Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

I remember you

March 31, 2020
apple blossoms

apple blossoms blooming at Monticello

After last week’s snow, the tall daffodils that had just begun to open were left with their sweet open faces pressed toward the earth.

When I’d lived in Ivy, there were masses of daffodils all over the 18 acre property.  As my cats George, Bandit and I took our walks, Bandit would sneak behind the masses of green stalks in order to effect pouncing manuevers upon hapless George.  He’d perfected the Daffodil Bandit act a few years earlier, when we lived in town, repeatedly assaulting my old gal Clarabelle in this manner during her last spring.  One wanted to scold him, and did try, but there was something so hilarious in the entire set-up and execution, as if Wile E Coyote had come east and had to work with something other than dynamite, anvils, and precipitous cliffs.

In a quasi-heartbreaking moment, days before the snow, I saw George crouched out by the daffodils.  I wondered if there was some memory in his heart of his friendly nemesis.

After the snow, seeing the bowed daffodils, I went out to cut some.  Over the three  springs I’d lived in Ivy I’d hated seeing my landlady’s visitors do this.  It seemed so pointless.  Why couldn’t they just appreciate them in situ? But now, watching their descent toward the earth, it seemed the only sure way to continue enjoying them.  As I type this, they are beaming their innocent, yellow cheer at me.  Bringing them in didn’t only lighten my interior visual field, however.  By sitting so closely to them, I have noted for the first time their light but distinct fragrance.

Of course, George, if I could ask and he could answer, would be able to tell me this.  Surely it was the scent of the flowers that triggered his memory of his best friend.  How silly to think animals can’t remember love, that they can’t feel the seasons shifting and recall happiness.

Spring is a particular pitfall for me.  The very energy that the buds must summon in order to break into flower and leaf challenges me to rise to the occasion.  To be a passive observer seems preferable at moments like this.  How easy it is to marvel at the beauty and leave it at that?  But my conscience won’t allow me to remain stuck in the contradiction of quarreling with the various screwed up elements of the status quo and doing nothing to change it.

The global shutdown occurring at this moment appears to me as a logical consequence of a human economy based on the wrong values.  Here we can apply the image of our pal Wile E Coyote again, running over the cliff and into the air until he looks down to see nothing is truly supporting him.  I have wished for a righting of this ecological and spiritual wrong for a long time without being able to comprehend how devastating the consequences would be for everyone, me included.

So … an additional level of contradiction to wiggle myself out of like Houdini with his handcuffs, chains, boxes, and what-have-you.  The quality I long to develop for myself, as the rug of ordinariness has been pulled out from under me and change is rumbling, is patience.  It takes, after all, a long time not only to change one’s self but to change the world.  Many won’t survive the changing and most people will fight it tooth-and-nail.  The seasons will come and go and those of us who remain will remember this time and what came before.  What will stop us in our tracks and take us through columns of time in the blink of an eye or the inhalation of a scent will be memories of love.


January 29, 2015

My first recording of Chet Baker’s “Let’s Get Lost” was a cassette, the paper sleeve in its plastic container tape covered with ex-boyfriend’s hand-writing that listed the songs (with Syd Straw’s “Surprise” on the B side).  I played the hell out of it between 1989 to 1991 when Chet’s voice moaning those hopeless love songs was my go-to soundtrack for casting a seductive spell on the few men I managed to lure into my single girl’s apartment.

Back then, I knew nothing about Chet.  I hadn’t seen Weber’s film, and it took me while even to realize Chet was the trumpet player.  It would be years before I knew how he’d started out the golden boy of jazz and, with heroin’s help, had fallen down the ladder and had kept falling.  He’d reached the end of his journey, pancaked on an Amsterdam pavement, the year before I heard his music.

When I finally caught up with the albums he recorded in the 50’s, at first, the difference seemed too much.  Not that there wasn’t a crazy appeal in his callow, young man’s voice, but his voice in his 1987 cover of “Blame It on My Youth” sounded as full of holes and as lonesome as an abandoned barn, as splintered and cracked as a broken mirror, as smokey as scotch.  Listening to him shrug into the apologetic naïveté of Oscar Levant’s lyrics brought to mind the dignity of a well-practiced drunk murmuring his regrets politely.

If I expected love when we first we kissed

Blame it on my youth

If only just for you I did exist

Blame it on my youth

As a young woman with little experience but a untapped well of love, I was in a hurry to be someone who’d been a few places and only come back from a few (to borrow a phrase from a well-loved poet), and playing the late Chet was like a passport stamp.

Now that my life has become what I’d unwittingly wanted it to be, I can appreciate the appeal of both his early and late recordings.  Whether he’s singing a slow love song or blowing a riff, Chet swings, an inner sense of rhythm that separates a jazz musician from everyone else.  I dig his younger voice now too.  Dinah Washington dissed it once as mumbling, and it’s true that neither enunciation nor nailing the correct lyric is his strong suit.  But his voice has the same flutey sincerity that pipes out his horn, and the flattened and blurred notes sprinkled among the true ones lay down a darker chord, one that echoes a wariness that makes sense when it comes to swallowing romantic notions about love, music, life.

No doubt the man was cold, or, more accurately, what heat he possessed he poured into his music.  Yet, no matter what humiliations he suffered at the hands of his own self-defeating behaviors, he still possessed one saving grace – a talent so deep that not even heroin could erase it.  When I listen to Chet now, that’s what I hear, and it gives me a small element of hopefulness as I consider my life, its once lustrous sheen of youth now dulled.  Not that I expect any efforts of mine to approximate Chet’s achievements, but his music reminds me that in the midst of what may appear like the most appalling disaster, there’s still something beautiful that can be saved and that, in turn, saves us.

Chet Baker, photographed by William Claxton, 1954

Chet Baker, photographed by William Claxton, 1954