(#321: 28 September 1985, 2 weeks; 19 October 1985, 1 week)
Track listing: Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)/Hounds Of Love/The Big Sky/Mother Stands For Comfort/Cloudbusting/Running Up That Hill 12"/And Dream Of Sheep/Under Ice/Waking The Witch/Watching You Without Me/Jig Of Life/Hello Earth/The Morning Fog
“Dans le fond de forets votre image me suit.” Racine
Prelude: Cosmic Zoom
I remember it fairly well.
A classroom with the curtains shut; a short film playing while the
teacher sits and grades papers.
It is a
, in color, and starts, mysteriously, with a shot of a town and a church bell
chiming the hour.
The chime ends and the
tolling bell rings, rings, stops… At first you see a boy and a dog in a boat,
and suddenly the camera pans not left or right but keeps going up, up, up….until
you see the park by the river, the river itself, the city of Ottawa, the
province of Ontario, the Eastern Seaboard…maybe it will stop when you can see
all of North America?...but no….now you can see
South America too, and then the Earth itself is becoming visible, then
the awful darkness around it apparent, and then boom the Moon, Mars,
Jupiter…until the Earth is too tiny to be seen, and the camera pulls back to
Neptune, Pluto, the edge of the Solar System…and out and out to the Milky Way
itself…then goes straight back towards that boy in the boat, to his arm, to a mosquito
on his arm and closes in on the mosquito so you can see one atom of it…
There is nothing to prepare us kids from feeling…we don’t
even know the word…dizzy? Stunned? We all knew about mosquitos and boats and
parks and stuff like that. But to look
up from all that and see that there’s something beyond the blue? The big world we already could fathom from
globes and maps just got a whole lot bigger, too big to comprehend. The credits roll, the film ends, and in eight
minutes our collective minds are expanded.
I remember seeing this twice, in different classes; for that matter, I
saw the short film The Violin twice too, a movie about music and art and loss –
which also pertains to this album, of course…
So far in 1985 there’s been something of a tussle between
those who represent, for want a better phrase, The Man, and those who are doing
their best to fight The Man. This stands
outside of that struggle, the outer one, to look at the inner one,
I cannot help but think of the two; the young man and
woman. They are a pair to be sure, but
how much of one? And they’ve had a
fight. Perhaps he has gone off to the
pub or a friend’s house, leaving her alone; or perhaps he has stayed downstairs
while she has gone upstairs. They
aren’t, in any way, together. Wherever
she is, she puts this album on, and becomes the woman singing…the first of many
exchanges takes place.
Do you want to feel, says the first words – well, do
you? This whole album is asking you the
listener if you want to feel, if you are capable of reaching out, of being
reached. If you say yes, then you have
to stay on the entire time, like boarding a train – no stops missed, not until
The work of knowing another.
It is perpetual. It is an
ever present urge, but also the scariest thing; and despite her saying so, it
does hurt. I’m sitting up here and it
hurts, he’s down there or gone to the pub to sing and drink and sing some more,
working things out out out with everyone but me. Over that hill, down the road, it would be so
easy for me to just go with him. But
that is his escape from me. Where would
he go after that?
That drone of nothingness.
Out of nothing comes…something.
And it is a beat, a rolling one, not fast not slow. It catches the breath. It goes back and forth. Yes I want to make that deal, but he has to
be with me here…I have to be with him there…we have to, for one moment, become
each other. He’s hurt me and he can’t
see it, I’ve hurt him too, what better than to make a deal, the lightning will
crack and suddenly he will see, understand, and I will too…
…the will to do it, though.
The sheer will of the thing is what is needed here, what is
lacking. We both have to be willing and
able to do it, to meet at the certain spot.
She thinks back to Hilly Fields, how time caught up, how maybe that was
a deal with God too. Maybe the labor of
the thing is enough. The letting go of
one thing has to happen in order for something else to occur. But the drone persists at the end, the
problems remain. How can he feel what I
feel; how can I feel what he feels. It has to happen, maybe it can happen, but
so much stands in the way, not just the geography or his not being there. Does he know what this absence feels
I will make him know what it feels like.
First, I’m scared.
Scared and exhilarated. I cannot
decide what to do as it is dark and he could be everywhere, anywhere. He is looking, he is perhaps just lounging
somewhere, lurking, waiting for me to appear.
Blood is pounding in my ears. Is
this what I want? Who likes to be
chaste; who likes to be chased. I want
to run and do not know where to go.
Through the trees; that tree I dreamt of, the cherry tree in
blossom, glowing in the night. It was
behind a wall but he could still reach out and touch it, in the night. The pink glowing blossoms in the
darkness. Only how could I reach
them? I was dreaming and I was…him?
Oh I was him. This is
happening already, with or without my permission. He reaches out for me, and I can feel it,
only can he feel me being tugged back and forth, desperate to get away for even
a minute, throw him off my trail?
It’s all I can think of for now, to jump in the water. An end to running, from those arms, an end to
running and hiding and hoping and not hoping.
