I wanted to write about the shark presentations my students gave, but most of them were lifeless recitations of Powerpoint slides, and I found myself thinking more about Lou Reed.
I played his music all last night.
What does it take to crack open the human heart? I don’t know why I’m surprised at my depth of feeling at Lou’s death.
Had I forgotten the heavy thrill of buying my first VU album, “White Light, White Heat,” of memorizing “The Gift”? How I used to keep a picture of Lou Reed in my photo album among images of my family? Why did I not even own this music I loved so much anymore? I’d memorized every song.
Between classes, I tried to lose my despair over the death of a major artist and the death of collective student imagination, in an essay about horses called “Partnering with Pegasus.” Mares are the true leaders of the herds, not stallions. I started thinking of 1992, the last time I saw my childhood mare-ribsy and grizzled, 35 years old coming over the edge of a hill. She nickered when she spotted me, but I, shocked at her appearance, gasped.
Then we both froze staring at each other.
What a great surprise to find that horse standing in that field again.
The image hung there, and suddenly infusing that lost world was John Cale singing “The Style It Takes” a gentle song about Andy Warhol:
I’ll put the Empire State Building on your wall,
For 24 hours, glowing on your wall
Watch the sun rise above it in your room,
Wallpaper art, a great view…..
Did they always belong together this unlikely memory pair–an elderly horse and lonely Andy Warhol?
I started thinking of that well-worn Camus quote about having an infinite summer within. The places I’m afraid to return to, those fields, those songs (which are also places), are sites of renewal. Loss numbs and loss surprises. Like music it wakes us up again to the dream of life.