There’s always one person I can turn to when my life gets crazy and my emotions begin to tumble out of me like water through a colander. One person whose very voice eases an unsteady hand and a confused and lonely heart. One person who can comfort me when no one else can.
And that person is James Taylor.
My brother and I used to make fun of my father for “that boring guy” he made us listen to in our Ford Taurus. It was during those years before cell phones and Walkmans, so whatever Dad played while we were en route to another historical *eye roll* vacation, was what we had to listen to.
Our childish and impatient hearts craved something more exciting, something more entertaining than some old guy singing about a baby while a guitar cheerfully strummed along. Depending on what years we were traveling, our suggestions for an alternative ranged from Hootie and the Blowfish to Andrew Lloyd Webber (me) or New Kids on the Block to Stabbing Westward (him). When those negotiations failed, anything, seriously, anything, was better than the crooning troubadour.
Now, as in most testaments to time, is a different story.
Now that my mind is thoroughly complicated with the adult – bills, medical reports, work, aches, humanitarian crises – I long for the blue-eyed singer to soothe my worrisome forehead and transport me to country roads and the Carolinas.
Today was no different.
Upon conferring with my colleagues, I decided to cancel a class due to the FBI warning that violence had been threatened on a university in the Philadelphia area. I did not enter upon the decision lightly and even after I had informed my students, I still struggled with my conclusion.
I’ve never shied away from politics and debate. After the recent tragedy in Oregon, I took up the call again – signing petitions, posting the obligatory social media statuses and tweets – but something just would not let me go. Something would not allow me to disconnect or detach myself from the situation. Unlike the times before, I wasn’t able to do my small part, voice my opinion, and move on. Somehow this story seemed different.
This time, an event happened at a community college, a similar institution to where I teach, and it felt too close to home.
Then, the warning. The undisclosed location, the ambiguity of an attack, the threat to my students, my institution. This time it wasn’t too close to home, it was my home.
I couldn’t help but think of how scared my students would be, how nervous and uncomfortable they would feel sitting in my class. I couldn’t help but feel that I would break their trust: I would no longer be creating a safe space in which they could create and learn freely.
And, yes, of course I thought about myself. Who wouldn’t? I thought about the novel I’m writing, the person I wish I could say “I love you” to, the desire to grow old. I would not want any of that to be cut off prematurely.
And so, though I’ve built my life around love and not fear, fear entered into my life unwelcomed. It entered into my home and, for the life of me, I could not kick it out. And this angered me and saddened me and enraged me and depressed me more than I can possibly say.
Wrapped in a straight jacket of feeling, I turn again to a voice that has soothed me in the past; one that has eased my troubled mind so often before. Superficially, it’s helping. (How could it not? His voice is like the equivalent of a thousand golden retriever puppies.) Below the surface, down into the core of me, that pool of thought and intention and action – that is still as troubled as ever.
I know that there is a lot of work to be done, I just don’t happen to know what part I am to play in all of it.
So, for now – I will play a song about seeing fire and rain. There can’t be any negativity in that, right?