The Road

It seems, lately, like I’ve strayed from the originally plotted course for this forum.

I love the stories, don’t get me wrong.  They are my life, so to speak, and they can do so much to help us heal this world.  There is undeniable wisdom to be found within their characters and plots and ultimate messages and they deserve examination and re-contextualizing for our time and circumstances.

Looking at our myths with new lenses can truly aid us in moving forward.  Perhaps not repairing the injustices of history- that is beyond even the significant power of myth- but certainly helping to advise us when we are searching for the right way to proceed from here.

But something happens when the seasons turn in Toronto.  Especially after a longer than usual winter (although the meteorologists would say that this one just past was more in keeping with historical temperatures and snowfall) and a strange spring- which turned on a dime from October-like weather to that of mid-August and back again- the fact that true summer finally seems to be in the offing diverts my thoughts toward our music more than our tales.  However well-written and relevant those stories may be.

Add to that the desire to bury my head somewhat- for a time at least- and avoid the insanity that seems to be happening globally, nationally and locally at the moment, and all I really feel like doing is letting the songs take me away from the increasingly disturbing nightly news reports.

It’s the weekend- and the sunny day turned into a pleasant night.  While out for my evening walk, I could hear the sounds of NXNE concerts off in the distance, and feel that extraordinary buzz that arrives in Toronto once the patios are open for good.

The songs in my head are warring for ascendency- I hardly know what to listen to first.  Like much beloved siblings sparring for a parent’s immediate attention they have been creating something of a crazy-making cacophony.

As I rounded the corner towards home, passing the church’s marquee sign which this week is asking “What would God have you learn?”, this one won:

While I love Yusuf Islam’s recent music, and greatly admire his philanthropy and the great work he has done to educate the world about Islam since his conversion, to me he will always be Cat Stevens- and his songs remain inseparable from my vision of ‘summer.’

All of his early albums evoke campfires and s’mores, quiet companionship by a lake under a sky full of stars and- later in the summer- the aurora borealis.  Whether he knows it or not, he is truly the Bard of Ontario’s Cottage Country.

The first strummed chords of Wild World and the pain- and resignation-filled overlapping of the two voices in the last verse of Father and Son have become part of my core.  I can hardly remember a time when I couldn’t run through their lyrics (always a means of centering myself, collecting my thoughts and shutting out the crazy) and feel better about things in general.

But THAT song, the one that won the night tonight, spoke to me directly the first time I heard it.  As if we were walking that road together, Cat and I.

“I hit the rowdy road and many kinds I met there, many stories told me of the way to get there.”

The driving force of my life has been, since I can remember, the need to know (often to my personal detriment), coupled with the awareness that there will always be more things to learn, from all those we meet on our roads and from the “good books‘ we pick up along the way.

I love that he acknowledges the need to “kick out the devil’s sin– to disconnect from the idea of some kind of inherent evil within us- and that, ultimately, “the answer lies within.”

We do have the answers- through our collective knowledge and connections to each other and the Earth itself.  We just have to turn down the idiocy white noise mundanity stressors of daily life and pay attention to those voices that are telling us what we instinctively know.

Under the ongoing tutelage of Cat Stevens, I guess my thoughts have returned to our myths, mediated by the music, after all.

On this last spring weekend before the solstice takes us into the summer-proper I encourage you all to “listen to the robin’s song saying not to worry.”  We have each other, the innate curiosity to keep trying to explain our world and the stories and songs that draw us together to keep on walking this road to find out.  Enjoy.  

8 comments on “The Road

  1. […] that it hit on the very discussion I had with the cashier and echoed my recent post about Cat Stevens.  That type of synchronicity should not be […]

  2. […] mentioned before that Cat Stevens has one of those voices that is as familiar to me as members of my own family and […]

  3. colemining says:

    Reblogged this on colemining and commented:

    It’s been a long week- with a whole lot happening that has made for a whole lot of dis-ease. It’s Friday. This morning, as I walked to work, the first song to pop up on the Shuffle Daemon was one I wrote about a little over a year ago- and feeling a little down and disenchanted.

