Friday, January 13, 2017

The Blizzard (December 11, 2009)

I woke in Nashville this morning at 6:00am, hit snooze once, untangled my bare legs from the down and the cotton, turned the bedside radio on to NPR, stumbled down the hall to the kitchen to the coffeepot to hit "on", having prepared it last night, shoved my sleeping body into the shower, and, coffee made and in hand, triple checked that everything was off and opened the door to the 35 degree chill, and the peach sun streaks over East Nashville, the bat-eared building rising from the end of my street across the river like a beacon.
And the light burned inside, shining down through the snowfallGod it was cold and the temperature droppin',Went in for coffee and shivered as I drank it,Warm in my hands in the steam as it rose.

Luggage had been carefully packed last night and placed next to the door. I am nothing if I'm not organized. As my life has turned into a revolving series of the transfer of garments from bag to laundry to bag to laundry, I now keep lists. I am obsessed with luggage. I am obsessed with having the One Perfect Thing to make the tour more pleasant, whether its my well-worn Patagonia 'down sweater' jacket with the silver tape holding the down in the little hole I made when I tugged it on a nail last year, or the lavender travel candle that goes with me everywhere, or the Right Book, or the Right Boots. I forget things that make me happy from one tour to the next (hell, I just plain forget things, but I remember the oddest things: I cannot for the life of me recall where I was 2 weeks ago but I can tell you the name of most DJ's in this country that play folk music, their station, the call numbers and sometimes even the name of their show and what time it airs on what day. I can remember my first phone number when I was 7 years old. I can say the States in alphabetical order. But I can't remember what day of the week it is).

I think I got sidetracked on the forgetting and the remembering part.

I'm a private sort of person but a blizzard is a blizzard,
And somehow I found myself saying you'd left me,
Tellin' him everything I wanted to say to you.

I make lists. I organize. I plan in advance. Because I know its in my nature to be scattered, to lose myself and then wish I'd had better boundaries. And so, like a soldier, I strategize and defend myself against myself. And then I leave it all to chance and hope the journey is at least interesting.

But this is not about me. This is about the weather.

And the snow fell
and the night passed
And I talked to the stranger
while the blizzard blew.

It was sunny this morning in Nashville and then I arrived in a whiteout in Grand Rapids, Michigan to play a benefit concert for my friend Ralston with Kenny White and Judy Collins. We played in a chapel, on a stage that was a 3/4 thrust stage, which meant you had to twirl constantly to see each part of the audience and while you were talking to one side, the other had a great view of your ass. The snow raged all day and all night. But the chapel was stuffed full with people. They were there to support Ralston and to hear Judy. Kenny and I were like the rosette icing petals, a nice surprise but really, you want the cake. It was a gorgeous night inside and out.

The sky trembled with frost and inside Judy Collins sat at the piano and sang "The Blizzard", one of my favorite songs of hers, a long tale of a long night stuck in Colorado during a storm. As she sang I looked at my friend Ralston, going through his personal blizzard, and had that kind of moment where you see someone for the first time although you've known them for a few years. Without hair, tired and thin, Ralston is one of the most beautiful people I have the privilege to call friend. I was content there in the sanctuary to listen. A shiver went up my arm, there, Judy at the piano, echoing the night in her song. Then she went into "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and I watched this woman on the aisle, 5th row from the back, slowly wipe tears away that dripped off her nose, down her cheek, joyous in her heartache, and I'm pretty sure she was remembering her own youth. And at the end of the night, Judy invited Ralston, Kenny and me onstage to join her to sing "Amazing Grace". She took my arm, pulling me close, I held her hand, Ralston on the other side and Kenny there too and we sang. At first I admit to a bit of nerves: how do you sing that song with that voice? I chose a lower harmony to let her voice soar. Then after a few verses, she told a story that made me want to open my throat to the heavens, and so we all did, and I went high and then low and Judy sang loud and I heard Kenny going for the high harmonies and we stood in the center under the purple and pink veils of silk that hung from the ceiling and I pitched my voice through the ceiling out to the darkening skies to the snow-filled night, wind-whipped and brittle, and felt that Grace that the song celebrates.

When the world leaves you shivering
And the blizzard blows,
When the snow flies and the night falls
there's a light in the window and a place called home
At the end of the storm.

In a snowstorm, an audience filled the room. I wish you all had been there to see it.

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