For the day

The text:

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered or driven to its knees
But it’s alright, it’s alright, for we live so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong, I can’t help it I wonder what’s gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying, I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying, and high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty, sailing away to sea, and I dreamed I was flying

A song of loss, regret, weariness, resignation… and transcendance.

This is my man Jacques’s death day (14 years ago, on a day as beautiful as this one is). I was about to post some photos of his, from Columbus OH and here in California, and I’ll still do this, but Ann Burlingham just posted on Facebook a reminiscence of a moment from the time when she shared the Columbus house with J and me, a sweet reminiscence of Ann and me dissolving on hearing, by chance on the radio, the song excerpted above, sung hauntingly by the Indigo Girls.

The song is Paul Simon’s “American Tune”. From Wikipedia:


“American Tune” is a song by the American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was the third single from his third studio album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973), released on Columbia Records. The song, a meditation on the American experience, is based on a melody line from a chorale from Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

The lyrics offer a perspective on the American experience; there are references to struggle, weariness, hard work, confusion, and homesickness. The bridge conveys a dream of death and of the Statue of Liberty “sailing away to sea”. The song ends with an assertion that “you can’t be forever blessed” before the lyrics return to the idea of work, tiredness, and resignation.

You can watch a 1975 performance by Simon here. And here you can watch a 2004 live performance by Simon together with Art Garfunkel, then in their 60s. J and I are within a year of Simon and Garfunkel in age. They were troubadors of our generation, and we were big fans.

The verses above are the middle two of the song. The first verse:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused
Yes and I’ve often felt forsaken, and certainly misused
Ah but I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m just weary thru my bones
Still you don’t expect to be bright and bon-vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

And the last:

But we come on a ship they called Mayflower
We come on a ship that sailed the moon
We come in the ages’ most uncertain hours and sing an American tune
And it’s alright, oh it’s alright, it’s alright, you can’t be forever blessed
Still tomorrow’s gonna be another working day and I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest

It’s been a good run, but you can’t be forever blessed.

The Indigo Girls are from the next generation after us. I don’t recall J’s feelings about Amy and Emily, but I’m a fan. They’ve performed “American Tune” many times over the years. The performance Ann and I heard was from Ben & Jerry’s Newport Folk Festival in 1991. With her FB posting, Ann included the video of their performance at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mt. View CA on 10/2/94 (a venue close enough to me that I can sometimes hear the music out my front window); you can watch the video here. And there’s also a video from the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale FL on 2/12/11, which you can watch here. A shot from that video:


Photos by Jacques. Go back with me now to the late 1980s in Columbus, when J and I were embarking on a series of renovations in the house there. I’m not sure of the year, but these two photos show the beginning of the exterior work on the house and garden — front (facing north) and back (facing south):


The top photo. The house came with two huge yews, Taxus baccata (trimmed to be dense shrubs about 4 ft high), flanking the front steps. The whole plant is highly toxic and the yews required constant trimming, so eventually we cut them down, removed the roots, brought in a truckload of flat stones, built two planting areas fenced in by stone, filled the “planters” with good soil, and planted interesting stuff, which you see here at the very beginning.

The tallish green plants are bayberries, in the genus Myrtica. From Wikipedia:


Myrica is a genus of about 35–50 species of small trees and shrubs in the family Myricaceae, order Fagales. The genus has a wide distribution, including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, and missing only from Australia. Some botanists split the genus into two genera on the basis of the catkin and fruit structure, restricting Myrica to a few species, and treating the others in Morella.

Common names include bayberry, bay-rum tree, candleberry, sweet gale, and wax-myrtle. The generic name was derived from the Greek word μυρικη (myrike), meaning “fragrance. “

And fragrant they are.

On the plant family, a new one on this blog, so #64:

The Myricaceae are a small family of dicotyledonous shrubs and small trees in the order Fagales. There are three genera in the family, although some botanists separate many species from Myrica into a fourth genus Morella. About 55 species are usually accepted in Myrica, one in Canacomyrica, and one in Comptonia. (Wikipedia link)

In fact, the genus Taxus of yews is also in a new plant family here, so #65:

Taxaceae, commonly called the yew family, is a coniferous family which includes seven genera and about 30 species of plants, or in older interpretations three genera and 7 to 12 species. (Wikipedia link)

The species in the family almost all have common names with yew in them.

