The other night, I was sitting and talking with some friends at a bar. A really cool girl who was playing records put on Jackson Browne's 1973 recording of his song "These Days", and it cut through everything in the room. It was first recorded by Nico in 1967, and her version is probably more commonly known. Browne's arrangement is on the warmer side, with a flat picked guitar and that perfect pitch of his. A couple of days later, as I climbed six thousand feet in the six miles from Baldy Village to the summit of Mount Baldy, the first three lines played over and over in my mind: "I've been out walking / I don't do too much talking these days / These days... "
I'm leaving soon to start my walk on the John Muir Trail. For the past few of months, I've been dutifully training, walking as much as I can with my full pack. I don't know if it's attributable to the anticipation of what's ahead or the monotony of the training, but I haven't been interested in documenting my walks in words this summer. Maybe things will change once I finish the John Muir Trail. I like the idea of writing about my time there, and I want to write about a few early summer walks that I still have not documented: a foggy morning on the Verdugo Range, a rim to rim to rim traverse of the Grand Canyon, camping and walking on Mount San Jacinto just a few weeks before the big fire up there, and a lovely day on Cucamonga Peak.
I didn't mind so much having "These Days" stuck in my head during such a long walk. The quiet acceptance of hard breaks described in the lyrics is tempered by an interplay between major and minor seventh chords that express melancholy so well: there is joy in this sadness, the acceptance is not resignation. That seems to be about right, these days. My favorite way to be in life is to be open enough to embrace all of its possibilities, emotional and otherwise. Walking seems to alleviate sadness and elevate joy and somehow allows for their perfect commingling, which seems like the most real state of grace. I'm glad I heard that song when I did because it reminded me some things about life and how to live it, and it also reminded me of why I go out walking.