Friday, November 11, 2016

So Long, Leonard

We lost a Canadian legend yesterday. Leonard Cohen died at 82. I didn't find out right away. I was at an Edmonton Nature Club talk entitled, "From Pollination to Slavery: Symbiotic relationships in bees, wasps and ants." I started to get text messages and facebook notifications, with friends letting me know they loved me and were thinking of me. My admiration for Leonard is no secret. Leonard has long been my hero. I can remember when we had "USSR" in junior high - Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading. I read The Energy of Slaves and Beautiful Losers and fell completely in love with a fellow Canadian who had a penchant for tapping into my teenage angst and inspiring me to write my own poetry. I learned about Leonard from reading biographies on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I can remember singing along to Pennyroyal Tea:

Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld
So I can sigh eternally

I think all deep souls feel something when they listen to or read Cohen. His words are my bible, he is my Canadian God. I just "get" what he's saying. For me, the Energy of Slaves is ingrained in my formative mind... I see the world through Cohen eyes:

Love is a fire
It burns everyone
It disfigures everyone
It is the world's excuse
for being ugly

And I can't help but see the wisdom in his words. Here's an excerpt from "The Killers that Run the Other Countries": 

Frankly I don't believe
anyone out there
really wants us to solve
our social problems
I base this all on how I feel
about the man next door
I just hope he doesn't
get any uglier

At first, I only read Cohen. I didn't get into his music till I was older. But when I heard songs like Everybody Knows, Chelsea Hotel, The Future, I'm your Man, Closing Time, Hallelujah, Anthem, Famous Blue Raincoat... I was hooked. His skill at writing poetry translates perfectly into music - he is a lyrical genius, with stage presence to boot. That deep voice. That sly grin. The wry humour. 

I was lucky enough to see him play live twice. Once in Hamilton in 2009 and once in Edmonton in 2012. Both shows blew my mind. Here was an old man in his seventies, playing for HOURS. He was quite the showman, and definitely won my heart. I was a poor student in Toronto when I learned he was playing in Hamilton. I splurged, bought a ticket, and took a bus by myself to Hamilton. I could not miss the opportunity to see him. It was completely worth it and I swore I would see him again if the chance ever arose. Later, when he came to Edmonton, I pounced on tickets and paid whatever it took to get a seat in the front row. I again sat by myself, hanging on to every word... feeling the closest to holiness I had ever felt. 

It is sad this world will no longer have Leonard Cohen in it. But I knew his death would come, and he lived a long and mighty life. And the thing is, when you create such a bounty of amazing work, you truly do live on, forever. 

A couple years ago, I commissioned my friend Pearl, who is an amazing artist, to draw a "fantasy portrait" for me. I knew I would never meet Cohen, he would never be my lover (he's the only old man I'd want as one!), and I would have no special relationship with him. I am just one of many fans, who feel they somehow know him, as he has let us into his head and his heart. So - why not declare my love through fantasy art... 

I gave Pearl total artistic freedom. I told her I wanted a portrait of me and Lenny, but I did  not specify what picture I wanted, what our pose would be, or whether Leonard would be portrayed as old or young. She exceeded all of my expectations by drawing both a small pencil portrait, and then also creating a huge print that made us life-size, stately, and added color. I now have the small one hanging above my bed, and the other at the end of the long hallway in our apartment. The name Pearl gave the portrait is beautiful - Leonard at Peace. And now - he truly is.

 Thank you, Leonard, for making me the girl I am, and for demonstrating to me the beauty and power of words in my formative years. 

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