Outside now, the clouds still visible, she walks. Water’s not close, but not that far away,
either. Just to sit and look at it
lapping would be good, away from the house, the town, from having to do this
and having to do that.
The bigness of the world, compared to the smallness of my
life. He wants to be away from me now,
but I can be more away, more merged with the world, than he could ever imagine.
Oh to hop on that jet, wherever it is going, he thinks. It must be going somewhere more exotic. He looks his watch and assumes she’s had dinner
(she hasn’t). He assumes she is reading or
sketching or just watching tv (she isn’t).
He assumes she’s at home…
What does s/he know of me?
He continues to drink and sing but there is something in him
that starts to turn against it, knowing it is wrong. He does his best to stop it up, to act as if
it’s just passing, like clouds – appearing, shifting, disappearing.
She keeps looking at the sky as she goes down to the water, a
perfect harmony, free, understood by nature if not by him.
A dog’s tracks; blood – suddenly it’s very quiet, away from
the town. She remembers that this was
where that murder happened, that the murderer hasn’t been caught, though that
was a long time ago. Breathing
mechanically, forcing herself to keep going.
The crash of something distant, a car?
Someone dropping a glass in their house?
It is still, too still, the trees barely rustle, but there’s pressure
mounting somehow, in the air, out of the earth itself. In the growing darkness she trips and nearly
falls, crying out; no one can hear her.
She continues, roughed up a little, missing him, perhaps, now.
(And no, it’s not for her to just go home, go back home, not
now, it’s too late, and she is a heroic figure, there in the darkness.)
She has reached the water, the edge.
He has left the pub, a little inebriated but still
together. The air is misty, closing in. He enjoys rain, light rain, though, so it
doesn’t bother him, looking up the clouds are now a dense mass,
indistinguishable, but companionable nevertheless. His father taught him to read clouds, to be
scientific about them, and he tries to read other things too, like her,
scanning her face/voice/body for clues.
When there are no words, as there were no words earlier. The wind picks up and swirls. Hot enough to be steam? Nearly.
It is hotter than he’d like, tropical almost. The word is humidity, son. In this weather people are prone to wander,
to set their mind free, to do foolish things.
He goes home, hoping the weather will pass, looking up and
knowing it won’t. That cherry blossom
tree he remembers, passing by it on the way home; walking to a party by it, brushing
it slightly, with her, the air again soft and sweet…oh it glowed in the dark,
lit by a streetlamp, but really pulsing with its own radiance. Of course it reminds him of her.
She is down by the edge, resting, remembering, remembering
her own father and the sunsets and the sea.
In the dark she is tired, getting more and more tired. Into the water, wearing a lifejacket, intent
on being safe. Just a little wading in,
a little place to float and rest…the light reflects my face, “all by myself I
am coming and going, flush upon flush.”
It is still hot and I am hot and tired, the waves are rocking her to
sleep…this is that unity with all things that I want, to lose myself…
….the tide goes out...
He walks slowly to the house – no need to make the
inevitable happen sooner. Slowly walks,
hearing something of a rumble in the distance.
Two forces clashing, on the beach, old poem walks through his head, randomly. Clash by night, hm, why didn’t they call an
album that. The key, the lock; no the
right key, not that one. Rumble
rumble. Lets himself in quietly…”Hello,
it’s me, just me!” he says, to nothing.
Water wet water is wet where is the strand the shore where
is it? I just wanted to be turned and
buffed and bathed and in a minute pushed out, pushed and pulled out, drag drag
drag. Salty air and skin and water, me floating only just, water’s not as warm
as before, though warm enough. Turn and
see shore somewhat, more than I’d like, something winking at me in the
Is this the deal, I mean is this where the deal happens, the
exchange, he’s not here he’s elsewhere and yeah maybe he should be here, waves
lapping his body, head up to sky that is dark and dumping more water, close my
eyes but keep breathing, shoes off or on can’t tell, going backwards and becoming
a fish. So tired, so so tired.
Walks up and down stairs into basement calling and calling, looking
for clues, signs, anything, a note, belongings, finding nothing, he goes blank
and knows she’s not there. Where? Where?
Obviously not here elsewhere, tames
self, no, no anger, it’s not going to help, the rupture’s been coming now for
how long, all because I’m scared, scared of what, of something collapsing under
its own weight. She’s not here. Where is she?
Give in to anger and run out, out to the woods, maybe she’s in the woods
in the spot where she likes to think and has fallen afoul of something, maybe
she’s lost. Phones friends family first
no one knows. Already in woods line
breaking up, phone buzzes knows it’s not her wishes it was. Help me baby listen to me talk to them listen
to me talk to them baby. Not too wet yet
in the woods, follows trail, footprints, paths. Finds the right one, only to trip…
Oh how dumb is this how stupid am I and where is he he said
he’d be with me everywhere that means here too, oh drama queen now are we, he’s
probably still in the pub singing some old old song and charming everyone there
and then coming home, half-drunk and apologetic and what good is that. This is my end of the deal. Acres of nothingness. Floating in the dark staying awake helicopter
flying over, not seeing me, yet. I got
myself into this, I’ll get myself out of it. Go on and accuse me, go on, big
talker, what is this, I can’t get back, I thought I could and I can’t.
