One of Joni Mitchell’s Finest

Watching the 2010 Winter Olympics stirred up a few tangential memories…

When I as in the 8th grade my parents sent me to the “International Music Camp” at International Falls, MN.  I asked them to sign me up for the guitar sessions as I had been taking classical guitar for years. 

Those next 2 weeks were remarkable and unexpected in two ways. 

Remember I was a boy growing up in a Mennonite prairie town: truly pure, straightforward; no school dances; no liquor store.  No one was dating someone else in the 8th grade, unlike today.  My friendships we akin to those in Stephen King’s breathtaking novel Stand By Me.  Clean sublime experiences, not exposed yet to so many of life’s ways.

The camp held 2 surprises.  The 1st: my first crush, to another camper, Brenda Bonogofsky from Carson, North Dakota, and this on its own was enough to make an indelible mark upon me.  I mean, that’s what such initial experiences do, no?  (That is a story for another day.)

The 2nd surprise was discovering such greats as Joni Mitchell, to whom I was introduced thru the pot smoking, laid back but hard rocking teachers of our guitar session.  Classical guitar, this was NOT.  And to my delight.   Boy was I glad my dad didn’t know what he was signing me up for!

I learned that guitars were like fine wines, such as the 12 string Ovation one classmate carried.  We journeyed thru the lyrics of such American poets as Neil Young, Crosby / Stills / Nash, and Joni.   The words were like nothing I had come across before and it’s taken years for their meaning to come into view, starting with long meandering discussions with the instructors, with classmates and Brenda.

Here’s one I just heard at the Olympics’ opening ceremony that I always loved, by the inimitable Ms. Mitchell (video below too):

Both Sides Now
(Joni Mitchell)

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons ev’rywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on ev’ryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev’ry fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living ev’ry day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

Thank you, Joni, my goodness, what words these are.

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