Looking For That River To Skate On

There are some holiday songs which are part of the seasonal repertoire that begs the perennial question—why is this song a Christmas melody.  For example:  Jingle Bells written by James Lord Pierpont in the 1850s was originally titled “The One Horse Open Sleigh” and was meant for the Thanksgiving Season, but as time elapsed, Jingle Bells with alternate lyrics became the festive Christmas song we know today.

Going back to last century, a young lady from the prairies of Saskatchewan sang a song which was never meant to be a holiday song, but somehow various artists and people decided to adopt it as part of the seasonal playlist.  The singer was Joni Mitchell and the song from her 1971 album BLUE was RIVER.

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

But it don’t snow here
It stays pretty green
I’m going to make a lot of money
Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I’m so hard to handle
I’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Oh, I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=8

 

When one listens to the beginning of the song, the familiar melodious tune of Jingle Bells glides toward you.  Then it becomes a melody which carries you with its lyrics without the frolics of riding over snowy covered paths and hills in a one horse open sleigh.

It’s a sad song about a romantic breakup in Los Angeles.  As Joni sings the song, the City of Angels does not hold much promise as she reflects back, perhaps to her younger days, skating on the South Saskatchewan River in her home town of Saskatoon.

It rarely snows in the Los Angeles’ winters, but Saskatchewan is a different story in its wintry scenery.  Rivers and lakes freeze over to allow skating on their icy surfaces.

For many these are their memories from childhood.  Cavorting in the snow and engaging in various wintery sports, children embraced the quintessential days of fun, especially if a blazing fire waited for them inside along with a toasty beverage to evaporate the frost from their rosy faces.

However, in Los Angeles one would have to cast their vision toward the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains to catch the glimmer of Winter touching Southern California.  For a young lady from Canada, Los Angeles would be an alien world in Winter, especially if one is alone in the canyons of steel, concrete, brick and mortar.

Is there a place for a song like River in the festive season?  For a significant number of people this time of year is very blue:

And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doin’ all right with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas

Blue Christmas, Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson, 1948

Sadness at Christmas time may seem like a sacrilege, but until you have experienced the loneliness and heartache of missing a loved one or rejection, you cannot truly sympathize with one who has suffered loss. The empty chair and the silent voice are painful reminders of what it was like last Christmas when the loved one was still part of their life.

Do not be hasty to pass judgment on someone if they don’t seem to be filled with the seasonal spirit of joy. Their bah humbug, like Ebenezer Scrooge’s, hides a pain deep inside the recesses of their soul.

For if one traces the snowshoe prints of the joyless one back to their source, there will always be a clear demarcation where one set of tracks ended as the one trampled onward without companionship.  The moments of separation cloud the spirit in a fog without melody, and joy, like forgotten holiday cookies in a festive tin, cannot penetrate their ambiance.

Of course, each person has their favorite tunes.  Life is a journey we take together until

We walk this road together
And we walk this road alone

The Open Door, Darrell Scott

If you know someone who is embracing this season alone, give them a moment of your time.  By sharing yourself it may make the holiday a bit easier for them as they relive the past and prepare for the tomorrows.

A cup of tea and a chat can revive the spirit of joy.  It only costs several moments of your time and caring attention.

 

G. D. Williams       © 2019

POST 822

 

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