Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can stay the night beside her
And you know that she’s half-crazy, but that’s why you want to be there.
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her,
She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
Then she gets you on her wave-length and lets the river answer
that you’ve always been her lover.
And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her,
for you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.
————- Leonard Cohen
Alrighty then. Why Suzanne? Why Leonard Cohen? All I can tell you is that my friend Donna and her partner Jenn served delicious fruit as a healthy dessert choice to go with the German chocolate cake unhealthy choice at their home two nights ago. The fruit was partially seasoned by fresh-squeezed orange juice, they told us, and it was delicious.
The mind is a mysterious meandering maze of memories. Somehow from that offhand reference to oranges, I have been singing the first lines of Leonard Cohen’s poem turned song that I heard Judy Collins sing at a UT concert in Austin in 1966. Luckily, I have confined my singing to myself in my mind and haven’t annoyed Teresa with the repetitious melody in our shower or elsewhere. No matter how haunting I might feel it to be, I fear the possibility of getting on her last nerve.
The singer in my head is as good as I think it was in 1966 when I memorized those lines to Suzanne and strummed along on my tenor guitar, but the out-loud singer today has a strange vibrato and erratic cracking sound so I rarely use it.
Anyhow, I immersed myself this morning with the life and loves of Leonard Cohen. It’s taken a while because he began writing poetry in his teens and is still giving concerts at the age of 79. He is a prolific musician, singer-songwriter, poet and novelist who was born in Canada in 1934. His personal life mirrors the life of most of us lesser mortals. His financial fortunes have been won – and lost through a crooked trusted agent whom he sued and from whom he never recovered his money – and then changed for the better in his later life.
Mr. Cohen apparently never suffered from a lack of female companions. As the decades of his life came and went, so did the women he loved and lived with. Despite his successes in the music world and the realm of literature and his long-term relationships, he struggled all of his life with depression. Many of my favorite songs written by Leonard Cohen reflect that struggle.
In 1994 he began a five-year seclusion at the Mt. Baldy Zen Monastery outside of Los Angeles, and he was ordained as a monk two years later. He credited that time as a tremendous healing experience but never renounced his Judaism by becoming a Buddhist.
That must’ve been a long, long way from his touring Europe and Israel in 1972 with Charlie Daniels in a band nicknamed “The Army” and an even LONGER distance from his Beat Poet days in Montreal in the early 60s when he met the young woman who would inspire the poem that transformed his life.
Suzanne Verdal was something else.
I’ll save her for next time.