Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Voyageur National Park

I have been at Voyageur National Park in northernmost Minnesota overnight in the bus. During the night there was a windstorm and heavy rains. The nearest town is Hibbing, the boyhood home of Bob Dylan.

It was the wind roaring and rocking the bus (which weighs ten tons and is not easily rocked) which he sang about in the lyric,

If you’re goin’ to the north country far,

Remember me to the one who lives thar,

She once was a true love of mine,

She once was a true love of mine.

See that she has a coat so warm,

To keep her from the howling wind,

That hits heavy on the border line,

She once was a true love of mine,

She once was a true love of mine.

That is all I remember of it from forty years ago, but this place and this wind is the place and the wind in the song.

Not only are the north country, the wind, and the border line poignant but also the pain of modern times. It is all but lost on us that “once was” and “true love” are, or once were, an oxymoron.

In this we can learn about the way things used to be from the graffiti one used to see in and around Mexican neighborhoods in LA - “JR + MG [or some other pairs of initials] por vida”. Whether this meant that Juan Rodriguez actually intended to be with Maria Garcia for life, or just that they both knew that he had to say he did in order to get into her pants, is not for non-Mexicans of that era to know.

But it used to be a given that one fell in love, often quite easily and casually, then stayed together “por vida”. Or at least that was the expectation even if it wasn’t always what happened.

The contrary note was struck by Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. “That’s when those louses go back to their spouses” she sang. Even then, though the louses had been with her, and she had been with them, in the end they went back to their spouses.

One doesn’t fault Dylan for being an ambitious musician and going off to Greenwich Village in New York to pursue his career, even though it meant leaving behind his girlfriend. Even though she was a true love of his. Even the grammar speaks the contradiction. How can she be “a” true love, rather than “the” true love?

But it would have been clingy and dependent of her to insist on going. She had other fish to fry anyway – the University of Minnesota perhaps, then maybe law school. And it would have been uxorious and sexless of him to take her.

I don’t fault Dylan for it and you don’t fault him either. Nor her. That is just how life is. There are lots of women to meet and get involved with and about the same number of men to meet and get involved with. One moves on, as the saying is.

Though the rewards for “moving on” are clear, the costs are also. One is always either alone or about to be.

I am not saying I object. I personally wouldn’t now have it any other way. I am just pausing during the wind and the rain here on the borderline to reflect on the cost.


  1. When they say they are in love for life, that is exactly what they mean. For the life of that love. Some loves last years, others just the night. And then the love has died. Forever isn't nearly as long as it used to be.

  2. I think you can love for life. Just because you stop living with a person or they choose to leave doesn't mean the love stops. Or the thoughts and desires and dreams. Oh how I wish they would! The longer you are in a caring relationship the stronger the love. Not the sex, not the excitement, but the love and commitment. It is when one or the other believes that it is greener on the otherside and acts on it does it get screwed up. The otherside is an illusion. If only more would believe that what they are missing doesn't really exist. Maybe for a moment. To throw 20 years of love and commitment away for the proverbial dream of what is missing is sad and depressing. I long to find someone who believes in commitment and love and likes to come home to someone who will hug them at night. I miss that.