The weekends are reserved for long drives in Nanny McPhee. For those of your who are not yet aware of it, we call our second hand Subaru by that name because, as my husband pointed out, she begins to look better as we become aware of what she can do.
Looks aside, Nanny has been outfitted with a more than decent sound system that makes long drives quite pleasurable. On one such day, we set out with Joni Mitchell occupying a new slot in the USB that stores our favorite traveling music. I have been a “sort-of” fan of Joni Mitchell and I say “sort of” because I think that if I were an honest-to-goodness fan, I would have collected all of her music. But I never did that, really, preferring only to listen to a few that I had heard in my youth.
I was most familiar with Both Sides Now because my grandmother had a version of it sung not by Ms. Mitchell, but by a young woman whose name I don’t quite recall at the moment. Her voice was higher and sweeter. I remember it very well because my grandmother asked me to please take down the lyrics. As the convenience of a Google search was not even a possibility at the time, I had to furiously scribble the words as she played the music over and over again on her turntable.
The song I was more fond of was The Circle Game and I first heard it sung by Sandy Duncan in a special TV show she had. Years later, my sister used the song in a graduation presentation and her students took turns singing. The sniffles that filled the auditorium told us the number was a hit.
On that Joni Mitchell/Nanny McPhee day, Chelsea Morning started playing and I found myself seeing illustrations in my head. I felt I had to illustrate the song. It was not unfamiliar to me–I had owned a Neil Diamond album and he sang the song. At the time, I suppose I didn’t quite pay attention. Or maybe it didn’t speak to me back then. It did now.
Since 2011 began, I hadn’t been able to get myself to really work on any illustration. Even writing came as a chore and I rushed my writing assignment with the Institute of Children’s Literature, certain that my instructor would return it riddled with corrections and suggestions for major changes. One of my friends sent me a message on Facebook assuring me that my mojo would return and that I just needed to chill.
I did come up with an illustration (the one in my previous blog, of course), but it was a half-hearted project. But when I heard the words coming out of Nanny’s speakers that morning, I couldn’t wait to get back home and begin drawing. I posted one of the illustrations on Facebook and was greeted with favorable reviews by people who matter most to me.
I now have four in the series and am working on the fifth. At the end of each day, my eyes are tired and my hand is stiff from the intensity with which I grasp my stylus, but I’m happy. I don’t conform to all the rules of illustration or art (I have always had trouble with obedience) but it is my work and I am never as happy as when I’m lost in my work.
So Ms. Joni Mitchell, wherever you are, thank you for the joy that breaks through every note in your song and for my family and friends, although the series is not over, they are for you!