Sunday, November 2, 2008

The wind of my soul

I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.

Great stuff. Unfortunately not mine. The words and phrasing belong, of course, to a storied British singer-songwriter. There is no artist “like” Cat Stevens, nothing derivative in his musical DNA. And to twist a well worn phrase, his work is the soundtrack of my love.

The other day, covering a break in the music department at Barnes&Noble, my day job, my eye catches his name in the bins. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say the name reaches out and grabs me by my ears like one of those loony animated cartoons. Against my better judgment, I thumb through the familiar cds, my hand resting on a strange one, released in 2006 and called An Other Cup (a clear reference to his Tea for the Tillerman best seller of the 1970s.) This is decades after our relationship comes to a crashing halt. And by relationship, I include the young man who introduced--or should I say seduced--me with his music.

Back in those 1970s, that relationship is considered way out of line. Even today, when older women/younger men couples are more common, ours likely wouldn’t make the cut--with me a 28-year-old single mom and him a 19-year-old still living at home. Naturally, it flames out.

However, my intense and passionately complex relationship with this young man alters my life’s course, leaving me ragged and raw. At least I still have Cat Stevens, his musical alter ego. Then Cat abandons me, also. Converting to Islam, rejecting his musical gifts, selling his instruments and awards, and adopting the name Yusuf. Silly as it seems now, I take it personally. And when he supports the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie, I can no long bear the sound of his name (s).

The world turns and turns and turns. Word reaches me that my former young lover has died. He is only 39. My stomach turns and turns and turns. I immediately take refuge in Cat Stevens’ voice. Driving home from the funeral, I am compelled to write about us. A newspaper column is followed by a novel, which is really a memoir wrapped in a tissue paper of fiction. Cat Stevens is my constant companion during this time. His songs provide the chapter names and the title, Moonshadow.

I move on.

As the saying goes: Change is mandatory; growth, optional. I sample cuts from Yusuf‘s 2006 album on the store‘s machine. The voice remains smooth and rich, the lyrics compelling. Yet it is this blend of Cat Stevens and Yusuf that I now hold dear. If I ever run for office, this would be my anthem: Peace Train

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