Often, when we tell the story of our own life, to ourselves, or to others, the narrative teems with incident. An action movie filled with high drama.
Now, reflecting on my own life I have come to realise that a more apt comparison would be one of the contemplative, steady gaze movies directed by Robert Bresson from France or Yasujiro Ozu from Japan.
The meaning is won, revealed, not through a hectic series of heroic events but powerfully accumulated through close attention to small details and patient meditation on the weathering, sometimes destructive, sometimes ennobling, passage of time.
Life is mainly waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Waiting for what you want or need the most.
Waiting for your mother’s or father’s attention.
Waiting for the fabled excitement of love and romance and high passion to blow into your life like a hurricane.
Waiting for someone to recognise you as the one they have been waiting for.
Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Waiting on the waterfront for the one, miraculously found, to return.
Waiting, worrying, wondering why she had to go.
Waiting, never understanding why she had to go.
Waiting, rheumy eyed, obsessively scanning the horizon for her to return.
Waiting, waiting, covering the waterfront.
Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker.
Bluesmen. Brothers in The Blues.
Initiates. High priests. Orphean adepts.
Anam Cara – soul friends.
Sounders of the depths. In their music they tap the source. The energy they draw upon seems to come, direct, from the very core of the Earth.
In touch with such power is it any wonder that they are often described as, ‘glowering’ and, ‘moody’.
I Cover The Waterfront looms in our imaginations like a fevered dream. The great Booker T on organ sets up a heat shimmer from which Van and John Lee emerge like royal travellers from some mysterious distant land bringing testimony of great import.
Some say the purpose of art is to stop time. Well, here, Van and John Lee do a wonderful job of making time eddy and meander as they dig deep into the song. They are both able to lead us away from the tyranny of everyday time into new dimensions of being.
Ships leave harbour and the coast vanishes as they voyage into the open sea. Beside the vastness of the sea humans seem small, insignificant. Yet, the sea is bound by the shore while the human imagination knows no such bounds. With their voices, their intense vocal and imaginative presence, Van and John Lee take us far beyond the mere realms of cartography and circumnavigation.
Their music at its best always opens new territory bringing us visions, emotional insights and dare one say it – mystical revelations.
They bring it on home while we are waiting.
Waiting for someone to reply to the message in a bottle thrown in the sea those many years ago.
Waiting for the knock on the door – sometimes in hope, sometimes in dread.
Waiting before you go out with seed for the sowing.
Waiting before you return carrying your sheaves.
Waiting for forgiveness.
Waiting in vain for the Raven’s return.
Waiting for the Dove to return with an Olive leaf.
Waiting for a miracle.
Waiting for Ahab to sail The Pequod, laden with Whale, back into Nantucket.
Waiting for Godot.
Waiting for The Dodgers to come home to Brooklyn.
Waiting for this terrible day to become tomorrow.
Waiting for the slow train coming around the bend.
Waiting for the full moon to rise.
Waiting for two riders to approach.
Waiting for the barkeep to pour one scotch, one bourbon, one beer.
Waiting for the foghorn to blow.
Waiting for the dawn to break.
Waiting for the wind to howl.
Waiting for the circle to be unbroken.
We are all waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Whatever you are waiting for I hope it will have been worth the wait.
And, as each of us waits, for our own reasons, the music of Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker lends us peace and perspective.
The version of I Cover The Waterfront featured here comes from the John Lee Hooker record, ‘Mr Lucky’. I’m sure of few things but I am sure you can never have too many John Lee Hooker records.
This post largely written on the decks of the M/S Lily and S/S Ukkopekka as they sailed in blazing sunshine between Turku, the Island of Vepsa and the town of Naantali in Finland.