it's a bit of a reach.
oh, everyone's pleasant enough but there's an awkwardness around each other that is more than just the absence of familiarity. it's 1978 and peter, mary and i have been apart (with a couple of highly publicized exceptions) for almost seven years. so much has happened in those seven years...
in the sixties there was such an interwoven sense of our day-to-day lives; the awareness of whether one or the other of us had a dentist appointment or had tried a new restaurant the night before or was wearing a new turtleneck...but now there's a hesitancy to offer any information that doesn't relate directly to the trio and the recording that we've agreed to make. perhaps in the actual working we'll rediscover a comfort.
george martin, former producer of the beatles, over-committed to film scores and other production work but nonetheless a perfect gentleman, has come by mary's apartment in new york city where we've gathered to explain personally his inability to oversee the making of our reunion album. he chats for a half hour or so, apologizes for his schedule, and leaves
though we immediately begin to discuss the possible use of other producers, for the moment there is a sense of desertion. he had seemed so right...and with the delay we must look again at schedule considerations. since none of us is willing to make peter, paul and mary a priority anymore, any trio activity must now fit in to the gaps left or adjusted within each personal agenda. we have agreed to certain number of days for the rehearsals, a certain number of days for the actual recording and mixing and a certain number of days for a brief tour to announce the album's release. this truly is then to be like a school reunion; brief, challenging, a bit nostalgic and then (as far as we know) back to our private lives.
unfortunately all of our producer/friends from the sixties are busy...we're pleased with their success but frustrated at not being able to put the final piece of this puzzle together when our manager john hartman gets a lead on dave rubinson, producer and good friend of herbie hancock the innovative jazz keyboardist. he has just finished production of a well-received pointer sisters album. and though this as well as his previous work has little to do with folk music - his tastes falling more within the disciplines of jazz, blues and pop - we hear he is enthusiastic about working with a group he has 'known all his life'. he gets the warner brothers 'approval' and we begin to pick out the songs.
we're sitting in mary's living room in her fifth floor apartment in new york city. it's sunny outside but it must be cold for the windows are closed. it's a reflective time just following an intensive fifteen minutes or so of rehearsal. peter has just left the room to get some coffee and to make a phone call and mary and i are alone. it's the first alone time together since the 'reunion' has begun. there is a cautious distance and residual resentment here. at least we're not being 'chatty' to cover it up as in the previous days...
"can i ask you something?" she says.
"sure". i look up at her on the couch from the rug where i'm sitting cross-legged.
"do christians believe that jesus is more important than God?"
i'm stunned. almost instinctively i answer "no...christians believe that jesus is the incarnation of God...God on earth"
"oh..." she says. but the 'oh' snaps the tension in the room. it's as if contained within that one short question and answer was a huge balloon of suspicion and misunderstanding now burst and filling the room with new oxygen. perhaps i hadn't noticed before but there's a shaft of sunlight that falls across her shoulders into the room.
later i’m thinking about mary’s question. i think about bumper stickers proclaiming JESUS IS LORD and how that text is viewed by the non-christian. i think about the connection between joy and humility and the inadequacies of any written language to convey emotional or spiritual information. and i wonder about the relationship in my own life between a ‘surety of faith’ and the 'arrogance of presumption’.
during one of the subsequent rehearsals, mary tells about this tree that grows in her back yard. growing up in the shadow of a large boulder and, in order to survive, the trunk was bent around the rock almost in the shape of a 'C' in order that the leaves would have access to the sunshine. i'm struck by the image. it makes me think about the peculiar quality of all growing things; that hunger or thirst we share for light...
i write the lyric "EVERY FLOWER'S YEARNING FOR THE SUN", add a few more metaphors and show it to peter.
"try reaching", he says handing the lyric sheet back to me. "I know what you're trying to say and i think 'reaching' is a better word"
i scan my scribbled page with it's hash marks, circles and arrows and wonder if indeed 'reaching' is better than 'yearning'. then i realize...
reaching is yearning expressed.