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.