American Idyll

yes, the river knows

Saturday, September 24, 2016

We All Come And Go Unknown

HEJIRA: a journey especially undertaken
to escape from a dangerous or undesirable situation

Joni Mitchell: Hejira


There is a whirlwind in southern Morocco, the aajej, against which the fellahin defend themselves with knives. There is the africo, which has at times reached into the city of Rome. The alm, a fall wind out of Yugoslavia. The arifi, also christened aref or rifi, which scorches with numerous tongues. These are permanent winds that live in the present tense.
There are other, less constant winds that change direction, that can knock down horse and rider and realign themselves anticlockwise. The bist roz leaps into Afghanistan for 170 days--burying villages. There is the hot, dry ghibli from Tunis, which rolls and rolls and produces a nervous condition. The haboob--a Sudan dust storm that dresses in bright yellow walls a thousand meters high and is followed by rain. The harmattan, which blows and eventually drowns itself into the Atlantic. Imbat, a sea breeze in North Africa. Some winds that just sigh towards the sky. Night dust storms that come with the cold. The khamsin, a dust in Egypt from March to May, named after the Arabic word for 'fifty,' blooming for fifty days--the ninth plague of Egypt. The datoo out of Gibraltar, which carries fragrance.
There is also the ------, the secret wind of the desert, whose name was erased by a king after his son died within it. And the nafhat--a blast out of Arabia. The mezzar-ifoullousen--a violent and cold southwesterly known to Berbers as 'that which plucks the fowls.' The beshabar, a black and dry northeasterly out of the Caucasus, 'black wind.' The Samiel from Turkey, 'poison and wind,' used often in battle. As well as the other 'poison winds,' the simoom, of North Africa, and the solano, whose dust plucks off rare petals, causing giddiness.
Other, private winds. Travelling along the ground like a flood. Blasting off paint, throwing down telephone poles, transporting stones and statue heads. The harmattan blows across the Sahara filled with red dust, dust as fire, as flour, entering and coagulating in the locks of rifles. Mariners called this red wind the 'sea of darkness.' Red sand fogs out of the Sahara were deposited as far north as Cornwall and Devon, producing showers of mud so great this was also mistaken for blood. 'Blood rains were widely reported in Portugal and Spain in 1901.'
There are always millions of tons of dust in the air, just as there are millions of cubes of air in the earth and more living flesh in the soil (worms, beetles, underground creatures) than there is grazing and existing on it. Herodotus records the death of various armies engulfed in the simoom who were never seen again. One nation was 'so enraged by this evil wind that they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.
--Michael Ondaatje

Joni Mitchell: Hejira...6/15/86

Monday, September 19, 2016

Watching The Moon Roll By

Gordon Lightfoot: The Watchman's Gone

if you find me
feeding daisies
please turn
my face
up to the sky
and leave me be
the moon roll by
whatever i was
you know it was
all because
i've been
on the town
the bullshit down

Gordon Lightfoot: In Concert...1972

Monday, September 12, 2016

Something Radiates

Counting Crows: Round Here

'round here
she's always
on my mind
'round here
(hey man)
i got lots of time
'round here
we're never
sent to bed early
and nobody
makes us wait
'round here
we stay up
very very
very very late

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Don't Ask Me If He'll Show

My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories.
I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
But most of all, I remember the road warrior, the man we called Max.
To understand who he was we have to go back to the other time,
when the world was powered by the black fuel and the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel — gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They'd built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked, but nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. Cities exploded — a whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men.
On the roads it was a white-line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice, and in this maelstrom of decay ordinary men were battered and smashed — men like Max, the warrior Max. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything and became a shell of a man, a burnt-out desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.
--The Road Warrior
opening narration

Jackson Browne: Sing My Songs To Me ~~ For Everyman

This you know: the years travel fast, and time after time I done the tell. But this ain't onebody's tell. It's the tell of us all, and you've gotta listen and to 'member, 'cause what you hears today you gotta tell the newborn tomorrow. I's lookin' behind us now into history back. I sees those of us who got the luck and started the haul for home, and I 'members how it led us here and how we was heartful 'cause we seen what there once was. One look and we knewed we'd got it straight. Those what had gone before had the knowin' and the doin' of things beyond our reckonin' — even beyond our dreamin'. Time counts and keeps countin', and we knows now: finding the trick of what's been and lost ain't no easy ride, but that's our trek. We gotta travel it, and there ain't nobody knows where it's gonna lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell so that we 'member who we was and where we came from. But most of all we 'members the man who finded us, him that came a-salvage. And we lights the city, not just for him, but for all of them that are still out there. 'Cause we knows there'll come a night when they sees the distant light and they'll be comin' home.
--Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Rumors And Ghosts

What is true
of one man,
said the judge,
is true of many.
The people who
once lived here
are called the Anasazi.
The old ones.
They quit these parts,
routed by drought
or disease
or by wandering bands
of marauders,
quit these parts
ages since
and of them
there is no memory.
They are rumors and ghosts
in this land and
they are much revered.
The tools, the art, the building---
these things stand in judgement on the latter races. Yet there is nothing for them to grapple with. The old ones are gone like phantoms and the savages wander these canyons to the sound of an ancient laughter. In their crude huts they crouch in darkness and listen to the fear seeping out of the rock. All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage. So. Here are the dead fathers. Their spirit is entombed in the stone. It lies upon the land with the same weight and the same ubiquity. For whoever makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the structure of the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works may seem to us.
--Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Derek Bell: O'Carolan's Favourite

Friday, August 26, 2016

He Just Thinks He Does

Pentangle: Lady of Carlisle

The difference
between a brave man
and a coward
is a coward
thinks twice
before jumping
in the cage
with a lion.
The brave man
doesn't know
what a lion is.
He just thinks he does.

