Dismal. Dreary. Grim.

That’s what the weather’s been like here in Central Pennsylvania over the past few days. A cold, steady rain’s been soaking everything with gloom. The roof has been leaking. There have been no opportunities to walk in the mornings.

The weather forecasts even predict snow for tonight, and it’s only mid-October. A coating of the white stuff would cause much rejoicing from my 14-year-old son, whose suffers from incurable ski fever. Last night we went with a bunch of his ski buddies and their dads to a local high school to see Dynasty, the latest bit of powder porn by Warren Miller Productions. A local ski club sponsored the screening, for an audience that shared my son’s illness. As I watched the footage of skiers crashing through deep, fluffy powder on slopes around the world, I felt my own fever rise. Enough with fall! It’s time for winter!

I know one thing: If it does snow tonight, I’ll be playing Steve Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle in the morning.

fly like an eagleIt’s easy to scoff at 1970s hit-maker Miller. Songs like “Jungle Love” and “Jet Airliner” don’t give him much hipster cred, but he did have a knack for a good tune. For me, a lot of his work conjures up winter. I remember reading at my desk in my old bedroom back in Maine as my tiny transistor radio played “The Joker” and snow fell softly outside the windows. That must have been around 1973, when I was 13. Even now, 36 years later, when I hear that song the snow starts falling in my imagination.

I have strong links between music and the seasons. Sometimes I hear a song and it becomes permanently associated with the circumstances, like the way a baby bird will “imprint” on the first thing it sees. From then on, whenever I hear that song my senses flash back to the past. The Wings song “Listen to What the Man Said” pulls me back to an early June day in what must have been 1976, riding down the Pond Road in Manchester, Maine, in my brother’s station wagon, out of school early thanks to a bomb scare and off to go water-skiing, the bright sun strobing in and out of the newly green trees as we pass. Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard always brings me to spring. I think my brother had the eight-track playing one spring day when we drove to Portland for a boat show. “(They Just Can’t Stop the) Games People Play” by the Spinners is fall, because it was an autumn day when I rode my bike to the Grants department store to buy the single.

There are even albums I play especially for particular times. On Halloween I always play Supertramp’s Crisis, What Crisis?, Al Stewart’s Past, Present and Future, and Mike Oldham’s Tubular Bells. I remember hearing Maine station WBLM play Stewart’s “Nostradamus” on Halloween night in 1977, and it seemed so appropriate I made it a tradition. I played the Supertramp album that same night as I did my homework at the dining room table before going out to raise some heck with friends, so I play it every year now. It works just like a time machine. I like to play Tubular Bells on Halloween because its Exorcist connections just make it scary and I’ve been doing it for so long that it instantly conjured up Halloween for me. On July 4 I have a long set list for the occasion: Frank Sinatra singing “America,” David Byrne’s “Independence Day,” X’s “Fourth of July,” Galaxy 500’s “Fourth of July.” On a really sweltering summer’s day the time is ripe for Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, the side with “In the Light,” “Down by the Seaside,” and “Ten Years Gone.”

Fly Like an Eagle is winter from beginning to end, especially that spacey “Intro” to the title song. Once again the connection is largely thanks to my brother’s car, this time a blue Buick Skylark. We listened to the album—on eight-track, naturally—one morning as we drove to Western Maine to go skiing. It was one of those bright winter mornings of knife-like cold, with thin wisps of clouds scudding along high above us in the frigid blue sky. Someplace there’s a photo we took with a Polaroid Instamatic camera on that trip. It shows us standing by the side of the road next to the Buick wearing our 1970’s-style ski duds, squinting in the early-morning sun. Soundtrack provided by Steve Miller.

So if there’s snow on the ground tomorrow, I’ll cue Fly Like an Eagle up on the turntable and make the fall turn into winter from more than 30 years ago.

snow

Advertisements