Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

On Y Va – Let’s Go

June 25, 2010


   See the US v Slovenia soccer game June 18?  That’s the one during which ref Koman Coulibaly called back a US would have been game winning goal.  Big deal certainly in a contest of such importance, but shit happens and the US ended up playing through anyway.

  Interesting thing is that the ref’s last name brought to mind a favorite track on a great CD.  Coulibaly is a common surname in the Bambara language spoken in part of West Africa.  (ref Coulibaly is Malian).  Biton Coulibably (1689 – 1755) was a pre-colonial empire builder of whom there is great regional pride.  Below is a photo of his grave near Segou Mali.

  A track eponymously entitled on Dimanche a Bamako (Sunday in Bamako) laments “Where is Coulou against whom one can lean?”.  It’s a great album by two known as the “Blind Couple from Mali” – Amadou and Mariam – with a lot of help from the guru of world music Manu Chao.

  The record starts almost sweetly, conversationally, with expressions of love.  Tone changes and momentum builds quickly with ‘Coulibaly’ sweeping one up and along.  Dang tough thereafter to disengage. 

  A broad range of subjects are addressed including: the stark reality of daily life in Africa; difficulty of being an artist; sorrows wrought by politics; the fundamental beauty of weddings; first person pleas for fidelity; and more.

  ‘Taxi Bamako’ is another favorite of mine.  The phrasing and easy pace induce a vision of just what a cab ride in the capital city might be like.  Earnest, but not too.  Neatly anthropocentric.  Would have been perfect in the flic Cars.  On y va.  Come on let’s go.

  The lyrics are in French, but relatively easy to translate, although those sung don’t exactly match the accompanying hard copy.  Doesn’t matter if you chose not to try though for the music, voices, and wealth of ambient sounds combine for a hypnotic experience.  Don’t attenuate its potential by downloading just one bit.  That’d be like reading one chapter of a book or watching one act of an opera.


Taxi Bamako
Ou tu veux, je t’emmene
Taxi Bamako
Tu m’appelle je suis la
Taxi Bamako
Je suis le plus rapide
Taxi Bamako
Tu est ma seule cliente
Tu t’assois, je conduis
On traverse le pont
Je fais ma course au ciel
J’evite tous les traffics, les problemes
Je suis le pus rapide
On traverse le pont
Je fais ma course au ciel
Tu t’assois, je conduis 


Taxi Bamako
Where you want, I take you
Taxi Bamako
You call me, I am there
Taxi Bamako
I’m the fastest
Taxi Bamako
Your’re my only fare
Sit down, I’ll drive
We’ll cross the bridge
I make my way by the sky
I avoid all the traffic
And mechanical problems
I’m the fastest
We’ll cross the bridge
I’ll make my way by the sky
Sit down, I’ll drive

*Ref in yellow shirt is Komar Coulibably

Hurrah for Stromness

March 20, 2010

  You’re listening to “Farewell to Stromness” by Peter Maxwell Davies.  Written for piano, I came across this version on a classical guitar CD I picked up for inspiration.  I’ve ordered the sheet music so that I can put it under my pillow for the homeopathy method of music instruction.

   Stromness, counting some 1500 residents, is the second largest town on what’s called ‘Mainland’ of the Orkney archipelago off the north coast of Scotland.  In the seventies significant uranium deposits were discovered nearby and Margaret Thatcher was in favor of their development.  Locals were not. 

  From the photos above we can see that mining of the stuff would have had devastating impact.  Davies wrote the music as part of his ‘Yellowcake Review’ in protest*.  It’s an achingly emotional recapitulation of a cerebral journey over and around the island. 

  With the first few notes, one is enjoined, soon nearly overwhelmed at the realization of what could come to pass, and then hesitates briefly to gather strength.  How could such a thing be contemplated?  Then onward with determination to experience it all in case the philistines hold sway. 

