She was/is a prolific songwriter and performer who began in the 60s in the folk genre.
Join’s songs were performed by many of the well-known artists of that time frame and later. So much so, that her poetry and music have become part of the culture of those who are influenced popular music. Like me. Some of her better known works include “Both Sides Now,” and “Circle Game.”
I first heard her song “Urge for Going” performed by a relatively obscure artist named Tom Rush. I’ve never forgotten it. If you’re curious, simply Google “urge for going lyrics” and read them as a poem. Then, if you don’t know the song, just imagine that they were sung to a slow, haunting melody befitting someone lamenting inevitable change, wanting to do something about it, but unable. It wasn't done in a minor key, but it sounded like it was.
Lines like, “The warriors of winter give a cold, triumphant shout. And all that stays is dying, all that lives is gettin’ out. See the geese in chevron flight, flappin’ and a- racin’ down before the snow. They’ve got the urge for goin’ and they’ve got the wings to go.” Those just stay with me.
Or how about, “And when the leaves fell tremblin’ down, and bully winds did push their faces in the snow...”
It’s all about the onset of winter. The poet is unhappy about it; wants to get away, but somehow can’t/won’t/doesn’t.
I love to see the seasons change. Yes, I love summer. But I also love fall and winter. Here in South Texas the standard joke is that we have 10 months of summer, six weeks of winter, and one week each of spring and fall. And there’s a lot of truth in that. As I’ve written here before, we either have our air conditioner on, or the heat. I miss the change, and the period of “in between.”
What got me started on this topic? Well, this is the time of year when the migratory birds come to South Texas. The most visible are the Canada geese, and the snow geese. We have them by the thousands. Some stay in this area for the winter, and many, many more pass on farther south.
I love to see them flying over in their vee formation (“chevron flight” according to Joni), laughing and calling and flapping. Most often I hear them before I see them. Sometimes they are so high I can barely make them out against the blue sky. Other times (more thrilling to me) they are at tree-top level, likely searching for a spot to spend a few hours grazing or spend the night.
This year they seem to be a little later than usual, but they’re here now. They got the instinctive “urge for going,” and they had the wings to go. And when I see them, I always remember that song.
Good stuff, Joni.