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

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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