i have only listened to this song about 150 times in the last month. between jack kornfield and pema chodron dharma talks, garrison keillor's lake wobegon podcasts, fresh air with terry gross, and democracy now with amy goodman, "cactus" has been the soundtrack to my autumn days....on busrides, taxi rides, subway commutes, walks to school and home again.....this meandering, contemplative song of so many layers has been a companion to me.....it's the kind of song that i find i can listen to over and over again and yet, each time a different part stands out and touches me in a new way....this song seems to hold space for the complexities of life, the comings and goings, the gains and losses.....it shares some wisdom that comes with living....the twists and turns throughout offer a mirror to the mysterious and ever uncertain unfolding of this human life.
"it's been a year since you left home for higher ground. in the distance i hear a hoot owl ask the only question i have found to be worthy of the sound it makes as it breaks the silence of your old town. these letters are another way to love you.
it takes trouble, and it takes courage to be free. but you'll find if you are soft enough, love will hang around for free. and the coldest bed i found does not hold one but it will hold three. i hope you never have to know what that can mean.
it's safe to say i took the long and winding path. and were it not for loving friendships who knows how long i would have lasted. you're young one day but youth is rude and while you watch it walks right past and then...hey...you get your chance to think like me.
when i was young i was in service to my pain. on sunny days you'd find me walking miles to look for rain. and as many times i swapped it all just to hop a moving train. looking back, it was the most expensive way to get around.
and i found that all the world could love you save for one. and i don't know why it is, but that kiss will be the haunted one. you'll pine and weep and you'll lose good sleep and you'll think your life has come undone, until you learn to turn and spurn that bitter wind.
because it'll probably be the one you least expect to, who will wager through your storm with you, who will give your fears respect... who will melt your burden down...though you probably don't want that yet, still...the odds fall sweet in favor to an open heart.
seems to me the tools for being human are wicked crude. they're not so slick and smooth and shiny as some stranger might allude. and while your longest night might test you, you don't be scared of solitude. and remember what is shared is also true.
because there's a place where the water races wide. and you could be hard pressed (in the muck of time) just trying to reach the other side. you learn to find the only way, or you learn to say you tried. it seems to me a lot of little towns were made that way.
now while i'm at it...let me tell you about the moon. because i heard some people talking, looks like we're probably going to have to move there soon. all i know is the face it shows at midnight is not the one it shows at noon. but i bet it's a standing kind of wistful from over there.
in a word, i heard that life's a cactus tree. and should you find a way to break it's skin, won't you have a drink for me. but...if you're standing near a cactus, you're probably where you shouldn't be. isn't this why you left your home, though you love me.
now when i imagine life is only time and space...then i guess i've seen the best of it upon your tender, loving face. and the faith that you bestowed in me gives me a solid sense of place. i learn to say...fire, water, earth and air...i learn to say fire, water, earth and air...i learn to say fire, water, earth and air...and i'll see you there."
"cactus" lyrics by: ferron
oil on canvas by: joni mitchell