  The Orcadians’ campaign was successful and the uranium lies undisturbed.  Hurrah! Now, each time I listen to the short piece, I’m pervaded with the fragile good fortune of our place on our planet. I’d be fascinated to hear if any MPs or Thatcher heard this music during consideration of the issue.  Wonder if a savage beast was thereby soothed.  Wouldn’t have been the first time that art inflected political discourse.

  All of that having had transpired, it is, uhm, interesting to note that some years later a string arrangement of “Farewell to Stromness” was performed at the blessing of the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla.  With all of the myriad back stories behind that event, I think I’d have chosen differently.  Music is a language, and maybe it’s me, but somehow something seems to have been lost in that translation. 

*We became familiar with the term ‘yellowcake’ during the Valerie Plame affair.  It is an ironic trivialization of both the substance as well as the proposed excavation in the Orkney Islands.

Sursum Corda

March 12, 2010

  Like De Tocqueville, the fact that director Peter Weir hails from another land gives him objectivity toward our county that one born in the USA would not have.  His take, in the film “Witness”, has the sacred and profane of America revolving around each other like a binary star system.  Violence and purity orbit around their common center of gravity like a black hole and bright star.  When gas spins off from one to the other bad shit happens.

  Early in the film a young wide-eyed Amish boy witnesses a horrific murder in the restroom of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.  With his assistance, Detective John Book uncovers sordid high level police corruption and gets seriously wounded in the process.  Their escape from urban grit takes them to an Amish community in rural Lancaster County.

  At the edge of death, Book recovers under the care of the wary Amish and is soon asked to work off his debt.  He puts on a tool belt and enters a stream of men and women flowing toward a barn raising for a newly married couple.

  Weir once said that his goal in filmmaking was to evoke as deep an emotional response as can great music.  In this segment, the music and motion combine to far far more than the sum of the parts.  They conjure up the image (in this mind anyway) of peasants raising Chartres from the fields of France up toward heaven, souls all aflutter. 

  Indeed, this part of the film could even be read as the last stage of Book’s recovery – a near death experience.  Under an incredibly beautiful soft white light men work serenely together, knowingly pass hammer or beam or refreshment on to the next, unasked.  Women draw from the bounty of the communal acreage to create a sumptuous shared repast. 

  Unfortunately (for Book), the music stops, dirty cops appear, Satan gets his due, and Book falls off his cloud back to earth.  It’s not his time yet and he has to leave.  We’re dang pleased he got to visit though and will forever be moved by the memory.*

*Amazing, isn’t it that the language spoken in the clip doesn’t  really affect its impact?  (Though I’ll admit if I can find it in English, I’ll switch…)

I Promise Not To Pavlov The Guitar

February 5, 2010

  Ok, it’s been four weeks, four lessons, and practice every day now.  Me and the guitar are getting along just fine.  I’ve learned how to play (and read) E, F, and G on the first smallest string.  In case you don’t know, you twang a string over the sound hole with a pick with your right hand while sometimes pressing down in a certain place up on the fretboard (neck) with a finger or fingers on your left hand.

  Similarly, I’ve learned how to play B, C, and D on the second string and G and A on the third.  It is very helpful when the particular bit of music under assault is recognizable.  So far I can conjure up stuff that sounds like Jingle Bells, Au Clair de la Lune, and Love Me Tender.  It’s fun.

  However, last week I started to try and learn a ‘cord’ and it has been frustrating.  To (try to) play a cord you strum several strings in quick succession with the pick while (usually I think) holding down one or more of them with your left hand.  It has proven difficult because I have a tough time positioning one finger to hold down a string without touching those around it. 

  It sounds awful if you don’t get it right.  Terrible.  It’s  like when you’re splitting wood, overshoot, and the axe handle thuds the log. First time in this process for which profanity was required.  Dog got up and hid.  Another beloved (but long departed) canine member of the family was smart and learned to hide whenever I touched my tool belt – confident that f-bombs were sure to follow.  I promise not to Pavlov the guitar.

