Archive | May 13, 2014

On Writing it Down

"Perhaps Love" lyrics

I’m just back from what has become my annual Mother’s Day excursion with my dearly beloved daughter Lia (pronounced /Lee’-a/, long “e”-schwa “e”).  My heart is full from the experience we shared (this time on our memorial trek to my mother, as introduced here). I’m still more or less “deplaning,” and during breaks, trying to catch up on the Facebook tributes to moms.  What a great thing when we can celebrate together across the miles through words and pictures.  We live in such extraordinary times.

Of course I can’t think about Mother’s Day without thinking of my own mother and grandmothers–all now gone, which in itself seems surreal.   It’s amazing how such losses change our perspective on just about everything.

As I was reading, this news clip on Sarah McLachlan gave me an insight.  Maybe resilience is not so remarkable after all; maybe it is our true character as humans.  To be strong and to overcome great misfortune, when you think of it, is something most of us do several times.  Sometimes, many times.  We find it amazing because on many levels it is remarkable to survive and to overcome tremendous physical suffering and emotional or psychological anguish–but maybe it is actually our natural composition.  “NBD” (“no big deal”), as my twenty-something daughter says.  The life force.  It gets us through.  It permits our healing.  That is, for those whose time has not yet come.

Mother’s Day and the life force.  A heady contemplation while still jet lagged.  But jets and Mother’s Day also always bring to my mind another great and favorite spirit (and through him, his own mother)–both also now gone.  That’s four grandmothers, four mothers, and one son/father/grandfather/husband/singer-songwriter-musician/ humanitarian/ environmentalist/activist.  “JS,” (just saying).

{Language moves through the generations like the fluent, flowing hands of a conductor.  “That’s money,” my anti-capitalistic twenty-something son says to mean, “That’s a good thing.”  I think.  Anyway, he says it ironically.  Or wait, not ironically.  I mean, it’s ironic because he seems to have very little interest at this point in money.  The root of all evil, you know.  And who am I to argue?  Anyway– (We are always first and foremost the roles we hold dearest).   Is anyone following me?  It’s okay if you’re not; I’m just writing.  Anyway–}

John Denver, who wrote some 300+ songs and performed all over the world, said he wrote “Perhaps Love” while thinking of his mother, Erma Deutschendorf, even as he was experiencing the heartache of separation and divorce.  “Perhaps Love” (also purportedly John’s first wife Annie’s favorite song of his) was performed live at the Metropolitan Opera Theater in Japan with Placido Domingo at a Mother’s Day concert in 1984 with John’s mother Erma in the audience.

John Denver was truly an inspired man.  He could stand on a mountain top and write a song (“Annie’s Song).  He could round the bend of a road and write a song (“Perhaps Love”).   He could pack a bag and write a song (“Leaving on a Jet Plane”).  He could return home and write a song (“Back Home Again”).

As a student of poetry, I can’t stop studying him.

He saw art in everything–in his life experiences, in nature, in injustice, in ideas, in what his heart felt.  His creative process seems so much like my own–he was always composing, always writing.  This is how I have lived all my life.  Must I be embarrassed to say that? I’m saying not only that I love his work and so many things about him, but that I identify with his artistry–even though the differences are vast and obvious.  I think we can identify with something vast and grand (and in John Denver’s case, wealthy and famous) and not be those things ourselves.  I think it is okay not to want to be any of those things, but simply to enjoy them, to experience them.  We can’t all talk at once.  Some of us just need to listen.  “Listening” is its own art.  Indeed, some people should be better at it than they are.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am not at all musical.  I don’t even play an instrument. Although my dream as a child was to play the piano.  John’s dream was to play the guitar, and his grandmother gave him her guitar when he was 12.  When I was 8 years old, I asked for a piano and got an organ.  Two keyboard levels and electronic.  I started writing poetry instead.  At 8.  But I almost never share my stuff with anyone.  To this day, when I have an opportunity to sit at a piano, I plunk out melodies I make up spontaneously.  They are there and then they are gone.

John shared readily and easily and generously.  There are a lot of things that go into such sharing–believe it or not, besides talent.  In fact, one of the things that develops talent is the actual sharing.  But anyway, I digress (again).

What I finally want to say is that I miss my mom.  I miss my grandmothers.  I miss John Denver and his work.  I am sure he is glad he wrote down that song and performed it in front of his mother at the Met.  I am also sure that she would have loved him just the same and ever as much even if he hadn’t.  Mothers love their sons no matter what, and that is a fact.

The point is to write it down.

And to be grateful.  No matter what.

Thanks, John.  Thanks, Erma.  Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, Nana and Grandma.  Thanks, kids.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.