t do this.”
“Would you rather be thrown in jail?”
“On what grounds?”
Kendall takes the last sip of his coffee. “We’ll think of something. It won’t be pretty.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation, Saul. You’ve become a danger to yourself and the rest of us. You played with fire, and now you’re burned. The good news is we know how to use your technology better than you would have used it.”
Kendall grabs the briefcase and guides Allison to the front door. Before they leave, Kendall and Allison wave goodbye. “Have some fun,” Kendall says. “You’re an inventive guy.”
“Don’t leave. Please.”
“We’ll check back with you in another thirty years, if you’re still around,” Allison says with a cheerful smile.
Outside the door, I watch Kendall and Allison dissolve into ghostly vapors, then disperse into thin air.
Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.
“The time that’s left is yours to keep.” These words come at the end of the chorus in the song “See Here She Says” by Kate Wolf.
While I find all of the lyrics in this song beautiful, this sentence hit me smack dab in the heart. I can picture a mother teaching a child about life. She is telling the child about the importance of dreams, and to use his or her time wisely. Use it well, not only for yourself, but also for others.
Certainly, love, beauty, and a full range of human emotions come through Kate Wolf’s music. Perhaps I can feel her heart even more, now that she has passed into spirit.
I choose to wander in sunlight to avoid the riptide of darkness threatening to engulf our world.
I prefer to see and hear beauty.
I endeavor to open my heart to love. Not the love that comes and goes. Rather, to eternal love.
I am human. I need love and beauty as much as air and water.
Lately, I’ve been bathing in beauty, love, and light by listening and playing music. Specifically, one person’s music. Listen to my cover of Kate Wolf‘s “Muddy Roads” recorded on her last album (1986) Poet’s Heart. Tell me what you hear and feel.
“When we are connected — to our own purpose, to the community around us, and to our spiritual wisdom — we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness.”
“Lay me Down Easy” is technically a blues song. To me, the song sounds upbeat with a whisper of the blues in the background. And there’s definitely an element of wry humor in the mix. Maybe “bitter sweet” is a better description of “Lay Me Down Easy.”
I’ve been playing many of Kate Wolf’s songs lately. The beauty of Kate’s music steals its way into my heart the more I listen to one of her songs. As illustrated by the photos, I’m feeling the joy and the love in the song more than the backdrop of the blues. Listen, and let me know how you receive it.
Photo by Vlada Karpovitch on Pexels
We must continually choose love in order to nourish our souls and drive away fear, just as we eat to nourish our bodies and drive away hunger.
I first heard “Cornflower Blue” as the opening song on Kate Wolf’s 1983 double album “Give Yourself to Love.” As I listened to the album many times over, “Cornflower Blue” grew on me (no pun intended). I began to appreciate the exquisite beauty in the lyrics and in Kate’s lovely singing voice.
Oftentimes, songs like this one will find their way into my heart and I feel compelled to play them myself. With this song, I had my doubts. The chances were good that I might not pull it off. Learning how to play “Cornflower Blue” like Kate does was like learning how to walk again. The style is completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to, but I’m glad I made the effort. I hope my cover of the song conveys some of the mystery and beauty of the original.
“With a voice that has all the sweetness of a California morning and the loneliness of the sea beating against its rocky shores, it’s a mystery why Kate Wolf went unnoticed for so long. Listening to her songs, you never feel like you’re hearing studio recordings made many years ago. Instead, it feels like the singer’s sitting next to you, picking a guitar and telling stories near to her heart. With just a few words, Kate Wolf creates a great sense of intimacy.”*
Certain songs speak to me. Kate Wolf’s “The Trumpet Vine” is one of them. It typifies the aching beauty of her music. Here’s my cover of the song.
Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.
Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.
Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.
Finally, I see a doorway in the distance. The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination. It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.
I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute. No response.
“Anybody home?” I call out.
Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.
“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here. The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”
I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.
I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart. I’ve always believed this to be true. I never doubted it. Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot. I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door. I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.
“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door. “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent. Can you please give me some material to work with?”
“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.
I almost fall down. These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years. It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice. I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest. I must take advantage of this opportunity. I have to get right to the point. I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy. I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape. I can’t risk wasting its time.
“Okay,” I begin. “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”
“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”
“Okay, okay. Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”
“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily. “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”
There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.
“You aren’t ready to meet me. And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.
