Escaping After All

Leonard Cohen on Hydra, with Nancy Bacal. 1964. Source.

In July, Marta and I hauled our son, Lucas, up and down the near-endless narrow stairways of the Greek island of Hydra, looking for Leonard Cohen's house - the house where he lived with Marianne, and where he lamented as the town's first telephone wires were installed: "I would stare out the window at these telephone wires and think how civilization had caught up with me and I wasn't going to be able to escape after all." From this came Bird on the Wire.

That day in July it was +35° and we all nearly sweat to death. We found no house, no Leonard, but instead came upon unforgettable views, and donkeys cooling in the shade of abandoned buildings, and at door after door and window after window, his quietly welcoming former neighbours.

Now I think of Lucas growing up in a world without Leonard Cohen, and Marta and I growing alongside him. The man will forever be as elusive as his house was to us that day. Even following closely behind his poems and songs we won't catch him, not really, not ever (he's finally eluded us, and our civilization). But it will be a good journey, nonetheless, and what we will find will be as beautiful and sustaining and open-hearted as what we will miss. Maybe more so.

Thank you, Leonard, for the poems, the songs, the path you've left us, snaking up into the hills.

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