I noticed this tree in my front yard. I was so struck by the tree in the sense that it was split right down the middle. It started as one tree at the base but then going up, the tree split, taking off in two different directions. I immediately seized my camera. It was only in later review that I was compelled to turn the green-and-blue tree photo into B&W. Then, I couldn’t get Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now,” out of my head. I listened to the song and the lyrics struck me so deep down in my insides (I invite you to play the song as listed above; the stunning lyrics can be found at: https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=83).
“Both sides now.” Yes, that sounds about right. That sounds about right where I am about right now. “Both sides now.” I have always seemed to be fascinated by the idea of a person “splitting.” It certainly was introduced to me by Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, when he made his film, PERSONA, about two women “splitting” and sharing personalities. Bergman being the master of the camera and cinema had created a split image of the two actresses, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, that was featured in the film:
Bergman strikingly noticed his film’s two actresses actually had quite similar facial features; one has to look pretty closely at the image to see that it is two different people. Since that film and maybe before, I have been intrigued by two people sharing personalities, becoming one yet two.
The “split,” the “both sides now,” is what I think some of us will experience in this life. Like Mitchell’s song, we will begin to see things from “both sides now.” And that really can only happen when we have lived long enough and seen long enough and felt long enough. We once saw things from one side only to realize we see things from “both sides now.”
That’s what drew me into this “split” tree. I was really going for an illusion of the tree mirroring Joni Mitchell’s painting on the cover of her album. The yellow in the B&W photo her hair, the green her eyes, and that red line right down the middle representing not only the red wine glass in front of her but also, and more to the point, the “split” of her and the tree, “both sides now.”
I love songs like “Both Sides Now” that are a journey. Mitchell starts off singing that it was clouds that got in her way, and it was the illusion of these clouds that made her believe she didn’t know clouds at all. Then, she moves to love with the same observation. And then, she ends with life. “I really don’t know life at all.” Oh, I see, Joni….gotcha! Yes, the clouds always got in my way, but it was really love and life that I came to see that I really didn’t know at all. And I want to emphasize the lines of the song, “Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange and they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed.” That will happen when one has “split”….has changed. Old friends now act strange because one has changed. But maybe the old friends have “split”….have changed, too.
There will always be “both sides now” to clouds, love, and life. I’m not saying I put too much importance on seeing clouds from both sides now, but I will say I do when it comes to love and life, especially love. I see “both sides now” to love and life. I see old friends “both sides now.” Some of them have changed, some not at all, but I have changed because nothing stays the same. Everything changes. Some may not want to change, but in time they will. They will have to….or else. There are “both sides now” to all things and to all people because nothing and no one is so determined to be so exact. Nothing and no one really ever stays the same.
This has been a day of rest for me. It’s been a day of reflection, as most days are for me. It’s been about breathing. It’s been about, “yes, I live.” It’s been about, “yes, I see.” It’s been about, “yes, I feel.” It’s been about a “split,” a “both sides now,” and it’s been about what’s left after that.
“Both sides now.” That’s right. You really can see “both sides now.”
Much love and many blessings always,
Timothy J. Verret