“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”
“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.
“Good. Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience. Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”
“Then practice it.
I wait for more words of wisdom. There are none forthcoming.
I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”
I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:
“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:
“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”
“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”
In a ten-year career tragically cut short by Leukemia, Kate Wolf wrote and performed over 200 songs. Her music is poignant, simple, honest, and transparently beautiful. She performed at venues throughout her native state of California. Since her passing in 1986 at the age of 44, Kate’s audience has grown steadily as people like me discover her music. “September Song” (recorded on Kate’s 1979 album “Safe at Anchor”) is one of my favorites.
“Starry, starry night/ Paint your palette blue and grey/ Look out on a summer’s day/ With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”
Those words came to Don McLean as he looked at Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 painting “The Starry Night.” Soon, he had a masterpiece of his own: “Vincent,” a 1972 hit that he released right on the heels of his defining epic “American Pie.”
Like Van Gogh’s painting, Mclean’s “Vincent” has touched a wide range of creative spirits over the last 50 years. The song, the painting, and the book “Dear Theo,” written by Van Gogh’s brother, have certainly touched my heart again and again. I’ve always thought that Vincent’s style was at least in part inspired by his mental illness. To me, the brush strokes reflect an altered state of perception similar to the hallucinogenic patterns seen under the influence of Mescaline or LSD.
Van Gogh labored in obscurity until his self-inflicted death at the age of thirty-seven. He sold only a few of his paintings during his lifetime. Today, Van Gogh is a household word, and his paintings each sell for fifty million dollars or more. “The Starry Night” is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
Here’s my interpretation of Mclean’s homage to the masterpiece.
Kate Wolf came to prominence during a ten year period from 1975 to 1985. Tragically, Leukemia brought Kate’s life and singer/songwriting career to a premature end at the age of forty-four. In the brief time she had, Kate managed, in her gentle way, to become a major influence on the folk scene with songs like, “Give Yourself to Love,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Green Eyes,” “September Song,” and many more. In all, she wrote over two hundred songs, a prodigious output considering Kate’s foreshortened career.
The appeal of Wolf’s music is the same today as it was when she released her first album on her Owl Records label more than 30 years ago. Millions of fans around the world remain loyal to Kate and her music. She continues to attract new fans, like me, with her abundant legacy.
I want to thank Gena Netten for introducing me to “Give Yourself to Love” and the incredibly beautiful music of Kate Wolf.
There once was a Goddess who preferred to talk to fully grown trees rather than people. While searching for a splendiferous tree, she instead encountered a gnarled tree stump–a whole forest of them, actually.
The Goddess, named Marsha, was quite young. She was one-hundred-and sixty-two years old, which, in Goddess terms, is merely a teenager. Her parents, Atara and Gringold, lived in another quadrant of the galaxy. They had not heard from their daughter in over one hundred years. Obviously, they were very concerned about Marsha’s welfare.
Since there isn’t space in a blog to artfully parse out Marsha’s backstory, I will give you the bare bones and then move on.
For starters, Marsha really isn’t Marsha. Atara and Gringold gave her a proper Goddess name: Savasanti. It means “Beautiful Peace.” Like almost everything her parents tried to give her, Marsha discarded the name in favor of something else. This is not to say there is anything wrong with the name Marsha. I am only pointing out that it is unheard of to refuse a given name in the world of Gods and Goddesses.
As the dual suns beamed down on the idyllic world of Aleya, an argument ensued between Marsha and her parents in the parlor of their majestic mansion built on the highest bows of a giant Grazanga tree. (The fruit of a Grazanga tree resembles a football-sized pasticcio nut, by the way. They make a delicious and nourishing grab-and-go meal for a God or Goddess, either raw, roasted, salted or unsalted).
Shouting on Aleya is a rare event, especially between parents and their children. Nevertheless, the shouting between Marsha and her parents was audible on the marshy plain thirty feet below and outward to the neighboring tree mansions. As the conflict escalated, Atara and Gringold reddened with embarrassment and anger while Marsha’s spirits soared. Marsha always felt powerful when she irritated her parents.
Whereas they had every right to lose their tempers, Atara and Gringold, like the good parents they were, did not. However, the decibel count of the exchange increased to a level where it became necessary for a peace abiding neighbor to call the tree police to restore the tranquil vibrations of the neighborhood. The arrival of the tree police only served to heighten Atara and Gringold’s level of frustration and embarrassment with their daughter.
