#24 - The Keepers of Canaan 

This song has been wafting through my head lately, it's from my first album, Are You Ready?.   It's tough to listen to that record sometimes, as with some others of my recordings, because I hear things now that I would change.  It's also a very good experience, to listen and hear that you've grown and learned a lot.

In any case, in it wafts and I wonder why.

I think it has to do with the fact that Sean recently finished watching the Ken Burns series on Vietnam, and the person that inspired the song was a Vietnam veteran.  
One side note about this: I didn't watch most of it myself, I listened from the other room.  That's because I get really disturbed from seeing the heartbreaking images. I've become comfortable with this fact about myself.  It used to bother me, but after getting to know myself for the last 5 decades, I know that I do not shirk from emergencies or unpleasant calls to duty in real life. In fact, I'd probably be an excellent asset in a war.  I just absolutely prefer not to watch violent films or see graphic, horrific images.  So it is. 

Anyway, the person who inspired the song was named Mr. Hebert, and once upon a time, he periodically visited my elementary school, far up in the mountains.  Our visitors there were few and far between.  A couple exciting times I remember were -- a small group of actors with Sesame Street style puppets visited once, and one time a man who was riding horseback all the way to Alaska wandered into our schoolyard. I found a photo of that day in the one yearbook I have from grade school, the years 1980-81. I'm the one on the furthest left. 

When Mr. Hebert visited, it wasn't as unusual because he was local, and had a child at our school.  However, he came when he was able, and brought with him whatever wildlife he was currently rehabilitating at his place (and felt he could safely bring).  See, Mr. Hebert had been through a pretty hellish time in Vietnam, got poisoned by Agent Orange, too. It was clear that he himself had been severely wounded, not unlike the animals he cared for.  So, he often wouldn't show up, because he didn't feel well enough.  But when he did, we all felt lucky to be around this smallish, strong, hairy-bearded, gentle and quirky man who loved animals and the earth. He looked liked he lived outside. He'd find injured and sick animals, and nurse them back to health if possible.  Sometimes, he regretted bringing certain animals in to show us, and his visit would end quick.  And sometimes, he didn't come at all.  I think we were all just grateful that he felt we were worth a visit from time to time.

I often used to wonder what was going through his mind and heart, and I've wondered what happened to him and his family.  When I wrote this song, his image flooded in, and I realized I was blending his perceived point of view into the lyrics. It's about a person who came to the woods to take refuge from the insanity that other humans create.  

Here are the lyrics:

I come to this mountain about everyday, and I breathe in the air and I quietly pray
I love this old mountain, I've made it my home. Just the creatures and me on this mountain alone.

Cuz the warden is happy when his jail is all full,
and the preacher sees the devil in a desperate young girl
and the walls of the White House are painted in sin,
and the keepers of Canaan, they won't let me in.

No stories of heroes, nothing unique to man, just faith in goodness and love of the land.

My body is weary, I'm sick in my head. Like a deer in the brush I lay down in her bed.
I sleep in her arms, eat the fruit off her vines. In the end I will join her, communion divine.

But we got coffins of steel, to keep out the dirt
and the father says to son, "don't you cry when it hurts"
you know David kills Goliath in a make-believe world
and the hawks mark their prey and the flags come unfurled.

No stories of heroes, just the best that I can, with faith in goodness and love of the land.

Cuz the warden is happy when his jail is all full, 
and the preacher sees the devil in a desperate young girl 
and the walls of the White House are painted in sin, 
and the keepers of Canaan, they won't let me in.

 

Here's the ole recording, off Are You Ready (2005), if you'd like to press play.  That's Bill Dakin singing and playing with me, and Joe Craven on violin. 
 

3 comments

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    Wonderful song, feeling and playing all around. This is the kind of stuff that I love the best. Coincidentally, my wife, Mary and I are watching a different Ken Burns series, that on Country Music. Still early on in the viewing, but it clear which strain of the the overall genre has the most power (at least to me), the hill music, Appalachian ballads, and lining/shape note singing. Instrument and voice, profoundly moving and beautiful. (My theory is that you reincarnated from a time a while back, and just skipped coming back for a hundred years or so, to write this stuff.) :0)

    Wonderful song, feeling and playing all around. This is the kind of stuff that I love the best. Coincidentally, my wife, Mary and I are watching a different Ken Burns series, that on Country Music. Still early on in the viewing, but it clear which strain of the the overall genre has the most power (at least to me), the hill music, Appalachian ballads, and lining/shape note singing. Instrument and voice, profoundly moving and beautiful. (My theory is that you reincarnated from a time a while back, and just skipped coming back for a hundred years or so, to write this stuff.) :0)

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Thanks very much, Bill. I watched some of that country music series, enjoyed it. I watched some with my Dad, and it was fun to see his eyes and ears perk up at familiar and well loved sounds.

    Thanks very much, Bill. I watched some of that country music series, enjoyed it. I watched some with my Dad, and it was fun to see his eyes and ears perk up at familiar and well loved sounds.

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    It's great that you got to share that with your dad, Rita. We were surprised how much we did enjoy the coverage some of the later music, especially in the era of 1953-63 (Sun studios, Owen Bradley/Patsy Cline, early Loretta Lynn - brief mentions of Faron Young and George Jones - that was such a good era for commerical country). But again, that really early style has a whole different substance, feeling and power - "The Keepers of Canaan", "Tall White Horse" have that same feel.

    It's great that you got to share that with your dad, Rita. We were surprised how much we did enjoy the coverage some of the later music, especially in the era of 1953-63 (Sun studios, Owen Bradley/Patsy Cline, early Loretta Lynn - brief mentions of Faron Young and George Jones - that was such a good era for commerical country). But again, that really early style has a whole different substance, feeling and power - "The Keepers of Canaan", "Tall White Horse" have that same feel.

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