Another Maestro Passes, Songs Never Die.

Encountering Suzanne

One day a few decades ago while living photo of Leonard Cohen on album cover in the staff residence of Purdysburn Hospital where I trained, a guitar-backed voice drifted along the corridor and filled the atmosphere of my little box room with such a haunting power that I literally stood still to listen. It was my first encounter with Leonard Cohen singing Suzanne.

My friend Edyth had just bought an LP of this master of lyrics and beautiful melancholic melody and once my obligatory cassette tape copy was manufactured, Leonard Cohen became my ‘go to’ artist for many years to come.

To date there is much commentary around Cohen’s prophetic words and their poignancy for the conditions of contemporary humanity but my purpose here is to pay tribute to an artist who enriched my life and helped strengthen my spirit, and to declare both sadness that his life has ended as well as joy that his songs will live forever. Like David Bowie, another Maestro lost this year, his work is woven into my Self in a multitude of ways. Yet professing this devotion often brought forth responses that were characteristically stereotyped comments along the lines of darkness, gloom, foreboding and nihilism. Not for me, though. I have always found Leonard Cohen’s songs enchanting and uplifting. They always bring me joy.

Warm Words

Laura Barton’s obituary for Cohen on The Guardian’s music blog takes the same view. To describe him as a ‘miserabilist’ is ‘to miss entirely the warmth of his words’, which, she elaborates, ‘run at the same temperature as blood.’ What animates Leonard Cohen’s offering is the joy beyond pain, the lesson in the challenge, the solution within the problem, the beauty within the chaos. As Barton reminds us, he echoes the wisdom of Rumi in his song Anthem 

 ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.

So to the songs that stick with me most:

  • The Partisan
  • Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Suzanne
  • Hallelujah
  • So Long Marianne
  • The Sisters of Mercy
  • Lady Midnight
  • Who By Fire
  • Dance Me to the End of Love
  • Hey, that’s no way to say Goodbye

Tibetan Book of the Dead Narration

Some time ago I found a documentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead perfectly enriched by Leonard Cohen’s voice as the narrator, so this is what I’m watching now as  my memorial to another Maestro gone from the world. Check it out, it’s a profound exploration of life meaning and enrichment of the human spirit through meditative practice and Buddhist teachings. There is an empathy and wisdom in Cohen’s voice that makes this film a celebration of life in the midst of physical death. I wish him well on his journey and thank him for the songs.

 

Songs Never Die

 

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Magical MacNeice

BBC Northern Ireland recently ran a lovely series of tributes to the life and work of Irish poet Louis MacNeice. Fortunately I was able to attend three of the events and to hear tributes and readings from MacNeice afficionados such as Poet Michael Longley and Professor Edna Longley. As a confirmed MacNeice fan already, these happenings were a tremendous treat. My love for this poet’s work was triggered by the poem ‘The Sunlight on the Garden’, written in 1937.  Although referring to the tension in Europe during the build up to war, the symbolism and sentiment of the poem is just as relevant today. The poem talks about the transience of pleasure and happiness, of life in fact. Yet it also celebrates togetherness, weathering the storm and at least having some ‘sunlight on the garden’. There is a zen-like feeling in the line ‘we cannot cage the minute’ but we can be IN it. I find the poem moving and ultimately uplifting. I hope you find something in it too.

The Sunlight on the Garden by

Louis MacNeiceimage of hedgerow with gossamer lit up by early morning winter sun

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.image of sunlight on gossamer and leaf

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying.

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

Sources:

Louis MacNeice, Selected Poems, edited by Michael Longley, 2nd edition (2007: 38)

publisher: faber and faber

Original Images by Roberta McDonnell

Sunshine

image of yellow sunflower representing sunshine blogger award

Sunshine blogger award

What a treat and honour to be invited by my fellow blogger Mary O’Connor at the lovely blog Life is Full of Sweet Spots,  to participate in this sunshine award. I so enjoyed Mary’s post on her nomination, check it out here.

So Rule 1. Link back to your nominator: Life is Full of Sweet Spots blogger Mary O’Connor.

Rule 2. Display the image, as you see to the left. Sunshine carries so many connotations – energy, life, brightness and light. Here it seems to be represented by the deep yellow of the flower and by the delightful blue sky.

Rule 3. List ten random things about yourself…I’m stumped! But following Mary’s lead, I allowed my mind to wander through all the links to sunshine that cropped up in my mind. Unsurprisingly, the first batch were songs, poems or images that mean a lot to me or that have made an impression on me throughout life. The rest are random and started to spin out as I went along. So, here goes….

ONE: A wonderful Poem by Irish poet Louis McNiece. Sunlight on the Garden

This poem starts sad but reminds us that no matter what happens, nature is there. Here’s a link to a post I did on the poem, with some photos from our garden in winter.

TWO: Sunshine on my Shoulders by John Denver

The simplicity of this song belies its strong message, like many John Denver songs. Perhaps somewhat misunderstood and under appreciated as a singer songwriter, John Denver has been a favourite of mine since schooldays. This youtube video with wonderful images was compiled by Greg gts.

THREE: We have been loving the unusually long sunny spell in Ireland and the UK for most of July. Getting used to it! No doubt it will end soon and we’ll be brought back down to earth.

FOUR: My favourite destination is Greece and the very sunny island of Antiparos. Though enjoyable times were spent way back in the eighties with my husband to be, the more recent trips with our daughters were absolutely delightful. Retirement, bucket list, walk there….who knows?!

FIVE: Can’t wait for the Avatar sequels as I was totally carried away by the first movie. My all time favourite is DUNE though, Arakis, desert planet, spice….

SIX: Blogging has become such a wonderfully social event for me. I love the opportunity to get to know fellow bloggers and read their brilliant posts. Ten links coming up soon….

SEVEN: Blown away by the courage and creativity of people I’ve encountered during my work in mental health recovery, some of whom will be on my nominee list below.

EIGHT: Rollo May has gripped my interest of late, especially his work on the search for ourselves through claiming our freedom and by making meaning, learning how to allow ourselves to shine.

NINE: Hooked on Anthropology since 1997 when I took it as a subsidiary module, loved it so much I had to change my degree pathway.

TEN: The Sun Up image in the Australian Aboriginal Flag.

Red and Black bars with yellow circle in the middle - Australian Aboriginal Flag

Australian Aboriginal Flag

Thanks for dropping by and taking time to look through the post. Now please check out my friends and nominees at the following blogs:

Social Bridge

Beyond Meds

Matrignosis

Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking

Bell Night

Folio and Ink

Roz Morris

Mommy Mystic

Zen Mandala

Chasing Avian Voices

Thanks and enjoy your blog tour 🙂

Let there be light

Hi and welcome to 2012. What about that full moon last night, January 8th? It was spectacular and so bright you could have done your bedtime reading by it!

There is something about winter light that is refreshing. Perhaps it is the promise of Spring, as seeds and bulbs lie dormant, waiting for their cue to burst into new growth.

With all the recent mildness though, our daffodils have already started to sprout. Worried at first in case the inevitable frost will kill off the budding plants, I found a friendly gardener at our nearby garage shop who assured me this morning that they will thrive nonetheless, even under ice! So that’s something to look forward to.

Annaghdown Abbey, County Galway. Photo by Fintan McDonnell

My picture today is another one from my husband’s Galway Gallery, taken in the ruins of  Annaghdown Abbey, where St Brendan is said to be buried. A final track from my favourite artist seems fitting: Into the Mystic, by Van Morrison. Peace and Joy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0DJ8hWgNes

 

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