This poem by Jeffrey Harrison was printed in the New York Times Magazine last weekend. I just read it yesterday.
The maple limb severed
by a December storm
still blossoms in May
where it lies on the ground,
its red tassels a message
from the other side,
like a letter arriving
after its writer has died.
This poem made me think of a story I read recently, one I believe was in Rolling Stone Magazine. The article was about the saddest death stories in music. One I read really stuck with me — in fact, it has kind of haunted me –that is the story of singer-songwriter Jim Croce.
Croce died in a plane crash while he was on tour in September 1973. If that wasn’t tragic enough, a few days after his death his wife received a letter from him. The letter explained the decision he had made to leave the music business. He was tired of the travel and everything else involved. He wanted a simpler life.
I have not been able to shake this story out of my head. I keep thinking about how difficult that letter must have been to read — how close they had come to living life in a way that would have suited them and their young child better. It just added to the sadness I had always felt at losing the talented Croce.
I love a lot of his music, but one song seems to go with this story. It is called “Walking Back to Georgia” — a beautiful tale of returning to the one you love. Some of the lyrics:
But she’s the girl who said she loved me
On that hot dusty Macon road
And if she’s still around, I’m gonna settle down
With that hard lovin’ Georgia girl
Georgia can you hear me callin’
Oh, I’ll be home in just a while
And if I had to I’d be crawlin’
Just to share another mornin’ smile
The “dusty road” imagery always sticks with me, and every time I hear it I think of Croce returning to his wife in her dreams, walking back to her alive and well, the plane crash and the time apart long forgotten. It is an ending in a parallel universe. It is the red tassels on what should be a dead tree branch. And one that helps me not feel so sad.
Here is an incredible version performed by Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O’Donovan.