Both Sides, Now

Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides, Now,” has haunted me since the first summer I worked as a roughneck in Eloy and Wickenburg Arizona. Cloud illusions, life’s illusions — she knows the other, real, troubled side and still, it is the illusions she recalls. A good memory for an old man growing more cynical every day.

2 August 1972, Seal Beach, California

     The rig is being moved and on our off day I have travelled with Steve, our derrickman, to visit his sister. I wake up early, sit alone in the kitchen, watch the light through the lens of Joni Mitchell’s song “Chelsea Morning,” sniff the fragrant yellow skin of a lemon, gaze out the window at “rows and floes of angel hair” . . .

And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Yesterday morning the clouds reminded me of rows and floes, of angel hair, of feather canyons.

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About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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