As I peep into the future, I am certain that there is still magic to discover in each of our lives. I hold this belief despite the prevailing grey clouds of geopolitical and human conflicts, environmental degradations, social and religious upheavals in this world. And as I look back into yesteryears, I know that I can describe life is like a tapestry.
I have had the privilege of meeting Ms King when she gave a talk about her songwriting and singing at a private event in Davenport College at Yale. She had graciously accepted an invitation by a relative of hers and who was then studying in Yale. Knowing that I would not pass up the chance, my daughter, Carolyn (who was also from Davenport College) got me an invitation. Imagine my delight when Tapestry was amongst the songs Ms King sang at the small gathering that afternoon – with just piano accompaniment (partially shown in the above photo). You may notice that I was holding on to my treasured Tapestry album which I had specially brought for her to autograph.
For me, no other song can evoke the emotions, experiences and the memories of my journey in life better than Carole King’s Tapestry – a song that is metaphorical and hauntingly beautiful. With age, the lyrics have taken on an even deeper meaning but still I see my life as “A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.”
Critics and fans alike often gave their analyses and interpretations to any great piece of art or poetry. A great song like Tapestry is no different. I like to share mine too:
My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold
The first four lines are my favourites and they aptly describe the events and the happenings in each of our lives. Like the threads in a tapestry, misery (the blue) and happiness (the gold) are interwoven. They reminded me of the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred text of the Hindus, which in Chapter 2.14 stated that the fleeting perceptions of happiness and distress are like the appearance and disappearance of the winter and summer seasons!
Once amid the soft silver sadness in the sky
There came a man of fortune, a drifter passing by
He wore a torn and tattered cloth around his leathered hide
And a coat of many colours, yellow-green on either side
My take on the second stanza is speculative. The 1960s are the years of the flower people, the hippies and some drifters. Tapestry was released in 1971 when Ms King was living in Los Angeles, California – the favoured state of the flower people whose attires are often in many colours. If so, then it’s the Zeitgeist of the time. Those of us who are more religiously inclined may compare him to Joseph and his coat of many colours.
He moved with some uncertainty as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go
Once he reached for something golden hanging from a tree
And his hand come down empty
This third stanza reflects the part of life when events bring distress and uncertainty. He or maybe the narrator has lost the sense of direction (“just what he was there for, or where he ought to go”). And failure occurs when “his hand come down empty”.
Soon within my tapestry along the rutted road
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
It seemed that he had fallen into someone’s wicked spell
And I wept to see him suffer, though I didn’t know him well
The fourth stanza describes the challenges which we face in life. A rutted road is difficult to traverse and energy sapping. Tiredness and misfortune have befallen the traveller and he then “turned into a toad”. Showing his/her sympathetic nature, the narrator “wept to see him suffer” although the traveller was just a stranger.
As I watched in sorrow, there suddenly appeared
A figure grey and ghostly beneath a flowing beard
In times of deepest darkness, I’ve seen him dressed in black
Now my tapestry’s unravelling; he’s come to take me back
He’s come to take me back
In this fifth and last stanza, the narrator’s tapestry is unravelling. It is frightening to speculate that perhaps the narrator is the same stranger who had earlier fallen into a wicked spell. Is the guy with “a flowing beard” actually like Gandalf, the wizard from The Lord of the Rings, to take him home to safety? Or does this event indicate something more sinister? I hope that he brings redemption, a return to the innocence of earlier times.
A Lesson In Life is to develop your resilience and strive to live through life’s ups and downs.