  Saving grace might be Beethoven.  A few measures (lines) of The ‘Ode to Joy’ from his 9th Symphony was the first music I confronted with this new (to me obviously) technique.  Was reminded of what brought me here in the first place.  What is it in this simple arrangement of a handful of notes that this fat fingered near sexagenarian can work out well enough that his spirits lift and soul rises?

  Ludwig Van was fifty-four when he wrote it and had been deaf for ten years.  At its premier, thus unable to direct, he sat by the stage facing the orchestra counting time.  Upon conclusion of the performance contralto Caroline Unger had to step forward and turn him around so that he could see and accept the wild acclaim.

  What is it about music?  In what dimension can one, unable to hear, strum a heartstring with such pervasive and profound reverberation?


January 22, 2010


  The only thing I remember, well the first thing that comes to mind I guess, about Mrs. Nichol’s sixth grade music class is the way she’d draw a circle on the blackboard and make me stand there with my nose in it for most of the period.  I mean who cared about Saint Saens, whole notes, or the fact that Anton Dvorak had actually been in Iowa?

  The only interesting thing I recall was listening to her describe her husband’s malaria.  He’d been in the Navy during WWII.  I never’d heard of anything you couldn’t shake. Anyway, I didn’t like music, the circle didn’t work, and I became intimately familiar with every corner of the principal’s office. 

  The sounds of the sixties perked up my ears, but being a-political and an emotional nitwit nothing found more than passing resonance.  I began to wake up in college – I’m probably not alone in having had an epiphany in front of Disney’s Fantasia.  The Beethoven’s Sixth segment was to my mind what Kool-Aid was for the Dead. 

  All of a sudden I had an incredibly eclectic taste in music and an incipient thirst for understanding.  What is it?  It’s got to be more than epiphenomenal…  Everybody has at least a little rhythm.  Why is it so great to hear Gene Kelly “Singing in the Rain” by the produce at the grocery store when the mini-sprinklers go on?  Wasn’t that a wonderful movie?  Can’t you just see him twirling about the lamppost, drenched?

  Long determined to launch a serious investigation, I didn’t have a clue about how to begin until wife fixed me up with guitar lessons recently.  Month into it now and I’m fascinated.  I can read a few notes, make annoyingly recognizable sounds, and am amazed at the mind state that’s induced.

  The first lessons were a bit awkward for sure.  I’m easily three times as old as most of the students in the facility.  Years older than most of the parents reading People Magazine in the lobby as a matter of fact.  But after practicing a little bit every day I have begun to feel like I did the first time fiddling with buttons on a shirt that was not my own…

   What’s up with the elephants?  In February of 2007 on the radio program “Speaking of Faith” was a segment with acoustic biologist Katy Payne.  It is going to be rebroadcast Sunday.  You should listen.  Or visit the site:  Her descriptions of whales composing complex songs are incredible.  Her stories of emotional networks maintained between and among elephants miles apart are enthralling. 

  She’s a Quaker working at the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell.  “I see my responsibility as being to listen.  My church is outdoors.  And I must say that if I could ask these animals that I like so much if there’s anything equivalent to what we speak of as being faith, I would love to do that.  We just don’t know.”

  “Many animals make sounds, everything from crickets to humans to whales.  Birds, of course.  Frogs.  And these sounds, in the case of animals, are thought of in relation to reproduction and courtship.  In humans, although they may serve exactly the same function, they’re thought of in relation to aesthetics.  And one of the aspects of my work has been to say, ‘Look, we don’t have to have two languages for this.’

