I wept twice this week. Me! Who never cries. The first flow of tears was occasioned by a letter from a dear friend. Written in Spanish, it was a thank you note for an e.e. cummings poem I had sent him and a request to help him with the English translation of his own poems. I was so moved – grateful, appreciative, honored. But more than that! The note touched my soul, reminding me of a long lost self, one I am anxious to recover.
It happened again today! I drove out of the Saab dealership after paying $496 for a repair on my beloved 2001 “Sverige.” They had just informed me that I will need about another eight hundred to one thousand dollars in repairs, but that wasn’t the cause of the tears.
As I left the dealership I opened the two front windows and the sun roof, ready to enjoy the beauty of this June day, and I pressed the play button on my CD player. “Rocky Mountain High” was the song that came on. This was what brought on the tears. “Rocky Mountain High” is one of my all-time favorite songs, evoking memories of the 1968 Summer of Love and the nights I spent sleeping in my sleeping bag sans tent in Estes Park, Rocky Mountains, Colorado. There, just as John wrote, I listened to God and heard his casual reply. There I was young and free and high above and away from the world of family warfare and national strife.
Two songs later on the same CD that played this morning, John Denver sang “I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado,” and I mentally celebrated my upcoming return to the Rockies. 42 years later I will again stand on the highest peaks, perhaps once again stand in the snow despite the summer season and I will gaze out over the hills and peaks and valleys of the great, glorious Rocky Mountains.
John is gone now. (How fortunate we are that artists and writers leave us treasures to hold on to!) And I am gone too. The pictures of me at 24 are unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t know me then. Katie has disappeared and Bill took distance. I no longer drive my English Ford and will undoubtedly never again take a three-day all night/all day driving trip to the Bay Area to attend a Be-In, hang out in Haight Ashbury, and smoke some pot. My father is no longer available to call, if my clutch (yes I still drive a stick) burns out during a 3000 mile cross country tour. “This is the last time,” he said, as he wired the money for repair in the summer of ‘68. Of course it wasn’t, but he is gone now too.
There are many ways to die. I watch some of the most agonizing in the nursing homes where I work. But there are good deaths too and perhaps even glorious ones. John Denver died when his Long EZ experimental aircraft crashed over Pine Grove, California on October 12, 1997. He was alone and he died doing what he loved – flying and viewing the beauty of the natural world.
It seems to me on this perfectly beautiful spring day (“Whatever is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days,” wrote James Russell Lowell) that John’s music and my memories, my poet friend’s words to me, and his loving kindness were worthy of a few tears. And it felt good to cry.