Maybe it’s due to the thick layer of clouds busting down with rain overnight and today. Maybe it’s about getting caught up in a rearward look last night. Maybe it’s about the upbeat glee of a gift and a moment shared with a friend across the miles.
I’m not sure what put Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting in my mind’s ear this afternoon, but…there it was. This song and I go back a quarter of a century now.
Before Bush released Hounds of Love in 1985, the music industry was beginning to wonder what had become of her. She responded with arguably the best collection of songs she’d ever produced. It seems most critics agree Running Up That Hill, the first single released from the album, is the best of the best, but it’s Cloudbusting that resonates most strongly with me.
The video has something to do with it, I’m sure. Bush is a little ridiculous playing the young son to Donald Sutherland (has he aged at all in 25 years?), but there’s tragic charm to the story of the exotic, whimsical rainmaking machine and the inventor/father who knows he’ll be taken from his son too soon.
When my own father passed away, the advice of a good friend, Jim, was probably the most helpful I received at the time. Jim had lost his own father, and at a much younger age than I, and was still finding new insights from his ongoing attempts to accept it and live with it.
That is what my father did for me before leaving. It’s what Sutherland does for Bush’s little boy before being taken away. The father has made him master of the clouds, the rain, and taught him to appreciate and take glee in the wonder of all that is around him.
There’s something else that occurs to me just now. At 1:25 into the video, the little boy experiences a premonition of his father being taken away. When my father died I was travelling in England, had just taken over a gorgeous East London flat for a week or two of house sitting. I was filling the huge clawfoot tub for a bath and a book whileconnecting via the telephone to download email. An ominous one arrived from my brother-in-law that began “I am the bearer of the worst possible news.”
I was in the UK on the first leg of an epic journey that was to take me through Northern Africa, the Middle East and into Russia. The last couple years I’d been travelling around the world. Eight months in Australia. Another three in Southeast Asia. Smaller journeys here and there, scattered about. I’d never thought much about being far from home, or away from family and friends. Being connected to everyone on the new-fangled internet made staying in touch so much easier, but that’s not the same as being there. Before leaving this time, though, I considered something I’d never thought about before. What would I do if my father died while I was away? Not “one of my parents” or “someone very close to me”. Explicitly, my father.
With a half-full tub, and a computer in my lap, I didn’t even have to think about it. I was on a plane bound for my parents’ winter home in Arizona before noon the next day, and gave the eulogy a couple or three days later. I seemed to be the only one there not shocked that a 58 year-old man died so suddenly of a heart attack. Maybe I just knew.
He left us much too young, but he left having raised all his children well enough that they were already moving forward on their own.
Now, this may all seem a sombre subject on a sombre, grey, grisly day of rain (at least, that’s what it’s like here, in Vancouver). But there’s sunshine in it. Like the sun coming out. The line that awoke me to the presence of this song in my mind’s ear, and the only reason I began writing this missive, is the fifth one in this verse.
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out.
Your son’s coming out.
Ooh, I just know that something good is gonna happen.
And I don’t know when,
But just saying it could even make it happen.
That one line was the whole reason for beginning this post. Today is a day that feels like the first step of a new moving forward. Despite the gloomy weather, I just know that something good is gonna happen. That’s what I’d intended to write about. But… Well, sometimes when a song rises out of my subconscious there’s a deeper meaning attached to it, like a message there to be discovered. For me, the most powerful tool of discovery is to write.
In 25 years I’ve never spent all that much time with Cloudbusting’s lyrics. I was a good way through this post before I realised that Kate Bush’s character in the video is a boy rather than a tomboy, and had to go back and correct all the gender references. Now I go back and read the first four lines of that verse and the underlying reason I wandered off into this whole tangent of losing my father becomes patently clear. The tangent is the purpose, and I’ve been gently guided to it. Not that any of this surprises me. Music is the most subtly powerful of my muses.
I like to think it’s my father’s own subtle spiritual influence that brought Cloudbusting into my consciousness this afternoon. Yes, when he left I was already moving forward, but I’ve always been a little saddened by the thought that he isn’t here to see how far I’ve moved. I like to think that this afternoon he’s reaching out to remind me. He sees. He knows that something good is gonna happen. All I needed to do is ask for it. In a very real sense, I’ve not lost him at all. The sun’s coming out.
Ooo-ohh, just saying it could even make it happen.
I’m Cloudbusting Daddy.
Your son’s coming out.
Your son’s coming out.
There’s another “Music is my Muse” story which began that evening by the bathtub and ended as I rode away from the memorial service. Two more songs are involved. I’ve written about the role of Peter Gabriel’s song, Red Rain already (rain, again). I’ll save Alannis Morrisette’s Isn’t it Ironic for another day.