The Course

Today I’m sharing a folk song I heard during an online gathering over a month ago and which has stayed with me since.

“The Course” is a stirring, soulful anthem by Ayla Nereo, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, dancer and filmmaker from northeastern California, USA. The song evokes, for me, a sense of fellowship and the togetherness that comes from sharing joys, sorrows, tasks and burdens. It also reminds me of the mantra a wise old friend has often said about being part of a community: “chop wood, carry water.”

Who’ll fetch the water? 
will it be your great grand-daughter 
my darling 
who’ll fetch the water? 

What will be it’s course 
from the source how will it find us 
my darling 
what’ll be the course? 

and who will call the rain 
feel it fallin’ to our skin 
from a welling deep within 
who’ll call the rain? 

and who’ll strike the drum 
when our thundering heartbeat needs it 
when the feet gotta pray it down 
who’ll beat the ground? 

who will speak in truth 
and where will they walk it, show us 
how my darling 
who’ll sow the truth 

and where from will it bloom 
to the story as we shape it 
for each other, brother sister 
what we choose 

this breath we been given 
this life we are tending 
this garden we are seeding 
for the ones yet to come 

Oh who will fetch the water 
will it be your great grand-daughter 
my darling 
who’ll fetch the water? 

I’ll fetch the water 
And I will be the course 
and I will call the rain 
I will call the rain

(“The Course,” by Ayla Nereo)

I listened to the song after morning rituals of playing with and feeding Perry Como the cat (in answer to his loud, persistent calls to honour his morning routines!) and making a cup of coffee to savour while journaling. After the song, it was time for our three-times-a-week online practice with Padma Meditation, then right after that, a decision point about riding outdoors or on the indoor trainer. The temperature went unseasonably high today, +19°C (66°F) but the wind was 40 kilometres per hour (27 mph) gusting to 60 kph (37 mph) when I checked. Headwinds and crosswinds are not that appealing or safe on city roads that are still full of spring thaw potholes and sand that’s hazardous for sudden turns, and such winds are particularly tricky when being passed by those few drivers who don’t give much space for safety. So I rode inside, safely connected in the online Zwift.com community in an event with 2,779 other riders from around the world, many of whom were quite chatty, making the near-hour ride go by quickly. (By the way, the weather is making a massive turn as I write: howling winds, with possible rain and/or blowing snow overnight and a windchill of -17°C or 1°F. Yikes.)

Twice during my bike trainer ride, the Public Service Broadcasting piece “Go!” came on my iPhone on random play (once was the studio version, the second was a live recording; please see my post on the song). As the music approaches a crescendo when Commander Neil Armstrong declares, “Tranquility Base here; the Eagle has landed,” I feel a rush of emotion and inspiration at the incredible technology that, in 1969, took humans to the moon and brought them back safely. In that same moment in the music, I also recall what English musician Roger Eno has said about that time in history and the hope the moon landings raised for peace and harmony back here on Earth, which sadly did not come about (this is mentioned in a post on the Apollo 11- inspired “An Ending (Ascent).” Those hoped-for connections still elude our world because of the desperate grasping of the few, for power and riches, at the expense of so many others.

Later this afternoon, Sweety and I walked to The Forks National Site, where we sat and enjoyed a beer outdoors, just before the wind started picking up again. Then back home, I had a Zoom call with a friend. And interspersed among all the day’s events were several connections and interactions with dear ones near and far.

Throughout the day, I’ve marvelled at how we as a human race have developed so many tools and technologies for connecting with others when we cannot be physically near them. Through the pandemic, those have been literal lifelines and have helped nurture and maintain longstanding relationships, as well as encouraging new ones.

This week, many parts of the world pause from routines to connect in various ways to mark occasions like spring break or religious observances, including Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover. And, as my sweety and I learned in our meditation session this morning, there is also Holi, a spring celebration observed mainly by Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist people, also known as the Festival of Love or Festival of Spring. A visible aspect of the celebration is a kind of free-for-all where coloured powders and water are splashed all over people. A philosophy behind this, as Padma explained today, is that the festival of colour makes everyone appear the same, whether rich or poor, powerful or not. It sounds like a messy delight, and our faithful and wise guide recommends wearing old clothes!

“Holi | Festival of Colors 2014” (at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork, Utah, USA). Photo © 2014 Steven Gerner.
Used with gratitude under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sgerner/13896645072/.

Whatever our traditions, rituals and ceremonies, our celebrations continue to be different during the pandemic as the world remains in varying degrees of lockdowns or restrictions on gathering. But as more people become vaccinated (a little over 60,000 people ahead of me now, in our province), the flame of hope is flickering a little brighter.

Despite all these celebrations, we haven’t yet arrived at world peace. But each of us can go “fetch the water” needed to sustain us and all that exists in our living world, and slowly build harmony. That’s something we can do for each other, and something we all do each time we reach out and make life-giving connections.

Who’ll fetch the water?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

“The Course” is the closing track on Nereo’s 2016 album, The Code of the Flowers, which you can buy from her Bandcamp album page.

Here’s the audio from the Jumpsuit Records official YouTube channel:

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