Hi Yo

January 2, 2010

Make sure your sound is on and press this:

Isn’t that a beautiful song?  After the near blasphemy of my last post, I figured that today, at the end of one year and the start of the next, I’d better do something with, well, feeling.  The song is “This must by the Place” by the Talking Heads 

You don’t even have to be able to make out all of the lyrics to get a lift and indeed songwriter and lead singer David Byrne wrote: “The less we say about it the better, Make it up as we go along”.  Perfect.  I obviously overthink most shit.  And an overwrought exegesis can wither the wonder out of fine prose, poetry, or lyrics.

Nonetheless (here I go) I gotta write something.  The music by itself would be sort of catchy and the words alone ok free verse, buthe combination is far more than the sum of the parts.  Together they convey a glimpse of interpersonal joy.

The line “I love the passing of time” made me think of “the power of standing still” in Frost’s Masterspeed.*  The simple enjoyment of the company of another.  If one couldn’t enjoy “the power of standing still” with another, he or she would never come to say “Out of all those kinds of people, you got a face with a view”.

Isn’t that beautiful?  A face with a view.  Jeesh.  Byrne’s obviously not thinking about physical beauty, but about the initial allure of a radient depth and later the rich mindstream procured by a look into the eyes of a loved one.  All of the memories, good and bad, coalesce into a sense of wonderment.

And oh yes, time goes by so quickly: “share the same space for a minute or two”.  But it is delicious: “And you love me till my heart stops”.  Even though he’s far from perfect she has “Eyes that light up, eyes that look through you, Cover up the blank spots”.   Blank spots?  Heh, heh, what about the warts and bad habits?

“Hi yo I”ve got plenty of time
Hi yo, you got light in your eyes”

Damn.  Home is where I want to be.

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – burn with a weak heart
(so I) guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok, I know nothing’s wrong… nothing
Hi yo I’ve got plenty of time
Hi yo, you got light in your eyes
And you’re standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up and say good night … say goodnight
Home is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home – she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from another
Did I find you or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I’ll be … where I’ll be
Hi Yo we drift in and out
Hi Yo sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I’m just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I’m dead
Eyes that light up, eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head ah ooh.

*cf post of September 4, 2009.

** The song was recorded in 1982, the year son was born who turned me onto it…and courtesy of whose genius you just listened to it!

***The song also has a parenthetical name: Naïve Melody due to an apparent simplicity which I don’t really understand, but it sure works and I’m workin’ to understand.

Vide Cor Meum

November 27, 2009

Vide Cor Meum, “See My Heart” in Latin, is the title of this beautiful aria written by Irish composer Patrick Cassidy.  It is fashioned after an early sonnet of Dante’s from his La Vita Nuova (“The New Life” in Italian).  The poem recounts a dream of Beatrice, his first love.

Dante but crossed paths with a nine year old Beatrice and was so smitten that he wrote: “Behold a god more powerful than I… from then on love governed my soul”.  Nine years later to the day he came across her again and she addressed him “virtuously”.  Then, “I left the crowd as if intoxicated and returned to the solitude of my own room”.

There he fell asleep and had the dream.  Love embodied held a burning heart in his hand and said to Dante “Vide Cor Tuum” (“see your heart”), woke the sleeping Beatrice, and fed it to her.  She died and they rose toward heaven.  In life they married others and she did die young – at 24.  Dante must have believed that Beatrice so felt the great power of his love that unable to requite, perished.

Guess my roommate is lucky to have me.  Anyway, what is truly incredible about this ethereal piece of music is that it was composed specifically for the film Hannibal and is an essential part of it.  How could the character of a sophisticated cannibal be better shaped than with prosimetrum from Dante employing the metaphorical eating of a heart? “Then he (love) woke her and that burning heart he fed to her reverently.”  Dante!  OMG

The scene around its performance underscores Dr. Lecter’s erudition and sheds light upon his feelings for Clarice.  He has loved her from the first moment of their first meeting, cherishes every encounter, but knows that it can never be consummated and that he must take great care toward her protection.