--Charles Bukowski
Notes of a Dirty Old Man

Pete McBride: Leave It As It Is

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It Has Come To Be A Race For A Dinner

The canyon is wider today.
The walls rise to a vertical height
of nearly three thousand feet.
In many places the river runs under a cliff,
in great curves, forming amphitheaters, half-dome shaped.

Though the river is rapid,
we meet with
no serious obstructions,
and run twenty miles.
It is curious
how anxious we are
to make up our reckoning
every time we stop,
now that our diet
is confined to
plenty of coffee,
very little spoiled flour,
and very few dried apples.
It has come to be
a race for a dinner.
Still, we make
such fine progress,
all hands are in good cheer,
but not a moment
of daylight is lost.
--John Wesley Powell
journal entry for August 24, 1869

Tom Russell: Tonight We Ride

Monday, August 22, 2016

Like Roses Need Rain


Kris Kristofferson:
Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

--e.e. cummings

Laurie Anderson: White Lily

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Clouds Are Playing Again In The Gorges

Curley Maple: Shawnee Town

The day is employed
in making portages,
and we advance
but two miles
on our journey.
Still it rains.
While the men
are at work
making portages,
I climb up the granite
to its summit,
and go away back over
the rust-colored sandstones
and greenish-yellow shales,
to the foot
of the marble wall.
I climb so high
that the men and boats
are lost in the black depths below,
and the dashing river
is a rippling brook;
and still there is more canyon above than below.
All about me are interesting geological records.
The book is open, and I can read as I run.
All about me are grand views, for the clouds are playing again in the gorges. But somehow I think of the nine days rations, and the bad river, and the lesson of the rocks, and the glory of the scene is but half seen.
I push on to an angle, where I hope to get a view of the country beyond, to see, if possible, what the prospect may be of our soon running through this plateau, or at least meeting with some geological change that will let us out of the granite. But arriving at the point, I can see only a labyrinth of deep gorges.
--John Wesley Powell
journal entry for August 18, 1869

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Then Can I Walk Beside You

Joni Mitchell: Woodstock

i came upon
a child of god
he was walking
along the road
and i asked him
where are you going?
and this he told me
i'm going on down
to yasgur's farm
i'm going to join
in a rock 'n' roll band
i'm going to camp out
on the land
i'm going to try
and get my soul free
we are stardust
we are golden
and we've got to
get ourselves
back to the garden

then can i
walk beside you
i have come here
to lose the smog
and i feel to be a cog
in something turning
well maybe it's
the time of year
or maybe it's
the time of man
i don't know who i am
but life is for learning
we are stardust
(million year old carbon)
we are golden
(caught in the devil's bargain)
and we've got to
get ourselves
back to the garden

--joni mitchell

CSNY: Woodstock

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

And Now The Scenery Is On A Grand Scale

John Hartford: Gentle On My Mind

And now the scenery is on a grand scale. The walls of the canyon, 2500 feet high, are of marble of many beautiful colors, and often polished below by the waves, or far up the sides, where showers have washed the sands over the cliffs.
At one place I have a walk, for more than a mile, on a marble pavement, all polished and fretted with strange devices, and embossed in a thousand fantastic patterns. Through a cleft in the wall the sun shines on this pavement, which gleams in iridescent beauty.
I pass up into the cleft. It is very narrow, with a succession of pools standing at higher levels as I go back. The water in these pools
is clear and cool, coming down from springs. Then I return to the pavement, which is but a terrace or bench, over which the river runs at its flood, but left bare at present. Along the pavement, in many places, are basins of clear water, in strange contrast to the red mud of the river. At length
I come to the end of this marble terrace, and take again to the boat.
Riding down a short distance,
a beautiful view is presented.
The river turns sharply to the east, and seems enclosed by a wall, set with a million brilliant gems. What can it mean?
Every eye is engaged, everyone wonders. On coming nearer, we find fountains bursting
from the rock, high overhead, and the spray in the sunshine forms the gems which bedeck the wall. The rocks below the fountain are covered with mosses, and ferns, and many beautiful flowering plants.
We pass through many side canyons today that are dark, gloomy passages back into the heart of the rocks that form the plateau through which this canyon is cut.
It rains again this afternoon. Scarcely do the first drops fall when little rills run down the walls. As the storm comes on the little rills increase in size until great streams are formed. Although the walls of the canyon are chiefly limestone, the adjacent
country is of red sandstone; and now the waters, loaded with these sands, come down in rivers of bright red mud, leaping over the walls in innumerable cascades.
It is plain now how these walls are polished in many places.
At last the storm ceases and we go on. We have cut through the sandstones and limestones met in the upper part of the canyon, and through one great bed of marble a thousand feet in thickness.
In this, great numbers of caves are hollowed out, and carvings are seen, which suggest architectural forms, though on a scale so grand that architectural terms belittle them.
It is a peculiar feature of these walls that many projections are
set into the river, as if the wall was buttressed for support. The walls themselves are half a mile high, and these buttresses are on a corresponding scale, jutting into the river scores of feet. In the recesses between these projections there are quiet bays, except at the foot of a rapid, when there are dancing eddies or whirlpools. Sometimes these alcoves have caves at the back, giving them the appearance of great depth. Then other caves are seen above, forming vast, dome-shaped chambers. The walls, and buttresses, and chambers are all of marble.
The river is now quiet; the canyon wider. Above, when the river is at its flood, the waters gorge up, so that the difference between high and low water mark is often fifty or even seventy feet; but here, high water mark is not more than twenty feet above the present stage of the river. Sometimes there is a narrow flood-plain between the water and the wall.
--John Wesley Powell
journal entry for August 9, 1869

Molly Tuttle: Gentle On My Mind

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