I woke up today in a John Denver frame of mind. As I showered, I had to sing “Take Me Home Country Roads,” a song I love and that I had heard this past week at my friend Barb’s funeral memorial. Then I tried to sing my favorite song of John’s, “Back Home Again.” Only I couldn’t. I could only remember the tune and just a few of the words.
This wasn’t good enough. I was in the John Denver mood, and I had to hear the song. I found my phone, pulled up YouTube and soon I was singing along to “Back Home Again.” All the words came flooding back. “A fire is softly burning, supper’s on the stove.” “It’s the light in your eyes that keeps me warm.” “Oh, the times that I could lay this tired old body down, and feel your fingers, feather soft upon me.” “The happiness that livin’ with you brings me.”
I love all these lines. They make me feel happy, wistful and sad all at the same time.
They remind me of times past, times that may not have existed and times that truly did. Just like seeing Barb’s smiling face in the pictures at her memorial reminded me of the times that we had laughed together, gone dancing, wrote, ate wonderful meals, dreamed and cried together. Where have those times gone?
People used to bash John Denver and his songs. They called him sappy, sentimental, naïve. Dorky. They said he’d smoked too much of that wacky weed. They may still say the same things; I don’t know.
I do know that when I listen to his songs, I hear a celebration of everyday life. The simple life. Supper on the stove. Lying in bed with arms around your loved one. Thinking of home and longing to be there. Sitting around a campfire with friends and loved ones.
I remember my Grandma Fields who always had supper cooking on the stove. Of Mom and Dad and my sister. Of cousins, aunts and uncles, all of whom are gone now.
I remember those days when my daughters were little and I was the one with supper on the stove.
And aren’t those times and that life what most people really want? Even the cynics? They may not believe that it is possible—and still they have that longing inside. That longing to be taken home, to that place where we belong.
So today I sing John Denver, thinking what a loss his death brought, and remembering the life that he sang about—life, abundant life, with our senses alive and filled up and bursting with the joy of it all. It’s good to be reminded that we should enjoy it while we can. And to let the tears flow when they need to.
Lately I have been living under a dark cloud—feeling sad and despairing for no reason--and it has been compounded by the cold, snow, and cloudy days, by the deaths of people who entered my life while we were young.
But today, I woke up to sunshine and daylight earlier than it has been. And John Denver reminded me of the bittersweet joy of living life. Of the sunshine, green grass, family and friends that still fill my life and the lives of my living family and friends.
He reminds me that one thing I can wish for those people is an ordinary day, a day just like today. Filled with our ordinary lives, lives that we may take for granted, yet, when we really look at those lives, they are amazing. They can fill up our senses and lift our spirits.
So that is what I wish for all of you. A John Denver kind of day, a day just like today, a day with sunshine on your shoulders and the light in someone’s eyes to keep you warm.