“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I am not one of these people who spends much time wading through the halls of nostalgia.  I have had a good life, a varied life, and one that I am proud of.  There’s not much I would change if  I could, and I don’t play what-if games.  There are whole sections of my life that I don’t think about much at all.

But every once in a while, your past sneaks up behind you and hits you in the back of the heart with a baseball bat.  It is in those moments when a smell, the sight of a landmark, the half-forgotten snatch of a tune, opens the door to a long-closed and half-forgotten closet in your memory, and the events of your past rush over your soul like a tidal wave, powerful and immediate.

I have been learning fiddle tunes the conventional way – by ear.  This means I listen to a lot of traditional fiddle music over and over, trying to work out the melodies.  While I was going through a new recording last night, a refrain caught my heartstrings and pulled.   

Everyone has pivotal relationships in their lives.  They are pivotal, not because of their duration, or because of the depth of the emotion, but because something about them changes the direction of our lives in fundamental ways.  They come at tipping points in our journey and they do not leave us the same person we were before.  That is where the tune took me – back to one of those relationships.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail about our friendship.  Although blogs are narcissistic (as it has been stated and overstated) this part of my life is an intensely private one, and the relationship was too complex for me to explain satisfactorily, even to myself.  It came at a time, in my early twenties, when I was standing at a crossroads in my life.  I was unhappy where I was, unhappy with where I was going, and life was, in a way that only twenty-somethings can manage, complicated.  That relationship never really resolved itself to maturity.  My friend was killed by a drunk driver before we got it sorted all out.

It wasn’t just the emotional landscape we navigated that made our friendship so pivotal.  It was, in a strange tragic way, the lack of resolution that forced me to re-examine myself and what I wanted from my life.  It made me make some fundamental decisions regarding what I really wanted out of love and to actively define myself, instead of letting others define me by their expectations.  I became an existentialist in the truest sense of the word in that I came to the realization that only I could find the meaning in my own life and take possession of it and make it true.  His short life gave me ownership of mine.

Blackberry Blossom

Can you tell me what happened to the blossom
The blackberry blossom when summertime came?
The blackberry blossom the last time I saw one
Was down in the bramble where I rambled in the spring
The bramble was wild, I was torn by the briers
My love, he wooed me as I lie there
With a flower in my hair and my cheeks aflush
It was a blackberry blossom from the blackberry bush

When I picked the berry I didn’t miss the blossom
The blackberry blossom was white as the snow
But the berry that it brings is sweeter than molasses
And black as the wings of an Arkansas crow
The  Arkansas crow is a devil and a demon
Known for his cackling and his screaming
Driving away the swallow and the thrush
From the blackberry blossom and the blackberry bush

I was picking berries when that crow flew above me
Carrying my lover’s soul far away
Now each spring I lay a blackberry blossom
By a cold gravestone on the Arkansas clay
The Arkansas clay is rocky and hard
With weeds grown over in the old graveyard
And the day settles down to an evening hush
Over the blackberry blossom and the blackberry bush

Traditional fiddle tune.  Lyrics by Michelle Shocked, copyright 1992
February 10th, 2009 at 12:02 pm
One Response to “Wings of a Crow”
  1. 1
    William McNaughtong Says:

    I had a similar watershed moment. Not as intimate, but just as intense. For years I went to Pennsic. For years I put off getting a William Blackfox caracature. I really wanted one, but the line was always really long, or I was late for the battlefield, or it was almost dinner time.

    Then one year he just dropped dead.

    Carpe diem.

    Will