Push push push. Bless me father, bless me, red roses pinks posies back back how little am I here I'm nothing, oh I am nothing...
She’s some bitch for not giving me a warning, dirt in hair
and on cheek, up again, trying to avoid mud.
Yes things were bad but not this bad, ugh tamp down anger, I can’t I can’t
I have to.
Oh young lion where is all
that nobility now, that ability to deal with anything sang fucking froid
a bundle of nerves is all, no good for yourself or anyone else, for that
Run run run. Down to the beach, the stones
and pebbles, as if you could see anything or help.
Go on, cowardly custard.
Guilty, guilty, guilty!
He picked up a stone and threw it out of frustration.
I can do anything here, anything, it no longer matters. I now no longer am part of anything besides
the night and water. Who knows what he
is doing, where he is, I am so small, tiny, the water is so big, buoying me up,
just another twig or branch or leaf bobbing along. Rain ends; the fine rain ends.
He knows she is out there; he knows her that well
enough. How many times have they just
stood there, looking out to the water, then trudged back home, quiet,
fulfilled? And she likes to float; just
get in a little boat and float along, docking here or there. No, he tells himself, she’s not afraid of the
water. He stops and shudders; he now has to think like her, or enough like her, or...or...no, no, that can't happen...no....
I’m nobody! Are you nobody too?
Waves are now picking up, some helicopter is looking around,
looking. He waves at it, then finally
thinks to call the coast guard, to scramble on back up to safety, as the winds
are making it hard for him to walk….
So when is my life supposed to flash before me? Nothing is coming up, what on earth, did I do
nothing while here? My future self, my
mom my mom?, appears. Look at your hands, your
face, know that I am coming into being, you are going up, up, up in time to me,
to yourself, who in turn look back at you, there in the water, just afloat,
trying hard not to flip over and lose consciousness altogether. Sober up girl, wake up, cold water slap ---
The moments of life then come, as jewels on a necklace.
The past is the past; it is now that counts, everything
points to now.
Over here! a voice yells.
Over here! another yells. Not
him, nor him, but…father?
Of all times and places to sense his presence, that the
water is not alien, that it is life itself and this is life too, cold and wet
but life nevertheless. The future is
riding in on a wave; the future is the wind pushing me…back to shore?
The storm has ceased, or rather there is another one, there
always is another one. That too is the
Meanwhile I am wet and it’s cold and no one is here, too
tired too tired to even try to kick my feet, push myself. The water took me out; the water will take me
back in. Not down, not down, no not down…
Cold wet hungry tired and for what, what. Why did I go.
I mean he doesn’t even like the sound of his own voice but he goes out
singing, drinking, but what if I don’t like the sound of myself? Don’t answer that. Rocks stones sand. Dim light somewhere in the distance,
birds something bright though, traveling fast. He is a bird, flitting and
tweeting about and what darkness have I seen, will he want to know? I am receding from the universe, but not from him...is that love?
It is all because of that which I said to her, a word or
two, then silence, leading to this. That
is all. And if something bad happens
what will they say, I will be in mourning forever. I cannot no cannot give up, not even for a
second, I know she is out there. His
eyes now wet, him shaking off the uncertainty like a dog shaking off
water. This is my fault, part my fault,
I have to do what I can do. That is all.
S/he can't get back to where they were.
In exhaustion she thinks she hears him, his voice, mournful,
shadowy at first, with that drawl and descending and curl and rise, a voice
full of love and apology, mixed with some sorrow and tenderness. He did not mean to say what he said. I am looking for you, before the next storm
hits, who is this voice, though really, who who and as she falls asleep wonders
if the deal has now happened, if he is as exhausted too, wherever he is…
He sees the little light. He runs, with one other, to her. They loom and zoom up, vague to her at best.
Awake and here, not wet, here in bed my own bed? No but bed,
breathing normally, seeing normally, thought I was half dead but no, light
headed still not enough sleep but now awake not dreaming, him there too,
smiling oh that smile, come here come here over here and he is here, Mum and
Father too, everyone relieved. Air calm
and misty, fog rolled in the morning, light kept going though I was unconscious
and taken here, I want to kiss everyone, too weak still, but I smile and they
know, love love love.
Oh our smile.
"What a fool I was. Had I not been listening when he told me of his own relationship with the clouds? 'When I'm flying amongst them,' he had confided out at the airstrip, 'I feel like I'm at home. Up there, I'm soaring with the birds - birds like the Wedge Tail Eagle - and they let me fly with them. Up in the clouds, you can't help but have a belief in the creator.'" "The Morning Glory" The Cloudspotter's Guide, Gavin Pretor-Pinney
With regards to David Peace, to Eimear McBride, to Henry Green, to Maggie Estep, to Bobby Womack, to Charlie Haden (if only he had worked with Kate, as did Youth, as did Eberhard Weber, as did John Williams even), with you too in your grief and woe, your relief and delight. (And for you too Kate, for this one facet fraction of a version, my little light shining back, one modest reflection.)