Conquered In a Car Seat

     Everyone has memories of the where they were, what they were doing and who they were with when they heard certain songs for the first time. Often, the thoughts and feelings of those times are rekindled with every subsequent listen to that particular tune; however, the moments that seem to resonate the most with me are those of exotic settings, fictional characters and heart-wrenching feelings that are created by the crisp imagery and almost-tangible emotions present in fine musical artistry.  I remember where these songs take me rather than where I first heard them. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been touched so deeply by someone else’s work but, for me, chasing these moments is what makes being addicted to listening to music a rewarding experience. In a way, music is my drug of choice.

     Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is the cause of my most recent musical epiphany. Up until about a few weeks ago Moondance had always been my Van Morrison album of choice and it occupied a firm position on my all time top ten list. Astral Weeks remained subconsciously very enigmatic. Its complex sounds lingered with me for months after listening but it still never quite made sense. The initial image I experienced from it was one of Van frolicking around a mystical Irish countryside during his formative years and commenting on every small detail he observed while remaining invisible to everything around him. It was as if he was part of the wind: heard and felt but not seen.
     The catalyst for this revelation happened on a pilgrimage to the first post-Katrina Jazzfest with some fellow music connoisseurs.  The twelve plus hour trek from Miami to New Orleans was to be conquered primarily during nocturnal hours.  My stretch of driving was the second third of the trip and involved crossing over into the central time zone.  Everyone else in the car was fast asleep--as most other people were at that time of day.  The only person keeping me company was Van the man.  I had already listened to most of his catalog during my stint behind the wheel.  The only un-listened to Van album left in the car was Astral Weeks, so I popped in it.

     Not long after the first note played the darkness surrounding the highway began to give way to the birth of the next day.  Along with the rising of the sun came a great deal of thick fog that hovered over the landscape.  My hazy subconscious interpreted the greens of the surrounding areas through the fog as having a subtle bluish hue to them.  A glance in my rearview mirror revealed the sun at the same location in the sky as it was five minutes ago.  It was then that I realized we were traveling west—into a different time zone nonetheless—away from the rising sun.  It was a race against nature that we would obviously lose. 
     The loss occurred sooner than I expected.  The sun was now at an angle in the sky such that even motioning my eyes towards the rearview mirror was a blinding experience. Just above the road a few of the sun’s rays met the clouds of fog to form a series of rainbows.  A scene of sereneness was born and at that moment that the music matched the countryside.  During prior listens to Astral Weeks a vision had been created in my head that was far too complex for me to totally grasp.  That image had now manifested itself on the other side of my windshield.  The greenish blue hues, the numinous quality of the fog and the pestering--yet necessary--sun; it was all drawn out in front of me like a scene in a childhood dream. 
     Having what was previously only in my head now plainly visible allowed my brain to open for further interpretation of what these fifty minutes of music truly captured only to realize that the imagery itself tells the story.  It is one of youthful exuberance and uncertain destinies.  It is told as if everything is occurring at one small instant in time at the dawn of a new beginning.  That new beginning and everything after is cloudy and ambiguous like the foggy road ahead, yet the beauty of it is only possible with what that of the sun—a reminder of what is behind and the places from which we’ve come.  To look back at it is blinding but the urge to do so is hard to fight—much like the past and the regrets that often accompany it.  Even if such things are blinding they contribute to the beauty of the present and they shape the future.  The beauty of the fog would not exist without the sun from behind.  The solution: to just love the moment you’re living. 
     By the time the album ended we were in the central time zone.  With the clock regressing an hour the entire time spent listening to the album had just been erased.   It was all experienced in one small instant in time as if Van had planned it to be that way.  I drove the rest of my shift in silence with the album on repeat in my head.  I did not aurally revisit the album until four months later.  It was a day when I wanted to escape and feel young again.  That's when I finally got it. 

Back to: Home Diversions
© Richard S. Juszkiewicz, 2006, All Rights Reserved.
Quality By Rich Production.