Sunday, September 26, 2021

Gordon Lightfoot, "Early Morning Rain" (Track of the Week)

This week brought the autumn equinox, heralding six months of more darkness than light. The beautiful weather we've had these past few days has helped obscure this depressing reality. As I grow older I abhor winter more and more, less for the cold and more for the darkness. The lack of sunshine certainly has a negative effect on my mental state. It doesn't help that my work schedule means waking up before the dawn and getting home when the sun is setting come wintertime.

However, as I have aged I have also delighted more and more in the changing of the seasons. When I lean into it I am far happier. I don't just change the clothes I wear but the food I eat, and even the music I listen to. Just as I went apple picking last week and baked a cobbler, I am back to listening to folk music after a six month hiatus. I seem to listen to it little between March 21 and September and to imbibe it religiously between September 21 and March 21. 

The association does not come from folk music itself, which can be plenty sunny. I think it comes from when I first took a deep dive into it. I had moved from Illinois to western Michigan, and picked up a Gordon Lightfoot compilation on Rhino. In Michigan winter comes early and already in October the winds suddenly went from cool to chilly. I would take long walks listening to the album on my CD walkman (it took a year to modernize to an iPod), the first song being "Early Morning Rain."

It's the story of a wanderer, stuck outside on a cold rainy morning pining for home warming his body and deadening his emotion with liquor. He's watching the airplanes take off and land at the airport, hoping for deliverance. It's a sad song but underneath there's a youthful liveliness, a sense of spirit that the narrator is going to be able to carry on for another day despite having a bad one this day. (After all Lightfoot wrote this early in his career.) 

I buy the occasional CD these days to have music in my old-ass Honda Civic (which lacks a modern entertainment system) and last year got Lightfoot's complete early recordings. This was a song I played a lot as I took my children to daycare in the morning before returning home to an empty house to teach over my computer. The spirit of carrying on amid depressing circumstances in this song helped me get through the day.

With the coming winter dark and the present reality of my daily commute's return, this song is still a balm for my soul. I also get comfort from embracing the changes in the seasons. Despite everything terrible in the last year and a half the world keeps turning, life goes on, and I am glad to be living it.

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