Shivering trees…and the traitor cold

There comes a certain time each winter when I think of New England, and an old love who lives there, and this melancholy and beautiful song — written by Joni Mitchell and sung here by Tom Rush — starts drifting through my thoughts:



I wish I had a river…

Here’s one for ‘the best baby I ever had…”


I know there are good things about November: my brother Tom’s birthday, Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving.

But mostly the month feels melancholy, a time of fading and dying, as summer’s bounty turns to autumn’s final harvest and then inevitable winter. Click on the Tom Waits song (above), and you’ll hear some of what I’m feeling on this first day of November.

I took a break from my writing this morning, bought a cup of takeout coffee, and drove down a back road, heading in the general direction of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. I found myself on a gravel lane winding up a mountainside through deep woods. A rush of wind blew hundreds of dry brown leaves all around my car. A flock of wild turkeys, about two dozen of the birds, scurried across the road and down into a dark and deep ravine. It felt like a time of conclusions and departures and endings, and I while appreciate the month’s barebones beauty, I’ll be glad when November makes way for December, with its bright lights and boundless, beautiful dreams.

Here’s another song that feels like November. Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going,” sung by Tom Rush:

When the sun turns traitor cold….

Another cold, chilly, gray song….Another winter song to fit the wintry mood…Another emotional weather report…
Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going” sung by New England’s own troubadour Tom Rush:

It’s coming on Christmas…

It echoed in my head as I drove alone on stark beautiful unpaved roads up into mountains and deep into valleys.

It reverberated in my head as I walked headlong into the howling wind along the dark quiet Main Street of a beloved Berkshires town, my path lit by the Christmas lights in the windows of houses and the ten thousand stars up above.

I heard its melancholy piano as I sat in my warm room and stared out through the frosted windows and listened to the whistle of December wind and drank red wine and tried but could not sleep.

And I heard the song’s words as I drove around a bend late Sunday morning after sitting in the rear pews and listening to hymns and prayers in a beautiful old whitewashed New England church…

I came upon a Christmas tree farm. Dozens of people were picking out trees and tying them to car roofs and I thought “it’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees,” and then I just kept driving, no tree on my roof, and just around the bend was a small river, and I heard the refrain of Joni Mitchell’s song…”I wish I had a river I could skate away on…”

Cool songs, cold climes (a winter’s tale)

I’ve spent a lot of time in New England this winter, but somehow I’ve managed to avoid serious snow.

Lately, though, snow’s been following me around.

I just got back from two weeks in Virginia, at a writers/artists retreat in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and my popularity skyrocketed when a fluke snowstorm hit and my fellow writers/artists learned I’d driven down there in my 4-wheel-drive Ford SUV.

Then I ended up leaving the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts one day early, spooked by weather forecasts of a freakish monster storm — good thing I fled, as the storm dumped upwards of 30 inches on the region.

And now I’m hunkered down in Central New Jersey as a blizzard or near-blizzard is barreling in, expected to leave behind as much as 18 inches of snow, which will be whipped around tomorrow by winds of 40 mph.

But I’ve got a warm place to stay, I’ve got food, I’ve got the two most recent issues of  two issues of the New Yorker magazine, I’ve got my laptop, I’ve got my cellphone and I’ve got a view of the N.J. Turnpike.

And I’ve got three perfect songs.  They’ve all got that stark, cold, lonely sound of winter.

New England’s own Tom Rush sings Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going”:

Lindisfarne performs the beautiful “Winter Song”:

But let’s not succumb to those Cabin Fever Blues…Albert Collins sings about being “Snowed In”:

Let it snow!