I sit on a chair in my kitchen gazing wide-eyed at the beautiful green overgrown lawn in my backyard. The sun has begun to peek out from the clouds giving life once again to the flowers and the weeds. I open the old tattered case in front of me and pull out my guitar, bringing it closer to examine every handmade piece of it. I gently touch each dent and scrape I have accumulated upon it over time, remembering the cause of each one and the places they were created. I begin to play. Nothing coherent at first, just chords. Strumming, then picking, then back to strumming again. Uncle John’s Band begins to play in my mind, suddenly transferring to my hands and before I know it, the guitar is playing along. Seconds later I am lost on a mountain in New Brunswick with my cousin.
“We’re running out of gas, fast,” he says. We’ve been lost for a little over six hours, and it was true; we were quickly running out of gas.
“Pass me a cigarette,” I say. “You better put on some tunes. If we’re going to die out here, it might as well be enjoyable.” He puts on a 10 or 15 minute version of Love Light by the Dead and I light my smoke. I’m ready to die.
Suddenly I’m back in my kitchen. I’m no longer playing the Dead. I strum, then pick, and then strum some more. I think of my dad and start playing Beast of Burden. I’m transferred to a hospital. Now I am 14 years old, rolling around on a wheelchair I found in the hallway waiting for the doctor to leave my dad’s room. The door opens and I hear crying. I get up from the chair and walk into the room.
No more Stones I think. Its bright outside so I think I’ll play some Simon and Garfunkel. My hand begins to strum and I soon hear The Boxer spreading its holy waves upon my ears. I am utterly fragile and immersed in pure emotion, not knowing whether to cry or smile. This song does something to me, and there is nothing like the feeling of playing it for the first time in a long time. I attempt to start the second verse but before I can I am gone, transported to a patio in Niagara Falls listening to my best friend play the same song for 50 people furiously eating and drinking. I attempt once more to sing along but before I can I am taken to a car in Italy. I’m in the backseat listening to my headphones as we drive from Rome to the mountains. I look over to my brother who is staring at downtown Vancouver from the top of Grouse Mountain, and I am there too, headphones on, listening to The Boxer.
When the song ends I am back, back to now. The distant memories fade away once more. In time they become less and less detailed, but there are more of them to remember. I reach down to open the case, gently place my guitar inside, and walk towards the window. I can hear birds chirping above me and it sounds like they are singing Brokedown Palace. I listen carefully, but this time I am not taken anywhere, not to any strange and wonderful place I long to be back at once more. I hang my head, but in seconds time my longing is replaced by a sense of peace, of hope, and I feel a profound and soul-awakening desire to step outside and sing with the birds.