Exasperated, Atara cut Marsha off in the middle of a tirade. “As long as you live in this house, you will obey our rules.”
Marsha looked back at her mother, literally fuming with her long auburn locks ablaze.
“Our patience with you is at and end,” Atara added. “Your father and I expect you to curb your insolence, your selfishness, and your complete lack of gratitude.”
“If your behavior doesn’t improve,” Gringold said, “I will send you to Marsh Point where they will teach you discipline and how to act like a proper Goddess. This is your last warning, Savasanti.”
Marsha, as she was known to herself and a handful of insolent friends, glared defiantly at her parents.
After a few tense seconds, Atara implored, “If you won’t listen to us, talk to the trees. They are wise.”
“The trees are stupid. They say the same things you say.” And with that, Marsha stormed out of the room trailing behind her a long mane of smoke.
The next day, Marsha abruptly left home for worlds unknown.
Due to her premature departure, Marsha never learned the arcane secrets of navigating billions of light years across the galaxy and landing gracefully at a pre-determined destination. She arrived in Earth orbit, because the planet looked inviting from outer space, only to plunge like a meteor into the sands of the Gobi Desert in a failed attempt to land smoothly. I assure you that “failed attempt” is an exceedingly kind description of the event.
Marsha spent nearly a century at the bottom of a deep crater gouged out of the shifting and scorching sands of the Gobi Desert. The immense force of the impact left Marsha in a coma for most of this time. To be exact, the impact left Marsha’s cells in a coma because she no longer had a body. Her tissues lay scattered across a concave pit in the darkened depths of the crater. Over time, Marsha’s body reassembled, cell by cell. When her body was whole again, it still required a decade to recover from the shock of the explosive landing.
And then one day, Marsha’s eyes blinked open. She remembered nothing. She wondered, Who am I? What am I doing here.
For days, Marsha lay in the pit of the crater. Memories fluttered into her brain, slowly at first, and then quickly, like a drought stricken lake fully restored in a deluge of spring rain. She knew who she was and where she had come from.
With every beat of her heart, Marsha grew more curious about the planet she had landed on. She knew there was more to the new world than the desolate hole she found herself in. She remembered seeing lush land masses and vast oceans from her orbit in outer space.
Without another thought, Marsha jumped into the embrace of the darkness and flew out of the crater into the harsh sun and endless sands of the desert.
In any new situation, the first thing to do was to talk to a wise tree. This was especially true if you were not fond of people, as in Marsha’s case. Any dummy knew speaking to a tree first in a new situation was the smart move. And Marsha was no dummy. She had told her parents that trees were stupid just to aggravate them.
She kept flying until the land below turned from deathly pale sands into thriving shades of verdant green. After several clumsy and near catastrophic attempts to lose altitude, Marsha managed to ease into a cruising altitude near the planet’s surface. Ahead, she spotted a menagerie of trees in all shapes and sizes. Perfect. It appeared to be some sort of tree garden.
She landed in a field of pink roses. There were no people or houses of any kind in sight. Marsha figured she had come to a public park, or perhaps the reserve of a very rich family. Whatever the case, Marsha felt safe enough to lie down and take a nap. The long flight combined with a century of bodily dismemberment and reconstitution had taken its toll.
Marsha had no idea how long she had slept. She awoke in the dead of night staring at a canopy of stars overhanging a ghostly full moon. The sight reminded Marsha of the museums her parents had taken her to as a child. Those were happier days, centuries ago and billions of miles away.
It was time to begin her new life. No sense laying around and reminiscing. Lifting herself up from her bed of roses, Marsha marched towards the tree garden. And then, Marsha saw something grotesque. She had never seen anything like it before. A ring of tree stumps surrounded the tree garden. Upon reaching the ring of stumps, she stopped suddenly. “Who would do this and why?” she wondered aloud.
“It’s unfair,” the nearest tree trunk replied. “We grew too tall and blocked the view of the garden. So the humans cut us down.”
“I know. It’s abominable. The humans can’t communicate with us. Don’t ask me why. My name is Earl, by the way.”
“Marsha. Pleased to meet you.”
“Are you from around here?”
“No. I’m from the other side of the galaxy. I’m a Goddess.”
“You don’t say.” The tree trunk made clicking sounds, as