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:



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…”