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Friends Around the Campfire and Everybody’s High, Green Mountain High

By Paul Doyle, Jr.

John Denver died today, and with him went another piece of my childhood. My mother shed a tear, I tried not to, but during the televised memorial I could not help myself. A tear for John, a tear for me, tears because it is cleansing to cry, and tears for the days that are not more.

Admittedly, I do not listen to John Denver much anymore. That is simply how life goes. Still, when I do there are certain songs that send a divine, sorrowful, reflective, nostalgic, sentimental shiver down my spine as I recall distant memories and visions from the mysterious primordial subconscious that we feel but cannot grasp. At his best Denver was in touch with that enlightened spirituality we all search so desperately for, at his worst he was merely human like the rest of us.

John Denver was the first song writer who I sang along with as a child as I began my life long occupation of memorizing and analyzing lyrics. A few years back I made a mix tape from my collection of his albums on vinyl. I included some old favorites plus some gems I was not familiar with. Every now and then when I feel a little lonesome for something intangible lost, no matter where I am, I pop the tape in the current vehicle, and let his music take my mind.

I’d say Mrs. Freeman was in her sixties when I began attending the Slingerlands Elementary School. She was the aged kindly kindergarten teacher from which all other are modeled, (unlike my brother’s awful experience with her replacement after she retired.) Needless to say it was the high point of my education, (as it was mostly down hill from there, with gravity supplied from a certain unprincipled grade school principal followed later by an overpriced university some of you might remember, barely.) She was eleven years older when I was sixteen and she came into the grocery store where I had my first of many jobs that sucked. The first thing she asked me was whether or not I was still listening to John Denver. She went on to say that she did not think he looked the same now that he did not wear his glasses. Apparently such was my zeal for John Denver at five years old, that even my kindergarten teacher was well versed on the subject. (Can you imagine the progressiveness of a teacher learning from the students?) I have the utmost respect for people who have a positive affect on children like Denver had on me. He says about children in his song Rhymes and Reasons, (1969,) "They’re a promise of the future and a blessing for today."

During his career he sold over ten million albums, including 14 gold and 8 platinum releases. About music he said, "It gives me a chance to do all the things I love to do." He was a devout proponent of environmentalism before it was all the rage, and worked to improve the lot of people all over the globe.

Marty and I did an Almost Full Moon Session with John Denver to honor and tribute this American legend. We played our favorites and some classics. When I listen, I am reminded of the dreams that have escaped me, and the hopes that I’ve forgotten as I wonder where we’re going, and I tell myself to keep hold of these dreams and hopes and to reach inside myself and keep my child alive. For this and more I thank him.

Here are the verses of two songs in particular that have always stuck by me and given me inspiration through good times and bad, (from memory, but I will double check them.)

 

The Eagle and the Hawk (1971)

Oh, I am the eagle I live in high country, in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky.

I am the hawk and there’s blood on my feathers, but time is still turning they soon will be dry.

And all those who see me and all who believe in me share in the freedom I feel when I fly.

Come dance with the west wind and touch all the mountain tops,

Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars,

And reach for the heavens and hope for the future

And all that we can be not what we are.

 

Sweet Surrender (1974)

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway,

Traveled by many remembered by few.

Lookin’ for something that I can believe in,

Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life.

There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me to

Somethin’ that might have been true yesterday.

Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more than enough to just be here today.

And I don’t now what the future is holdin’ in store,

I don’t know where I’m going, I’m not sure where I’ve been.

There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me,

My life is worth the livin’, I don’t need to see the end.

Sweet, sweet surrender,

Live, live without care,

Like a fish in the water,

Like a bird in the air

 

Rhymes and Reasons (1969)

So you speak to me of sadness and the coming of the winter,

The fear that is within you now it seems to never end.

And the dreams that have escaped you, and the hopes that you’ve forgotten...

You tell me that you need me know, you want to be my friend

And you wonder where we’re going, where’s a rhyme, where’s a reason.

And it is you who cannot accept, it is here we must begin,

To seek the wisdom of the children and the graceful way of flowers in the wind.

For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers

Their laughter and their loveliness could clear a cloudy day,

Like the music of the mountains and the colors of the rainbow,

They’re a promise of the future and a blessing for today.

Though the cities start to crumble and the towers fall around us,

The sun is slowly fading and it’s colder than the sea.

It is written from the desert to the mountains they shall lead us.

By their hands and by their hearts they will comfort you and me.

In their innocence and trusting they will teach us to be free.

For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers

Their laughter and their loveliness could clear a cloudy day,

And the song that I am singing is a prayer for non-believers.

Come and stand beside us, we can find a better way.