been reading a great deal of james herriot lately, real name alf wight, if memory serves. in his books I get some of the riveting treasures that I do not get in my actual life. science. nature. animals. interesting oddball humans, as opposed to just the nasty kind or asinine-ignorant kind, and so on. I get the truth: true snapshots from the life of a hard-working man (where does one find a hard-working man anymore?) who valued deeply some of the same things that I value deeply myself.
I do not, anymore, read very much fiction. a little, but not as much as in the years prior to 2008. I crave truth, both in my life (where I don’t get it) and in my reading. so, because I hunger in my daily life for things that for some reason humans and the cussed randomness of living deny me, I’m doing some asperger’s perseverating. reading herriot’s books over and over, trying to cement in my mind his descriptions of the yorkshire dales, his worries over tough medical cases, his moments of self-doubt and his moments of triumph over a sticky patient illness. and many other things besides, that I desire to keep planted in my mind. and I imagine myself walking around here, around turners trolls, with someone very like james herriot. someone who is a vet of his type (dedicated, non-money-grubbing, sincerely captivated by animals). someone who loves music of a certain sort, and learning. walking around the river, the canal, the woods, talking trees and snow, wildflowers and bach, and the great difficulty of pneumonia in dogs. I imagine. which is a very poor substitute for the real thing, but it’s all that’s on offer in my stingy existence.
the more of his words, his medical cases, his turns of phrase, his trips to the high hills to smell the grass-scented air that I can memorize, the more often I can have with me, in my mind, a person of high quality.
there’s been other perseveration going on too. in music-land. I possess very little of loreena mckennitt’s music, and most of what I do own is still undiscovered in my storage unit. but with the small amount I do have here with me I have begun to try to memorize her too. I consider her to be a person of high quality as well, and the uncanny thing is that in an interview I heard with her, she said she had planned to go to veterinary school. so she’s an animal person. in the same interview, she said that when she first began making CD’s, she sold them herself out on the streets while she played her harp or violin, busking. she became so popular in that do-it-yourself way that a big record company eventually approached her. she didn’t like the deal they offered her. she said something like: I’m making more money than that doing it myself, so why do I need you?
this interview was aired ten or more years ago on a folk music show I listened to. the host said she was doing this because it was loreena’s birthday, and loreena was having a tough time. her fiancé had been killed in a boating accident, and she had withdrawn from public life. no interviews, no performances. this went on for five or six years. when loreena surfaced again, the host of this folk show ran into her at a music festival, and reported back to us that loreena was working on a new album. that album was an ancient muse, which came out in 2006.
any person who will deeply grieve a loved one for five or six years is, in my estimation, a person of quality.
when I now listen to loreena for about three hours most days, it’s not often the words I’m trying to memorize — I memorized most of those a dozen years ago. I’m trying to memorize the notes: every note from her voice, every note from every instrument. and trying to memorize the emotion she puts into each phrase. she is phenomenally good at putting almost palpable emotion into every phrase she sings, each one getting the emotion appropriate to whatever the words are saying. and of course there is the voice itself. operatic often. a truly beautiful, agile voice.
and again I imagine… that I know her, or someone very like her. we talk animals, and music, and poetry (many of her lyrics are verses by dead poets that she puts to nothing less than inspired music). we talk grief, and love. always a pale substitute, but when the people one meets in one’s daily life are dull, lazy, uninspired and uninspiring, these shining creatures that I meet only from a distance stand out for me not only as examples of the kind of people I yearn to know, but also as examples of what people could be, if they had an ounce or two of motivation to examine the concept of goodness, and the concept of dedication, and the concept of integrity.
all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2008-2013 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.