Darlin’ You’ve Been On My Mind - Erika Ryann
Originally “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” - Bob Dylan
It just occurred to me that I should read On The Road again sometime in the very near future. Sometimes I get so distracted in the city with all of the people in my life and obstacles I’ve been faced with over the last couple months especially that I forget who I am a little. I forget how much I love spinning a record and watching grass grow. How at peace I feel to completely deny the existence of the modern world.
I had one last free day before recently being required to stay in my house (long story) for quite a stretch. A person I’ve known only a little while but whom I care about dearly manages a farm out in Johnstown, Colorado. I think he could sense that I might seriously lose my cool if I didn’t get out of the city before getting what we affectionately call the “rolex” and so invited me to see the farm.
He says the house was built in 1917. There is no shower - only an old bath tub. The floors creak and the rooms echo some when one speaks. The whitewashed front porch looks out on a vast front yard with another chicken coop to the right. He tells me he wants to plant a vegetable garden in that spot, maybe some apple trees, and we agree that every house should have a piano.
Walking in, the foyer had a sweet leather smell and I received an excited greeting from his dogs, Rex and Kormic, while he checked on the hens. In the dark, I couldn’t see much around the farm aside from a couple other old buildings (what used to be a blacksmith shop, chicken coop, and shelter for the sheep) but looking out the kitchen window the next morning revealed acres of green and golden autumn growth. Starlings swarmed one of the giant cottonwood trees in chirping madness, alerting everyone that the sun hadn’t abandoned us. It came back!
He listens to a white-bread, country talk show on the radio when the George Jones cassette ends and makes cornbread from scratch. The 1930’s oven smokes and fills the kitchen with a faint sepia-toned ghost of burnt bread’s past - but leaves the cornbread unscathed. As I flip through his recipe book, he jokes about making himself the Blueberry Boy Bait - apparently he’s hooked… himself. Gets him every time.
We walked the property line. Here he missed a spot night-planting the rye. There he might build a cabin with a wood stove … and a piano… if the landowner moves back. These cornstalks are drying for feed, they use those flowers for an herbal body product. Those must be asparagus seeds, here’s the root cellar - “maybe I’ll just move down there” - wait, where are the sheep?
I learned one of the herbs growing on the patio table by the clothes line would make your mouth tingle if you let it fall apart over your tongue. He was certain that since I cut my own hair, I’d have no difficulty trimming the overgrown locks that stuck out like towheaded straw around his hat. I warned him it was likely to be a disaster but still, in the quiet remaining light in the back yard, I attempted a modest gentleman’s cut.
It’s still crooked. Thankfully he says he doesn’t care.
A swarm of starlings clouded over our heads warning us that the sun was escaping. It’s leaving!
I don’t believe he knows fully how much good that trip did for me. Every time I need to step away from the stale energy of the city, I’m able to close my eyes to a hazy evening, waking from a nap and venturing alone to the front of the property. Peering down the country road that separated his farm from that of the neighbors and wishing I could record the clucking and cooing sound the laying hens made. I will at some point. At the same time, it only deepened my lust for open space, land to tend and time to breathe. I get there someday. I know.
It’s been a long time since I played and/or recorded any Dylan covers. Amazing considering what a direct influence he’s had on my growth and education as a musician and altogether emotionally expressive person. I’ve needed to get this one out of my system for a while now. Something made me pick up and go with it today. Perhaps it was the satisfied feeling I had today after playing a great show last night with my country band. Maybe needed to record something, anything, in the spirit of creating and sharing in wake of Lou Reed’s passing yesterday. Perhaps because I’ve recently taken more and even bigger steps in a chosen direction, away from this crossroad I’ve been standing at…
Or maybe it’s the weather, or something like that.
Anyway, you’ve been on my mind.