Driving Down the Days
I suppose sixty-one is considered old by many, particularly those who are much younger but to me, to us; Kim’s compatriots, friends, and colleagues sixty-one was just hitting stride in our brave new frontier where sixty is the new forty and aging has become an exercise in delay, divert, and dodge the bullets.
I set out on a road trip that would culminate in the gathering of the clan that was to be Kim’s San Francisco sendoff. Melancholy mixed with Mortality was my sonorous sound track interspersed with moments of madness and delight; the full gamut of human emotion playing out to the wheeling rhythm of the road.
One day we’ll be free, we won’t care, just you wait and see
‘Til that day can be, don’t let it get you down.
When I feel that the world is too much for me
I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me. The Kinks
As if on cue, crossing the California border in the early dawn The Kinks and I, as one, turned to the Big Sky for release and renewal.
There is a particular light that emerges just as you enter California. An oddity of nature or a trick of the soul, who cares, it is. Amidst the clinging morning mists there is the immediate presence of a largeness, an infinite opening, that seeps into your soul like the dew into the redwoods needles. The very density of the ground- trolling fog portends the brightness of the day to come. It slaps me back in time, back to my very core, my own youth, my own follies, my own path that I am forever due to retrace and review. This preternatural light always takes me back……
Back when we were beautiful
Before the world got small, before we knew it all
Back when we were innocent
I wonder where it went, let’s go back and find it
The world is cracked, the sky is torn
So much less meant so much more. Bon Jovi
The songs pile up, an apparent jumble of lyrical nuance and nonsense but yet, the gems of wisdom contained in the lines of the past, gleam in the shards of the sunlight that begin to break through, sparkling the path to yet another day bright with promise and allure.
Every day in California is like this, at least to me and in my memory; the light infused with an energy that illuminates each moment with possibility and promise. The portent of what can be tingles here like no other acre of land that I have yet inhabited, the energy swollen and about to burst forth like spring-budded trees, simmering and shimmering and infusing all it touches with a fire-gold sheen. And never missing a cue, Jackson Browne steps out of the dew:
Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found
I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing, I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)
Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone
Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound
Into a dancer you have grown from a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know
Kim was a life-long Californian. I was a long-lifed Californian. There is an unspokenness about those of us who have inhabited this left coast lair; a surety of our nature, some would say a smugness but I would make it out to be a perverse pride in the joy of survival and the relevance of a reverie that we honor in this place and that we take with us as we pass on through our lives.
The miles ticked on, the songs layered softly upon one another like pages of a well worn and much loved book that we gentled with us always, it’s words and it’s feel giving us a familiar comfort and sparkles of insightful, transcendent joy.
And then there were none.
No more miles, no more words, no more tears.
Nothing left but the sad-eyed shock from those who had known Kim only a short while and were staggered by the swiftness of his leaving.
Nothing but the tear-slicked smiles of those of us who have known him well….and long. As the photos flickered past we saw ourselves in them, in every silly setting and bad hair hurrah. We saw the length and breadth of the life Kim had traversed. We felt, too keenly, the utter absence of his perfectly pithy wit, injecting itself into each lull with a sniper-like precision and evoking gales of laughter and lifetimes of quotes to come.
I feel my own life more vibrantly as I watch Kim’s leave. I hope that Kim could truly say, as does The Band Perry:
The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time