The bottom photo. This is a transformation of a scene shown in part in my 5/23/17 posting “Corn snakes and eggplants”, where the snake was nestled in the crubling wall of the stars going down to the basement. We had the wall taken down and a new one built, and then this excellent deck built out from it. The table and umbrella shown above was a temporary arrangement, until we got a proper teak table with chairs and a bigger umbrella.

The big visible plants are, in back, a huge pot of lemongrass; across the front, left to right: a grevillea, or silk oak (I nursed California trees through the winter), a fig tree, and an Indian lime tree (which bears orange-colored limes).

On lemongrass, see my 9/7/15 posting “Shooting stars, hydrangeas, and lemongrass”, where I wrote about

lemongrass, which I grew in containers for years (both in Ohio and here in California), for use in Chinese cooking. It is in fact a grass (in the Poaceae), and it’s absurdly easy to grow: get a stalk from your local Chinese grocery, let it root in water, and then plant it in soil. It will flourish and divide. Outside of a container, it will sprawl

More information there, with photos #4 and #5.

Then grevillea. From Wikipedia:

Grevillea is a diverse genus of about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants in the family Proteaceae, native to rainforest and more open habitats in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Sulawesi and other Indonesian islands east of the Wallace Line. It was named in honour of Charles Francis Greville. The species range from prostrate shrubs less than 50 cm (20 in) tall to trees 35 m (115 ft) tall. Common names include grevillea, spider flower, silky oak and toothbrush plant.

… Many species of grevilleas are popular garden plants, especially in Australia but also in other temperate and subtropical climates. Many grevilleas have a propensity to interbreed freely, and extensive hybridisation and selection of horticulturally desirable attributes has led to the commercial release of many named cultivars.

On the family:

The Proteaceae are a family of flowering plants predominantly distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The family comprises 83 genera with about 1,660 known species. … Well-known genera include Protea, Banksia, Embothrium, Grevillea, Hakea, Dryandra, and Macadamia. Species such as the New South Wales waratah (Telopea speciosissima), king protea (Protea cynaroides), and various species of Banksia, Grevillea, and Leucadendron are popular cut flowers, while the nuts of Macadamia integrifolia are widely grown commercially and consumed. Australia and South Africa have the greatest concentrations of diversity. (Wikipedia link)

This is yet another plant family new to this blog, so #66.

Finally what I know as Indian lime (grown from seeds gotten from Transue family friends in West Palm Beach FL) but which seems to be properly West Indian (or Mexican) lime, Citrus aurantifolia. The fruits are green when immature, but ripen to yellow:


Two more photos by Jacques, both taken from the foothills above Stanford, where the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences is located:


There are trails along the top of the ridge behind CASBS, and Jacques walked them often with me and Fellows at the Center and other friends, when I was at the Center in 1981-82 and 1990-91. J loved the secluded calm of the Center and the intellectual companionship it offered, and he just adored the trails — usually identified as the Dish trails, after a large radar dish that stands over everything. J had little interest in the Dish, but a lot of interest in the rocks and plants and animals you could see and the amazing vistas the trails could offer.

The top photo is a vista looking out to the San Francisco Bay, in a light haze, with a circling raptor scanning for ground squirrels, pocket gophers, and similar prey. The bottom photo shows two of the cows that graze over sections of the foothills. They’re kept within bounds by cattle grids / guards, like the one shown here on a Nevada road:


A cattle grid (UK English) – also known as a stock grid in Australia; cattle guard in American English; and vehicle pass, Texas gate, or stock gap in the United States Southeast; or a cattle stop in New Zealand English – is a type of obstacle used to prevent livestock, such as sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, or mules from passing along a road or railway which penetrates the fencing surrounding an enclosed piece of land or border. It consists of a depression in the road covered by a transverse grid of bars or tubes, normally made of metal and firmly fixed to the ground on either side of the depression, so that the gaps between them are wide enough for an animal’s feet to enter, but sufficiently narrow not to impede a wheeled vehicle or human foot. This provides an effective barrier to animals without impeding wheeled vehicles, as the animals are reluctant to walk on the grates. (Wikipedia link)

The foothills have lots of beautiful California live oaks on them, and in Center has long used images of the tree in its publicity:


The hillside is dotted with carefully planted live oak seedlings in wire cages — to protect them from the depredations of deer. We live in a delicate balance between nature and cultivation.


2 Responses to “For the day”

  1. Billy Green Says:

    Paul Simon said of it, “I don’t write overtly political songs, although American Tune comes pretty close, as it was written just after Nixon was elected.”

  2. thnidu Says:

    May his memory always be for a blessing to you.

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