    Interestingly, while I was on the fb last night, I noticed that Yusuf’s page had a post in the feed asking for best Yusuf/Cat memories.

    This is my fave (and boyohboy is it hard to choose a fave from his catalogue) and, like it always seems to do, it snapped me into a semblance of clarity.

    However long-lived or truncated that clarity might prove to be, it’s leading me into the weekend with some thoughts in my head and a song about positive energy in my heart.

    As my buddy Doobster noted- with his characteristic insight and ability to strike at the central point- on one of my posts a little while ago, ‘we’re all in the same boat and there’s no such thing as a hole in just one end’.


    ‘Sometimes you have to moan when nothing seems to suit ya, but nevertheless you know you’re locked toward the future.’

    The song encouraged me to have a very productive day- at work and, since I’ve been home, on some of the things that I’ve been neglecting lately. Enough wallowing. Time to grasp the clarity and get back to contributing rather than complaining.

    Happy weekend everyone.

  4. Doobster418 says:

    I have always been a fan of Cat Stevens and have most of his albums from the early days. As to his conversion to Islam and his politics, well, that’s his business, not mine. Although some people aren’t so generous in their opinions of Yusuf Islam. When I wrote a recent post about when I went to the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity in DC in 2010 and mentioned that Yusuf Islam performed “Peace Train” at the rally, there were some who felt that he is too radical and are upset that he hasn’t publicly rescinded his statements supporting the fatwa on Salman Rushdie or on anyone who offends Islam.

    Politics aside, the one Cat Stevens song that I find most poignant is “Where Do the Children Play.” It resonates with me because, when I was in graduate school taking an urban studies course, I was doing a paper on a changing area in the District of Columbia and I remember seeing a small, neighborhood park that was going to be razed and replaced by some condos. Scrawled in large letters on the exterior wall of one of the buildings facing the little playground were the words “Tell me, where do the children play?” It was kind of heart-rending and every time I hear that Cat Stevens song, I get a little misty-eyed.

    I hope you don’t mind, but here’s a link to that song.

    • colemining says:

      Doobster- thank you for the link. Tea for the Tillerman is one of my all-time top albums. I have it on vinyl. It has played so often, I’m amazed it’s still in one piece. Where do the Children Play is an incredible part of an incredible whole- and, like everything he writes and sings, insightful and beautiful in its simplicity.

      I have mainly ignored the chattering of those who consider him ‘radical’ since those that say such things have obviously avoided looking at the humanistic philanthropic undertakings that have been the focus of his life for so long. He is one of the voices appealing for peace and rational discourse about the state of the Middle East- and his push for education is a pretty significant indication of the man and his perspective on the world. As is, unfortunately, increasingly the case, too many people are inclined to cling to ignorant soundbites that were taken out of context 30-some years ago. If such people were to actually listen to him they might actually learn something, which, I realize, is increasingly anathema to the natures of a whole bunch o’ folks.

      He will always be Cat, to me. And I will cherish his songs as long as those songs can be played in my head and sung around a campfire. Hopefully, in other words, for as long as I live.

      Thanks for writing- and for the comment and link to the song. Which I’m going to go an enjoy right now. Have a great weekend!

  5. It is my first time to post on one of your writings, but I had to thank you for posting this piece and bringing up some fine memories for me on listening to Cat Stevens music. My all time favorite recall is my now deceased father giving me a copy of Tea for the Tillerman, (vinyl) along with a copy of Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and telling me to think about a few things where my relationship with him and others were concerned. I have already given both to my own son, and we have had the same talk. The Road has involved a lot of Mr. Stevens music for this graying lad. Thanks again. – Shalom, Daniel

    • colemining says:

      Thank you, Daniel- for the visit and the comment. Cat and Rilke- two of my favourites (a close friend gave me the latter’s Letters to a Young Poet many years ago- I treasure it!). How lovely that you have passed such wonder and wisdom onto your own son! This is why music and art are so important- songs and poems and stories tie us together- generation to generation and demonstrate the best of this humanity we all share. Appreciate you sharing your memories!

  6. […] talked about him before – in the context of another song. A song that helped to set the story of my life, thus far. Truly. […]

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