You, me and Woody Guthrie
By Parson Thru
Woody Guthrie painted a dark but beautiful picture of barges rocking on the Hudson River around 1942. I’m nearing the end of his autobiography for the second time and sinking deeper into his story than in any of the preceding three hundred pages. But then all those sorry, and perhaps tall, tales come back into focus as he plumps for a barge to who-knows-where, rather than “Rockefeller’s Center”. In the surging black river water, Clara didn’t look burnt and Mama didn’t look crazy, and somewhere there was hope.
I read those pages in a café on our plaza, eating a sandwich and escaping the heat. Moments before, I’d read a letter from my friend – a beautiful friend; one of the loveliest and most deserving people I know; maybe the most deserving. We share a particular kind of tragedy – mine many years ago, hers all too raw. I wish I could tell her how much she means, but what can you do when someone is in so much need?
There are times when we are on our own. Sometimes those times are filled with light; others, they are impenetrably dark. I’m sure everyone is trying to shine a light on her right now, as they have for the last couple of years.
Pain and loss change us – make us who we are, or who we become.
“Will I go back to normal?”
No my love. I don’t think you will. You’ll carry on like we all do, shouldering this burden, and then the next, and the next – but I think you know that anyway. In fact, I know you do.
Woody looked up and saw Ruth – the girl on the fruit farm way down in California. He cursed his luck and fixed on what was up ahead. He held his guitar, thought of the songs he still had to write for all the people struggling out in the orchards, in the oil-fields, crossing the cold, black Atlantic through the torpedo trails. He knew he had a purpose.
That’s what we all need: a purpose of some kind. This is a harsh world and people get knocked about – sometimes by richer folks, who can never be so rich they can manage without the little we have; sometimes by fate. Fate’s often the cruellest of all – crueller than the harshest fruit farmer or the meanest and greediest boardroom.
We all need a purpose. Millions have seen their purpose taken away as wealth made its way upstairs and out of reach, but humans are resilient and resourceful if only they wouldn’t shut themselves down. When there’s something you know you care about, something you know is right, aim towards it. Follow your sense of purpose.