‘Just The Thought of You … ‘ In gratitude for the Life of John Denver Dec. 31, 1943 – Oct. 12, 1997
Last week I explored the wild and wet west coast of the Pacific Rim. It was an opportunity for solace and connection with natural companions. I’m at home with tug boats, seagulls and fog horns, and the mystery of the cool, “ready-or-not, here I come” infringing fog, intrigues me. The drive, the music, the colors, the sun-kissed pumpkin fields, red barns and mounds of hay, horses and ploughs, freshness of tranquil and stirring waterways, breezy forests and lone trees, telling clouds and mountain snow, flute-song echoing through deep valleys, country critters, floral perfume, cliffs and winding inlets, old wharves and fishing boats, everything from butterflies to buttercups … are simple expressions of heaven-on-earth and the sum and substance of god-sends/god-sense.
Along the way, I greeted the “good, the bad and the ugly.” I ascended with the lift of the wind current under the wings of sky-kings. And I descended in dismay as logging trucks came barreling through, one after another. I stood and centered amidst Cathedral Grove rain forest, mystified and humbled in the presence of 300-foot-high ancient cedar. Each branch had a legend or two, so I took the time to heed a few. With reverence, I placed my hand on the lichen-laden bark and allowed tears to flow alongside her trickling sap. Something shook from within.
A mere 50 feet behind this fragrant grandeur, this glorious green, lay barren ruins where forest and wind once perfected the tango. It’s one thing to see the power and destruction of Mother Nature in the split and twisted trunks of lightning stuck and uprooted giants, but it’s quite another and even more alarming to witness the ravages of humankind. It’s about balance and consciousness and gentle steps. It’s about knowing that we are so lucky and that all life is precious. I may never understand how anyone can sleep as dawn yawns and coral skies kiss in a new day, but I’ll be there.
Soon, I met a pilot who took me up in his seaplane to a research center for the study of oceanography. It was splendid up there as we flew above the Pacific, and between the sea and plane, lay another sea of incoming fog. It was majestic.
As I experienced all this, I thought about John Denver. That “boy from the country,” was truly “Mother Nature’s Son.” John’s music and message are expressions of respect and understanding, hope and possibility, curiosity and appreciation for life and living. He never sang to people, he sang with and for people, and he was indeed a voice for the voiceless. Mr. D. wakened me from a deep slumber and led me to my greatest teacher and inspiration, Nature. We study Shakespeare, but there is much food for thought in the lyrics and works of John Denver and his colleagues.
I know I realize how valuable Mr. D’s music is: one-line-at-a-time and, sometimes, one-note-at-a-time. I thought about how he too “could turn it around with a smile.” And I uttered a silent “thank you for guiding me home.”
When John Denver died two years ago, I drove from Denver to Aspen. I intentionally paused along the way to thank all the little and magnificent places and creatures for bringing him joy and inspiration as he journeyed this road home. I thanked the trees, country lanes, farms and signposts, railway crossings, cliffs and canyons. I thanked the birds of prey, red rocks and white rivers. I kissed the cobalt above and tasted the sweet mirrored waters below. I caught the symphony in the trees and embraced the fragile beauty and resilience of the columbine. And I cherished the magic of magpies, storms and rainbows.
It was October and I thought about the heart-shaped aspen leaves painting themselves up for their feathery fall. Their tumble would complete the circle and cycle of life and enrich the soil for next year’s growth. It reminded me of an elder passing on as a new birth cry comes singing in. I thought about how the soft snowflakes would soon drift down to blanket those dear leaves. The snow would paint a Christmas landscape and clean the slate for the fresh and plenty of a new spring.
Now, two years later, we’re still feeling the loss of Earth’s friend and filling the gap. I’m still integrating the music, the projects and documentaries, and still thanking John. He was a unique and beautiful snowflake who’s warmth and wisdom melted in the palm of my hand and trickled into my soul. He was a golden aspen leaf, dancing joyfully in the breeze, and he is with us still.
It’s payback and I think the best way to celebrate the gift of the graceful messenger is to take John’s music and works to the children. They will “get it,” and carry the ball all the way home.
John Denver found his note, he honed it and earth’s pulse resonates with it still. He was a conduit and god-send/god-sense, who led a life of service. Johnnie D. was an elusive butterfly who lit for one brief instant, yet lingered forevermore. My great-great-grandchildren, and theirs, will still be thanking John.
We can do this if we choose, “to answer in kindness, to live in the song.”
John, “Just the thought of you, brings it all my way.”
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