Saturday, November 15, 2008

Singing Skies and Dancing Waters

I grew up in the mountains of Southern California. I spent my summers building dams in the creek that ran through my back yard, sleeping in a tree house 30 feet up in a eucalyptus tree, and wandering in the wild for hours on end. For me there is hardly anything as delightful as walking hip-deep through a field of meadow grass still wet with dew or running full-tilt downhill into a stiff canyon wind. Pop psychologists like to say that human beings do not dream in color nor can one dream of flying. I have done both; I'm not certain why.

When John, Paul, George, and Ringo were all the rage in the mid-sixties, I was not a fan. I did not own a single Beatles record until I was middle-aged, and then I bought all of their music on CDs. I did so, not because I really liked everything they did; I just liked a goodly number of their rather thoughtful pieces. I particularly like "Mother Nature's Son", a song I did not know until I heard John Denver sing it. I actually thought Denver had written it; I do not think that I was alone in my misconception. The words are quite simple, yet compelling. They do lose some of their power in written form because the music is such an integral part of the piece.

Mother Nature's Son

Born a poor young country boy
Mother Nature's son
All day long
I'm sitting singing songs for everyone.

Sit beside a mountain stream
see her waters rise
Listen to the
pretty sound of music as she flies.

Find me in my field of grass
Mother Nature's son
Swaying daisies
sing a lazy song beneath the sun.

Mother Nature's son.

The first time I heard James Taylor's "Gaia" I was sitting in my den in Albuquerque. I was stunned by the song. I could visualize every image that he painted As he climbed up into the mountains and stopped to rest, I did so as well, as I had done many times before in my life. When he looked back over the mountains, so did I, and with him I became "Helpless, speechless, and breathless" as his percussionist did all the right things to my ears, heart and mind. I think it was one of the purest moments that I have ever had in music. James affectionately referred to his song as the "tree-huggers' anthem". So be it.


The sky was light and the land all dark
The sun rose up over Central Park
I was walking home from work

The petal sky and the rosy dawn
The world turning on the burning sun
Sacred wet green one we live on

Run run run run said the automobile and we ran
Run for your life take to your heels
Foolish school of fish on wheels

Turn away from your animal kind
Try to leave your body just to live in your mind
Leave your cold cruel mother earth behind

As if you were your own creation
As if you were the chosen nation
And the world around you just a rude and dangerous invasion

Someone`s got to stop us now
Save us from us Gaia
No one`s gonna stop us now

We thought we ought to walk awhile
So we left that town in a single file
Up and up and up mile after mile after mile
We reached the tree line and I dropped my pack
Sat down on my haunches and I looked back down
Over the mountain
Helpless and speechless and breathless

Pray for the forest pray to the tree
Pray for the fish in the deep blue sea
Pray for yourself and for God`s sake
Say one for me
Poor wretched unbeliever

Someone`s got to stop us now
Save us from us Gaia
No one`s gonna stop us now

My appreciation for John Denver's gift is profound, even though I recognize that he was not the perfect musician nor was he the perfect wordsmith. But he and I made little connections during his career. I adopted a number of his songs and have performed them around the country as I have had opportunity. That his biography is entitled "Mother Nature's Son" should surprise no one who is familiar with his music. I had an extraordinary experience a number of years ago with one of his lesser-known songs. I, again, was in my den, writing some aspect of my autobiography with one of his records playing in the background. I had been lightly listening to the music, but on a sudden the words of "Singing Skies and Dancing Waters" broke through and I realized that John Denver had experienced something akin to my own youthful experiences. I heard in his song something of my own poem that I had called "The Sparrow" where I had tried to capture in writing my first real contact with God. I understood that he, too, had struggled with a sense of the divine, worrying that somehow the world had been with him, "too much and too soon". I am aware that not every person who has heard the song thinks that it is profoundly religious in nature, but I am certain that it is.

Singing Skies and Dancing Waters

So many years ago, I can't remember now
Someone was waiting for me
I had the answers to all of my questions
Love was so easy to see,
I didn't know

When I was younger, I should have known better
I thought nothing was new
Through all the spaces, and all of the changes
What I lost sight of was you
I didn't know, I didn't know

I could see you in singing skies and dancing waters
laughing children, growing old
And in the heart and in the spirit
And in the truth when it is told

My life became shady, and I grew afraid
And I needed to find my way home
I just couldn't see you, I thought that I'd lost you
I never felt so much alone, are you still with me

Somehow in reason, I lost sight of seasons
I'm growing out, growing in
Sometimes in evenings, when daylight was needed
I thought I'd never see you again
Are you still with me, are you still with me

I'm with you in singing skies and dancing waters
laughing children, growing old
And in the heart and in the spirit
And in the truth when it is told

If my faith should falter
And I should forsake you,
and find myself turning away
Will you still be there, will you still be there

Ill be there in singing skies and dancing waters
laughing children growing old
And in the heart and in the spirit
And in the truth when it is told

Paul McCartney and John Lennon's song was inspired by their direct contact with the naturalist spirit of Hinduism. James Taylor's work was motivated by a tender regard for environmentalism. John Denver was attempting to find something greater than himself, something that he ultimately found in nature. What I find uplifting about all of this is that it is possible for just about anyone to discern truth. Perspectives may differ, interpretations may vary, but we find that all of these are facets of the same gem. The great gift that we give to one another is given when we write our prose, poems, or lyrics that express a portion of the divine that emenates from all of creation; a taste of the truth, perhaps a recipe for finding the truth. For all of their diversity, these three songs found a resonance within me and I became a better person, a better man, a better partcipant in life because of the synthesis.
When we have gleaned all of the truth that we can share with one another, there is Another who is perfectly willing to share all He knows with us as well.


Trillium said...

Thanks. Now, even I know you better.

Anonymous said...

You fill up my SENSSSSEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DebbieLou said...

I love John Denver too. He reminds me of the Rockies, which have been engrained in my soul and memories forever also. Somehow his songs bring me there when I get homesick.