From Both Sides Now

By Jackie Deal
(Blame Fred Prout, he started this!)

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s clouds illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all.

Joni Mitchell was 23 in a black period of her life, one of many. She wrote the most famous song of her career “Both Sides Now” while flying and looking out the window at the clouds. Ironically, it was Judy Collins who first sang it and made it a hit. At such a young age, Joni was looking at love and life as we all have. Truly there was more illusion than reality when in our 20s we though we knew all about love and life. Remember those days? Were we wise enough to realize that we were peering up into the unknown? That what we thought was surety was an illusion?

In her 50s Joni rerecorded the song, some say that was her best: an adult look, down (back) on love and life. For many of us the 50s are but a memory. And now from our advanced, lofty perches we look down (back) and know it all!

You’ve seen real clouds from below and undoubtedly in a plane from above. But that’s really not the same experience as being IN the clouds. You can best experience that as I did, a quivering student pilot, alone in a tiny 2 passenger plane. One of the first things they teach you in flight school is: don’t fly into a cloud. No. No. Never! Well, Gee Whiz, I needed to stay in the flight pattern and land and that little white cloud was in my way. my.. Way!

I flew into the cloud and suddenly there nothing but pure white. Pure, dazzling whiteness! There was no up or down, no side to side. No horizon. And without a horizon you don’t know if you’re up right or upside down. I flew micro seconds in pure terror and then popped out of the cloud into blissfully blue sky. Within that cloud: was it illusion? Or was it pure reality?

Perhaps you’ve experienced those times, perhaps too short, when you felt intensely alive. Reality? Or were they an illusion too? Psychologists tell that our “reality” is only what we perceive it to be. Your reality may be, and probably is, different from mine.

Look in the mirror. Whoa! That wrinkled, age spotted wizened apparition. That’s not me. That’s an illusion. When did I get to be 70-80-90? It didn’t happen gradually; it happened overnight. “I’m too young to be old and too old to be young”, (Thanks to Fannie Flagg in “Fried Green Tomatoes”).

Yes, the clouds are life, love, illusion, reality. But what does the mirror reflect? Clouds from up above, down below? Illusion? Or reality?

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2 Responses to From Both Sides Now

  1. F says:

    Jackie, I couldn’t have said it better. And didn’t.

  2. George Reel says:

    Jackie, we all have been in the clouds some more times than others. I buried two wife’s one after 40 years of marriage and one after 20. Just buried one of my children last Sunday. As known, my health is not that great but, I was never alone. The Lord had my hand and was comforting me at every step and is still there. He will hold everyone’s hand when we fly into the clouds or look onto the mirror and don’t recognize the person looking back. Thank you Jackie for your input.

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