Christmas Alphabet : M for Joni Mitchell – River

It’s coming on Christmas.

They’re playing, ‘Jingle Bells’ and, ‘White Christmas’ in the shopping malls.

A marching Salvation Army brass band wrings the heart with, ‘In The Bleak Winter’.

There’s a tree dressed in tinsel and flickering lights in the Town Square.

Someone said the Reindeer are arriving soon.

Words like Holy, Saviour, Joy and Peace fill the Winter air.

Yet, yet, for some Christmas is not a time of unalloyed Joy.

It’s a time when, whether you want to or not, you’re reminded of Christmases past and the past that haunts your present and is sure to haunt your future.

What happened to the dreams of the 6 year old who believed in the magic of Christmas with all their heart?

The child who whooped with delight as they left crazy spiralling tracks all across the freshly fallen snow?

What became of all those promises the 16 year old made about the world they were going to make – once they were in charge.

It takes time to learn how easy it was to make promises and how hard they are to keep.

How hard to keep.

When you look in the mirror it’s not hard to see someone sad and selfish.

Someone who has made themselves hard to handle.

Someone who is responsible for tears beyond their own.

Tears beyond their own.

The snow when it falls from the sky covers a multitude of sins.

A multitude.

No snow now.

Hard wet ground.

Oh, oh, I wish I had a River I could skate away on.

A river so long my feet would fly, fly, fly.

A river to skate away from all the burdens of the years.

A river to skate away from all the flowing tears.

A river to skate away on.

Away, away, away.

Joni Mitchell from her career peak Record, ‘Blue’.

River is a song that speaks to the grief and loneliness many people experience at Christmas.

Grief for the loss of loved ones to death.

Grief for the loss of a secure self.

Grief for the casualties of this crazy scene.

Grief for the loss of a place that was your Home.

Loneliness remembering severed Love.

Loneliness remembering severed Friendship.

Grief and loneliness and longing to escape miraculously captured in the heart clutching beauty of Joni Mitchell’s voice each time she sings the word, ‘fly’.

Oh to skate away into the cauterising cold air over the frozen river.

To skate away.

To skate away.

To skate away.

57 thoughts on “Christmas Alphabet : M for Joni Mitchell – River

  1. Along with “Astral Weeks”, probably the most played album in my collection. It’s those first few lines, “they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer”, to an English seventeen year old in the summer of 1971 this all sounded so exotic, so very American, (or Canadian). Before this, the only Joni album I had was “Ladies of the Canyon” and this record made quite an impact on me. I remember picking this up from the Virgin Megastore on Tottenham Court Road as an American import, because the UK release didn’t occur for another week or so, (that all blue gatefold sleeve, with the blue inner sleeve!), somehow CDs just don’t have the same impact.

    Just one thing Thom, was it her career peak? personally I’d have to put “Court and Spark” and “Hejira” along side it for consideration, but that’s one of the great things about music, so many different opinions. Another very thought provoking post, and another that I just didn’t see coming, thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Sounds good to me Thom, what else is there to be said about AW
        , I must get out more and realise there’s other things in life, (and music) beyond Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Even then, if I wanted to be totally argumentive, I would suggest none of these have made a really great album for the best part of 40 years, ( with the possible exception of Bob’s “Time Out Of Mind”), and I would only consider this if I was allowed to include the some of the outtakes, “Red River Shore”‘, “Mississippi” etc.

        Have a good and peaceful Christmas, will be looking forward to your writings in the New Year.

        Liked by 1 person

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