Over forty-five years have passed since this highly acclaimed lullaby and B-side to his most successful record “You’ve Got a Friend” graced the airwaves, radios and the canyon winds. You are beloved, JT, and always will be. However, the sentiment, though then about the intimacy of a relationship (Joni Mitchell?) has obvious current relevance to a more universal theme—a theme of patience, self-reliance, love, compassion—that has come under fire this year, leaving us basically fracked.
I am loath to do further excavation (I lean toward letting things be), but how can we all just stand by and watch the beauty of a democratic and earth-conscious society we created be gutted in the tiniest droplet of time?
Well the sun is surely sinking down
Greenhouse gasses, polar icecaps and glaciers are eroding away and sea level rise will swallow up low elevation population centers.
But the moon is slowly rising
We could build sustainable cities there. Truth is, we’d probably destroy those as well.
So this old world must still be spinning around
Yes, we are all still here. But for how long? Spinning out of control is more apropos. History shows us that every time population swells (thank you to those who do not believe in birth control), either we brutalize one another or nature takes us out with influenza, viruses, plagues, or other sundry disasters. My bet is on the latter.
And I still love you
Hopefully, those reading this have their own enclave of family, passion, friendship, connection, support. Love is in short supply as rage as dismissiveness run rampant in society. Just get behind the wheel of your car and count how many times a day you witness someone behaving very badly.
So close your eyes
Meditation and mindfulness practices are relaxing, regenerative and often life-changing. As James suggests in the song, the simple act of shutting your eyes and just being can sustain you. Can get you through a crisis. And it can help all of us who are moral and possess a beating heart deal with a sociopath president.
You can close your eyes
There once was a collective atmosphere for optimism in the United States. “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” It made a brief blip-like return in 2008: “Yes. We. Can.” Many historical fiction novels, teachers, college professors and government think tanks can spend hours, weeks, years delineating when this country’s axis began to tilt. Was it when JFK was assassinated? Dr. King? Bobby? Malcom X? Watergate? Losing the Vietnam War?
John Lennon’s murder? Iran Hostages? 9-11? The first cell phone? The Cubs winning the World Series? You can try if you’d like, but what’s the use? Democracy has fulfilled so many promises of the forlorn, has delivered so many wonderful visionary qualities; yet like the double-edged blade, it has provided equal amounts of the bedeviled.
It’s all right…
Where? Finland? New Zealand? Denmark? Antarctica? Guam? No, North Korea wants to blow the island from the water. Inside your heart and head? In nature? You’re one of the lucky ones. Optimism versus pessimism have had their differences for eons. Neither can ever get the upper hand. We make conscious decisions about the glass being full or empty. I’ll take mine more than half-full because I believe people are good. Systems? Not so much. Government? Not at all.
And then there is the simple act of closing your eyes and remembering.
You Can Close Your Eyes. I just called out his name and James Taylor is here with that magical song from Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1971). Perhaps by remembering all that was good, we can bring it back even better sometime again in the future. If nothing else, we can get lost in a memory—even if it’s just for a little while.
What happens when you close your eyes and remember? Where do you go? What were those indelible moments that impacted your life and what songs were playing in the background? What books were you reading? What movies did you see over and over? TV Shows: Partridge Family or The Brady Bunch?
I close my eyes and I remember being 11 years old and walking in the heady pine-scented Sierra mountain air at summer camp, hearing “You’ve Got a Friend” playing on the ancient rickety turntable in the mess hall.
The ping pong tables beckoning. Campers laughing and joking around. I’m reading Richie Rich and Archie comics.
I close my eyes. I am maybe 12 and in the backyard playing Badminton Baseball with my older brother. Linus the loopy Labrador Retriever is running around chasing quail. Beneath majestic avocado trees, nestled in a quiet Coldwater Canyon neighborhood, my inventive brother creates a game to entertain his kid brother, a hybrid between America’s Pastime and badminton. On the stereo plays Tower of Power’s waltzing ballad masterpiece “You’re Still a Young Man.” Two brothers (somewhat) refusing to grow up. One endless and perfect summer.
I close my eyes. I can hear Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” on the car radio as our family drives up to Lake Arrowhead with the windows down and the narrow mountain road and precipice teetering below us. 1973 had a sound all of its own, and Dobie captures it.
I close my eyes. I am in high school beneath the smoggy West L.A. sky, hanging out with friends and the new girl. Louise is harmonizing with another singer and his guitar playing. I find out that Louise’s last name is Goffin. Yes, that Goffin. I am going to school with Carole King’s oldest daughter! I remember thinking how much Louise looked like Carole as a teenager. And that girl could sing, eventually having an excellent music career of her own. I fell in love with her from a distance. (I think all the guys did!) Right around then I decide to learn to play piano.
I close my eyes. I am sitting comfortably at the Hollywood Bowl with friends. We hear the opening strumming pattern of Joni Mitchell’s guitar and then she begins singing “Help Me” and the audience goes still as the night sky. Joni’s perfection wafts over me like a river to skate away on, her eyes closed as she sings, and then so are ours as we dream of the road ahead. We have no idea just how lucky we are to be in the presence of such poetry and grace.
Welcome back from your brief trip back to wherever it was you traveled to.
It won’t be long before another day.