In the bit below we see such depth of feeling that one unfamiliar with the story line would find the Giancarlo Giannini character caddish and Lecter movingly urbane.  Indeed, Inspector Pazzi’s wife Allegra seems quite taken with Dr. Lecter when from memory he gives the sonnet from La Vita Nuova.  The short shrift given by Giannini’s Pazzi seals his fate as much as anything else.  Ironically, in Lecter’s company bad taste can be fatal.

Vide Cor Meum (Translation from the Italian/Latin)

Chorus: And thinking of her
Sweet sleep came over me
I am your master
See your heart
See your heart
And of this burning heart
Your heart
Chorus: She trembling
Obediently eats.
Weeping, I saw him then depart from me.
You is converted
To bitterest tears
Joy is converted
To bitterest tears
I am in peace
My heart
I am in peace

See my heart

Old Friends

November 13, 2009

  Last weekend wife and I traveled north to visit a friend with whom I had crossed paths but once in the thirty-five years since college.  Make that twice – as I told his wife, last time I’d seen her she was all wrapped in white.

  Our college years were quite the mix of intellectual rigor and ribaldry.  Malheureusement, I’ve forgotten everything I learned, but can still be gross and disgusting with little trouble.  For example (and the only one I’ll provide) I’m still a urinary artiste.

  He met his wife when she was three days old.  I had to wait till kindergarten to find mine.  We exchanged that info after regaling each other with memories and new developments.  We agreed that it was an incredible stroke of something that we ever got a second date with any female, let alone a life long commitment from a girl with the advantage of a long view.

  Anyway, my friend and I both sought thrills and latterly careers and deep meaning.  He’s now a farmer quite close to the earth.  He raises grass fed cattle, humanely, gently even.  And is justly proud of his family’s stewardship of their rolling bit of Wisconsin.

  Before lunch we helped separate out a few head and then move the rest to a new pasture.  The process was beautiful.  There was rhythm.  No prodding or loud noise.  Like a shaman, farmer friend moved the cattle with softly shaken long handled rattles.  That’s all it took.

Cates 1a 

  “Cattle here have a great life up until that last day” he said.  For what more could one hope?  Herd eagerly entered the new pasture and its  fresh grass.  They change every other day or so.  I look out the same window every flippin’ day…

  Lunch was a fine repast of lean grass fed Angus hamburgers, pesto, and applesauce.  All procured by them, from their land, with care.  I had seconds.

  After lunch we hiked across fields and through timber for several hours.  I was amazed at his concern for the state of even remote bits of his land.  He’d bend, scoop, and toss sticks and small branches over the fence so as not to impede the verdancy. 

  Then, in the forest, he explained about the driftless area and how the nature of the landscape had evolved over the eons.  How the flora and fauna changed through the stewardship of the Native Americans and  now his. At dusk, we entered a clearing atop the last tallest hill open to the sky and through the leafless trees, beyond.  It had an aura, an incredibly palpable sense of place.

  Throughout our perambulation we talked about our lives through the years since graduation.  A lot of shit has happened.  Paul Simon’s song Old Friends came to mind. 

Old Friends,
Old Friends,
Sat on the park bench
Like bookends. 

  But, though creaky we’re neither ready for a park bench.  What struck me was a metaphorical take on that verse.  By graduation there were a few text books between us. Now pushing sixty however the volumes are many and the shelf bends under their weight.  Some were light and quick reads, some tumescent, several revelatory and wonderful, and, well, a few drew toward denouement with relentless and terrible power.

  Late in the lyrics Paul Simon wrote, “how terribly strange to be seventy…” But he was only twenty-seven then and might as well have written about what he knew about life on Mars.  Me?  Now forty plus years closer to that mark I’d say why look up from the book I’m reading now – might lose my place.

I Am Not Myself

February 27, 2009

  That’s Swedish singer Karin Dreijer Andersson in When I Grow Up from her Fever Ray project.  The video was directed by Martin De Thurah. DJ Dirt McGirk introduced me to the piece calling it stunning and mesmerizing.  I agree.

