Sunday, June 17, 2007
A reading from the gospel of John
That's right, you're looking at the cover of John Denver's album, Rocky Mountain High (1972).
Either you're astonished that someone as hip and with it as me could be listening to such retrograde pap [snort], or you're shaking your head at my complete and irrevocable descent into dagginess and moving to wipe me off your Bloglines/Google subscription list. OR, you could be shaking your fist in the air, saying YES! A PART OF EVERYTHING IS IN ME! And that means you know.
[O god, the cat curled up next to the heater behind me just farted, and that is something I never want in my nose, ever again. Ahem. What has that cat been eating? It's Padge, BTW.]
While side 1 of this album is great (but with supremely cheesy moments), it's side 2 that I really want to talk about today, and specifically 'The Season Suite'. If you've never heard it before, you may be able to hear it here if you have the right software. I don't, but I have the vinyl.
I used to wake up in the mid-to-late 70s to the sound of my father playing this as he did things around the house and singing along gustily. Yesterday I found myself doing the same thing. Co-incidentally, it's the same record. I slipped it into my gear about 15 years ago as I left the parental house. Yes, I know you read the blog, dad. Keep reading.
I'd got home from a freezingly early morning visit to the Farmer's markets and as usual put on a record, as I can get breakfast made during the listening of one side and can then wander off to eat it in bed without having to touch the stereo again.
As I spread dijonnaise on our lightly toasted bagels in preparation for the smoked lamb and fresh rocket, I found myself not only warbling gustily, but thinking about John Denver's active role in my (and possibly my father's) spiritual development.
Forgive me father, I know what I'm about to do will possibly make you embarrassed and grumpy, but... meh.
And oh I love the life within me
I feel a part of everything I see
And oh I love the life around me
A part of everything is here in me...
I started thinking about this celebration of the landscape and the seasons. It's not our landscape or our seasons that John Denver sings about, but Canberra and its surrounds are close enough. My father grew up in the heat and dust of inner Western Australia, and I don't think that area has any distinct seasonal variation. When he came over east to hang out with the military, he encountered all the glory of Canberra's four seasons, and also fell in love with its proximity to trout streams and beaches. He's still a keen fisherman, as the image in the last post attests. It was around the time that he came back from Vietnam that this album came out, and it was when we were living in Canberra again around 1975 that I remember this song suite being played a lot.
It's not preachy, it's extremely whimsical and it's got a touch of the humbles that makes me smile wryly every time:
It seems a shame to see September swallowed by the wind
And more than that it's oh so sad to see the summer end
And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see
If it were mine to make the change I think I'd let it be...
...But I don't remember hearing anybody asking me.
And there's a little instrumental bit called 'Late Winter, Early Spring (when everybody goes to Mexico)' that really evokes sitting around watching snow melt. Not that we get much snow in Canberra anymore. There seemed to be a lot more 20 years ago, but John Howard is now the expert on that these days (you don't fool me, Mr H. I'm sending you down).
Anyway, another of the things I was thinking is that my dad gave up being a churchgoer when he met my pragmatic atheist (or agnostic? haven't discussed it lately) mother, but I reckon he worships something in the chapel of nature. Not sure if it's an organised god, but I feel closest to happiness and peace when I'm looking at the sea or a fantastically indigo sunset like tonight's, and I think so does dad, and so did Denver. And he found the words for it five times out of ten. I can forgive him all the cheesy bits* for those little sparkles.
Do you care what's happening around you
Do your senses know the changes when they come
Can you see yourself reflected in the seasons
Can you understand the need to carry on?
Are you still my friends?
* This is cheeky:
This is cheesy:
I got a bit sick of his music once he started taking it seriously. He was like the folk Croc Hunter.