So I do a lot of watercolors, right? And there’s this thing I do with the stack of plastic, 10-well palettes that I use.
I use them all, and I can’t bring myself to wash out that last little bit of whatever color. So I can’t put more paint down to use because it would get contaminated. I have to shuffle through the deck of eleven plastic circles at least twice to find the one or two that I’m willing to betray.
Today’s a record, though. I’m about to go wash four palettes.
Here’s The Blizzard of the World, watercolor and India ink on four 6×6 watercolor papers.
I first heard of Leonard Cohen on Nirvana’s album, In Utero, in 1993. There was a single line in Pennyroyal Tea: Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld, so I can sigh eternally. I didn’t know what that meant, and it wasn’t like I could google it then. It remained a mystery for a couple of years, until his songs on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack blew me away.
I bought the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.
I bought Leonard Cohen’s album I’m Your Man.
And I bought his big blue book, Stranger Music.
That book was my constant companion for a solid eight years. It still rested contentedly on my shelf, until I pulled it out an hour ago, to run my fingers down its spine, greeting an old friend. I flipped to the Taco Bell receipt faded to near-illegibility that still marks the page of Owning Everything, and I read the poem that I know so well once more, and I cried. I flipped forward to the Wal-Mart receipt for kitty litter from 2000 to read You Do Not Have to Love Me, and my heart broke anew.
Leonard Cohen was a magic man. He was like Shakespeare to me; everyone should know him and be forced to read him and listen and perform him in high school until at least someone of them loved him like I do.
But he wasn’t like Shakespeare; he was alive. A living breathing, force of nature, like the wind and the tides. And now he isn’t.
I remember when Frank Sinatra died in 1998, and one of the nurses that I worked with wore a black armband for a week. No one else was that worked up about it; it seemed an affectation.
But now I understand.
Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen.
One thousand posts.
What have I to share that I haven’t shared, aside from the stories that I haven’t strung together yet, word by word, like a popcorn and cranberry garland on a quiet Christmas Eve?
I have my favorite poem by Leonard Cohen, Owning Everything.
You worry that I will leave you.
I will not leave you.
Only strangers travel.
I have nowhere to go.
I have the story of my ride in a helicopter when I was ten years old.
My best friend Jennifer and I lived next door to each other in the married housing apartments on-campus at Southeastern Louisiana University. One day there was a festival of some sort going on across the highway, where helicopter rides were to be had for ten dollars apiece.
We ran across the hot blacktop in our bare feet to watch the helicopter rise up and down, up and down, lifting and lowering its paying passengers. When we saw a lull in the traffic, we walked up to see if we could catch a glimpse of the mysteries inside. The pilot had seen us watching and waiting, and he ushered us in for a quick up-and-down of our own, no charge. We couldn’t stop smiling.
Here’s to a thousand more.