  From an initial brief placidity, the music quickly lets you know that something’s awry in suburbia.  Rounding a corner we see a disheveled waif atop a diving board facing away.  With contorted steps backward, she gathers strength and begins to writhe and sing as if possessed.  The water initially trembles with potential, but soon roils to her incantations.  She turns and communes with the water beast which displays its spiritual tumescence.

  At the peak of the tumult we briefly see a man through glass darkly – a minder, intermediary, sacerdote there to make sure things don’t get out of hand.  He’s like dark energy, the 70% of the universe about which we know nothing and looms large for the fact.

  Spent, our shaman folds her wings and the water calms.  Even though she did all of the work, it was good for us too and we’re newly invigorated.

  Clearly this is not just a “silly little love song” or anything else we’ve previously seen or heard.  (Well, at least not this 56 yr old technophobe.)  And more than any other video  I’ve seen neither meaning nor valence can be teased out of the lyrics alone. Here’s the first verse:

When I grow up, I want to be a forester
Run through the moss on high heels
That’s what I’ll do, throwing out boomerang
Waiting for it to come back to me.

  It’s oracular.  Like, say, the I Ching.  Jung wrote in the introduction to the Wilhelm translation that “The heavy-handed pedagogic approach that attempts to fit irrational phenomena into a preconceived rational pattern is anathema to me.”  Let it sift for a while, let the other side of your brain kick in.  What does it mean to me

  Indeed, Andersson says that “half of what the songs are about is the subconscious… A lot of it is like daydreaming, dreaming when you’re awake, but tired.  I try to write when I’m in that state.”

  The piece brought immediately to mind African maskers – dancers wearing those beautiful/grotesque wooden masks seen in museums.  They are fascinating and often spectacular objects in and of themselves, but purposeful and part of a larger whole in their use.  Wearing one, a dancer says “I am not myself” meaning he/she has become the evocation of a spirit. 

  Perhaps enabling a rite of passage in this case.  Try something out.  Throw something out there.  Wait for feedback…

  Masks in museums are shorn of much decoration attendant to them when in use such as raffia, textiles, animal hides, feathers, leaves etc.  Their makers say that “their work actually came from the spirits who revealed themselves in a dream or vision…”*


  Joseph Campbell wrote in his incredible Hero With a Thousand Faces that: “It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation”.  I know Jung would agree, but probably also would an African dancer and Andersson herself.

  There’s lot’s at stake.  Close to the end she sings:

On the seventh day I rest
for a minute or two
then back on my feet and cry for you

  Perhaps she needs our help.  Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek wrote in his The Saviors of God “Gather your strength and listen: the whole heart of man is a single outcry.  Lean against your breast to hear it; someone is struggling and shouting within you.”

  At the very least, as the author of a tome on African Masks** says of them, cultural myths, and Fever Ray also “represent part of a larger cultural ethos”. 

  That old zeitgeist again.  Where, exactly, are we?  To enjoy one’s stay here it is important to be comfortable living in that question.

*African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection

**Andersson is the mother of two young kids and all I know is that if I had seen my mom (or my kid’s mom) acting like that I’d think that she’d had too many of what the Stones called “mother’s little helpers”.

*** I once heard Kazantsakis’ widow speak.  She said that he’d held that humankind’s biggest problems were the comforts of life and syphilis.  The former, at least, seems to be taking care of itself these days…

Very, Very, Very Fine House

November 28, 2008
Our house, is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you. 

      Graham Nash wrote “Our House” in 1969 when Sally and I were in high school dating (though she in Massachusetts and I in Iowa).  While certainly a CSN fan, I was not particularly fond of that song. It thus came as quite a surprise when its lyrics began to run through my mind some thirty-five years later.

