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Archive for August, 2012

Remembering Elliott

Those souls who have left this earth for heaven, or whatever we believe is beyond are missed and remembered by those close to them. But there are those souls who leave us that were able to affect a great number of people by their time on earth, and Elliott Smith is one of them. He touched us with his music; words creatively brought together that often spoke of heartache, of sadness, of anger and even hope in the midst of despair, paired with achingly beautiful melodies that often betrayed the mood of the words. He was able to get us to listen to the sad reality of life that it is sometimes, in the guise of musical notes that danced with joy. In doing this he created a following of listeners who empathized with him and felt that Elliott understood the pain in their own lives.

During his many live shows, Elliott brought himself even closer to his followers, as they hung onto every word and every note he played in utter admiration and devotion; all eyes and ears completely focused on the lone man  playing his sweet and precious music. Elliott had a gracious way of making his audience feel so involved in every show, so appreciated; never putting himself up on a pedestal. Song requests were shouted out, or oftentimes Elliott would ask what the audience wanted to hear. He would tell little stories that fed the camaraderie he had with his fans, and they felt as if they knew him intimately.

Despite all the drama and despair that was his lifetime – dealing with depression, addictions, and a sadly violent death – Elliott Smith gave all he could to the career he chose as a musician. He crafted his music with a perfectionist’s touch, and toured extensively to bring that music to all who wanted to hear him play. He showed us the qualities he possessed of hard work, integrity, generosity, and compassion in the man that he was, not letting his struggles in life hold back the gift he gave to us of amazing music, created from his very soul.

Elliott Smith would have been 43 years old today, and he would still be blessing us with lovely songs. In this world he is lovingly remembered by the timeless legacy he left of music, but he will also be remembered as a sweet and gentle soul who just wanted everyone  to enjoy his gift of song.

Memorial plaque of Elliott Smith that hangs in Lincoln High School in Portland, OR

Artwork done of Elliott Smith that hangs in the Crystal Hotel in Portland, OR

Their Friend

 

Every venue he plays

Becomes an intimate setting

As if he sits

With the audience

In their living room

He greets them with a shy “hello”

Then sits in the chair

The small man and his guitar

Swallowed up by the stage

He nervously picks at the guitar

And a song starts to emerge

The crowd cheers

Then a hush ensues

He holds them in the rapture of melody

The song ends

They cheer once more

A quickly spoken “thanks”

Is shared with his followers

They talk to him

Asking him questions

He politely answers

Someone shouts “I love you!”

“I love you too” he replies

And this exchange of love

Is what endears him to them

To every face in the crowd he is

Their friend who sings

Learning what friendship is all about

I had sadly wiped the slate of friendship clean throughout the years, focusing all my energies on my husband, my children and my work. The few friends I had seemed to slip away like sand through my fingers, as I blatantly ignored them in favor of my family. My introverted nature didn’t help matters, and I found the only friend I really had to do things with was my husband. Luckily I did manage to keep in touch with a high school friend, Denise, who lived out of state – and I was a poor friend to her, not responding to her invitations to visit. Bless her though, she kept our friendship going even though I was such a weak participant. I found myself becoming so envious of women who had a close circle of female friends. I wanted to be one of those women.

Mistakenly, I thought that having my husband as my only friend was enough. But as our children grew older and didn’t need or want my attention so much, I saw how limited my world of connections with others really was. And I also saw that my spouse and I were really not on the same page in so many ways, and we divorced. Now I was starting over from scratch, trying to remember not only how to make friends, but how to be a good friend. And I have learned so much.

I have learned that sometimes we come together as friends, for reasons unknown, only to find ourselves drifting apart from each other. But that is the way of life at times, and even though we don’t connect with those friends like we used to, they are still a connection in our hearts. I have learned not to burn so many bridges, as life is an ebb and flow, and I may flow back to old friends.

I have learned that we may seek out friends on the basis of shared interests, and it is always a joy to share our passions with one another. When I moved to Portland, these shared interests were a great way to meet people – the book club, the knitting group, the walking group. But as I began to make closer friends from members of these different groups, I realized that sometimes it is so true that opposites attract! In my mind, I had to find friends who liked the same music as me, who followed the same spiritual practice, who had similar lifestyles. How wrong I was on all those counts! I am passionate about music; most of my Portland friends listen to talk radio. But because they do, we have some enlightening discussions. My friend Vanessa in Minnesota loves her political science classes; I haven’t read a newspaper for years now, and I only do so when it is an election year. I find that because of all our unique interests, it opens up the gateway for learning, for discussion, for discovering new possibilities for my life.

Now I realize what friendship is all about. Friendship comes on many different levels.  Some friendships have deeper bonds that allow the sharing of more intimate thoughts, and there are casual friendships that are all about sharing lunch together once a month. Each type of friendship is equally important in our lives. The bond of friendship is one that goes beyond the superficial aspect of shared interests. It is a bond that comes from connecting with the true self of each person, a resonating from soul to soul. My friends are like a beautiful bouquet of flowers – different varieties of lovely blooms that bring me joy in all their unique ways.

My friend Denise & I with the “umbrella man” in Portland

My Minnesota friend Vanessa & I

Out to lunch with the “library ladies”

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