Something about being on the road, hands on the steering wheel, vista rushing up slowly from the horizon, then slipping quickly through peripheral vision into the rear view mirror, a Doppler-effect meditation. So many people have said that when they had kids the best way to get them to sleep was to throw them into the car and within an instant they were snoozing. For me, open road disappearing into infinity, mountains, blue sky, time slows down seemingly to a halt and inspiration quickens, the leavening of travel.
Rambling across the historic west in slo-mo, I ponder events past and how time compresses them into neat packets. Lives encapsulated in cocoons of dates in time... Robert Leroy Johnson, Born May 8, 1911-Died August 16, 1938. His life to him in the moment, I surmise, seemed infinite but was cut short and encircled forever, yet the resonance of his presence as a formative blues musician travels infinitely forward in time to enrich the lives of whoever is sympathetically drawn to his creativity. We circle closer each day, like moths in the light to the mystical cross roads that in many ways became the defining heart of his music and message. Robert Johnson spent most of his life on the road playing music, integrating the richness of his life on the road in honky tonks, juke joints, Saturday night dances, parties when requested, street corners, wherever the muse called him. He lived in the moment with many names and remained an obscure entertainer despite the fact that his attempts at recording drew little attention. Robert, being street educated, learned the art of pleasing people and it is said that he had women friends scattered throughout his travels in the south, mid-west, north, and into Canada. He parlayed this skill of learning quickly to play the popular standards of his time and could hear a song and almost immediately pick it out on his guitar, harmonica, or jaw harp, sometimes called jew's harp, or lamellophone. Robert, despite his social familiarity, was a loner and those musicians who remembered him said that on those occasions that they played with him in whatever setting, he would suddenly disappear and not be seen again until reconnecting in a distant location. The call of the muse was strong in him.
If I can "turn" a phrase, the record of Robert's musical recordings remain with us today thanks to his connection with Vitagraph, where he made eleven recordings, some of which were released as what was known then as "race records."
Johnson's death remains a mystery to this day and there are at least three locations where he was laid to rest -- having died, it is rumored, from being poisoned by a jealous husband or boyfriend of one of his paramours. Ruth and I will be visiting at least one of these places to see if we can feel his bones speak to us from in the earth. This will help us build our spiritual mojo bag, which I will speak of in an upcoming blog.
Robert Johnson's life has particular interest to me as he is so symbolic of the nameless wanderer, mover with the wind, listener to the voice of his creative muse, a being in the moment, his life symbolized in many ways in the "0" Tarot card, "The Fool," the eternal nameless traveler who carries life's learned experiences over his shoulder from mountain to valley unencumbered. We travel in emulation of this representation and seek to let it move through us into the infinite expanse of our own time travel.