      We were on Cape Cod in an isolated one-room shack that was perched upon a sand dune.  It looked as in and out of place as a piece of driftwood – one that had been part of a tree, gone through the hands of man, and back to those of nature over the course of many many years.

      While not exactly alone, it was hundreds of yards from its closest neighbor, which was similarly bereft of electricity or running water.

      My wife was one of several, out of hundreds of artist applicants, to have an opportunity to live in the cabin for two weeks alone (or almost) with their thoughts and work.  I was only able to visit for three days, but even so they were several of the best of my life.

      The shacks were originally built in the 1800s to serve as life saving stations offering aid to the victims of shipwrecks just off the coast.  Thousands have occurred since the Mayflower first furled her sails nearby.  They fell into disuse after 1914 with the construction of a strategic canal that obviated the dangerous passage.

      The then empty gray boxes were discovered by those who had already made nearby Provincetown a dynamic and vibrant artists community.  Maybe America’s first.  Thoreau spent time there.  Eugene O’Neil was living in one when he learned of his first Pulitzer Prize.  Kurt Vonnegut wrote Player Piano there. Norman Mailer had a place.  Painters such as Hans Hoffman, Mark Rothko, and Helen Frankenthaler have lived and worked in these parts.

      Jackson Pollack visited the area several times and apparently had even stayed in the shack in which we found ourselves. He was thereabouts heard to have said that “he fucked Mrs Benton” (Mrs Thomas Hart…) which episode though must have taken place in town – not in the shack.  It’s too far from anywhere for an illicit tryst.  Not the place for a quickie.  Wrong juju.

      The hike in sets the tone emotionally and otherwise.  You park your car just outside of Ptown at the intersection of Snail Road and US Highway 6, pack your things and enter a natural archway through a thick wood. 

The trees end suddenly though, leaving one to face the steep slope of a fifty-foot sand dune.  A one-hour trudge up down over and across hot sand leads to the north coast. The two steps forward and one back routine make it much tougher going than most mountain trails. 

      And a horse of a different color at night.  Once, after a wild time in Ptown we made it back to a quiet fogbound trailhead at 10:00 PM.  We nonchalantly chattered about the evening for an hour or so until we realized that we’d lost our way.  Fortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, I always carry a compass and with a few course corrections soon found ourselves home.

      Upon awakening the first morning there, I turned slightly to look through the screen door to watch Sally on the deck intent upon her clay.  The ocean rolled in the distance and fishing vessels bobbed about.  She hadn’t always worn glasses, but looked great in them.  Her long honed mode of concentration was at its peak. 


      Other mornings were similar.  After watching her work a bit, I’d make a pot of filtered coffee, we’d eat a bit of breakfast, and then walk on the beach.  Sometimes for hours without seeing another soul.  Only twenty miles from Boston and the whole eastern seaboard! 

     We were lucky though.  During most of the year vehicular traffic is apparently allowed on the shore, but through the course of our sojourn the endangered piping plovers were breeding.  The National Park Service makes certain that their relationships are allowed to flower.

      Ya, during our walks over those few days we did talk about our kids, folks, work, world events, etc, but they somehow seemed far away and ok.  Life used to be so hard.

      Upon conclusion of our strolls we’d disrobe and swim.  Not an original thought. Thomas Hart Benton wrote in 1937 “once or twice I’ve seen a young Venus come naked out of the Martha’s Vineyard sea, but generally it’s something to make you wish you hadn’t lived so long.”  Well, I’m still aiming for 100.

      Then lunch, after which Sally would put in several more hours of work at her clay or watercolors.  I’d usually take a well-deserved nap.  Just before dinner we’d bathe in water we’d drawn from the well several hours before and allowed to warm in a galvanized tub out front.

      Once home – without her – the song continued to play in my head and I was somehow compelled to locate and read letters that Sally had written to me back in high school.  The nature of the relationship manifest therein was, well, syncopated, but the tone, the sparkle of their author was clearly recognizable and fresh.

      Déjà vu.