I am normally a good sleeper, but something got screwed up after the election, Many nights I wake up and get stuck. I found if I go to the gym in the evening it works better than anything - so tonight I went over and was watching Patti Smith on the elliptical - singing “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” at the Nobel Prize ceremony. She was covering for a personally absent but very much there in spirit, Bob Dylan. I heard the lyrics to Hard Rain like I have never heard them before. Patti forgot words in the second verse, stumbling.. apologizing like a child at a school assembly, and admitting how nervous she was. At the end, as the orchestra swelled and she sang, “And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountains so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand in the ocean until I start sinking
But I'll know my song well before I start singing”
At that very moment when tears were drowning out sweat on my cheeks, my own blue eyed 6 year old son Asher came running in. I stepped off and hugged him so hard. Asher was meeting me to go for a swim, and since it was Sunday night, we had the whole kids pool to ourselves. He was so happy and alive. It gave meaning to everything.
Last night Asher and I went to a neighborhood group meeting we have been having since election trying to sort things out. I so appreciate the new conversations that have opened up with my neighbors and friends. The night started out with one of the high school kids standing up and so beautifully leading the group in singing Leonard Cohen's, "Hallelujah." It was powerful and created an emotional center for the evening. The smaller kids ran off into another room to play as a local activist with the hispanic community began speaking. My big takeaway was when he said politics is a contact sport. That is true - some people are going to get hurt. It is not for the faint of heart or the meek. We discussed action that can (and must) be taken, then I piped up with my message of local. Appreciating our daily rituals. Our neighbors. Our schools. Our children. Our community.
Oh what'll you do now, my blue eyed son?
What'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm goin' back out 'fore the rain starts fallin'
Walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where people are many and their hands are all empty
Where pellets of poison are flooding the waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, and none is the number
A couple of weeks ago I hosted a book club where we read the new Springsteen autobiography. I am not sure I loved the book - but I loved issues he was brave enough to share. His family growing up with cold water only and walls so thin there was no escape. How he said goodbye to Clarence. His issues with depression. I didn’t want to talk about Bruce though, I wanted to talk about those issues in us. The book club started out in a the warm pool up at my office (the asylum where the creatives run free). Our group is mostly dads and I asked this question, “Most of our sons and daughters will never stand on a stage singing their own songs to a stadium of 50,000 in Stockholm. Springsteen’s Dad was horrible to him. What does that say about the way we are raising our children??” We raise our children to be themselves. If we smooth the edges too much - as is our will - do they develop the emotional strength to deal with adversity and overcome it? None of us could imagine the type of father Springsteen grew up with - but we did conclude that we were all fine if our kids never sang to an audience that big.
Oh what did you see, my blue eyed son?
What did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves around it
I was the keynote speaker to a group of ace food bloggers last week in Napa. They had all taught themselves about photography in the past year or two - and never seen their pictures any bigger than a phone screen. Their work was brilliant and they wanted to hear about taking better pictures. I did not talk about shutter speeds or focal lengths or filters. I talked about how things feel rather than what they look like. I talked about using all of our senses to take pictures -not just our eyes. I talked about appreciating all the things we flip by everyday. I talked about our blue eyed sons. I talked about the precious time we have to share with each other before our Dr. one day tells us we are mortal. I talked about the same things I talked about at the neighborhood post election meetings. The same things I talked about at our book group. The same things I try to share with every picture I take.
Mostly tonight what I want to share is this old Dylan song I have heard so many times but never really listened to. Listen carefully.
I want to share this single performance by Patti Smith who told it, and thought it, and spoke it and breathed it.