I used to watch Dawson's Creek. It was something of a guilty pleasure. Although it was for teenage hearts it succeeded in touching mine. The reasons were simple. It resonated with my own coming-of-age and took me back to a seminal time when the attitudes and values that would inform my life were crystallised. A kind of spirituality was born in me then which would evolve down the years. The friendships made have a special memory which has become all the more marked with time.
Allan introduced me to the joys of Arran. At sixteen he had been the conduit for most of what would become important to me: playing in bands, writing songs and recording music. It was him who first asked me what I thought of a particular album's production. I didn't even know what production was but made up some plausible comment in response. One time, he sat me down, handed me a guitar and had me write a song. We multi-tracked vocal harmonies together on a Sony reel-to-reel and I was interested to learn I had a facility with that whole process. The things he threw at me I could do. But I didn't really know I could do them until Allan provided the setting. And I've come to know that settings are all important in everything.
Arran was a setting that Allan waxed about so much that by the time I went there it was already near to a Shangri-La in my mind. A lifetime of visits have helped keep the romance alive. Increasingly as I go back I am able to tap into memories of past-times with an ever greater clarity of feeling. There is a kind of mystical essence in doing that which heightens the value. Leaving the island after a few days holiday this summer, I was sitting out on the deck aboard one of the older ferries listening to music. It was a rare sunny afternoon. Every song thrown up by the ipod seemed to have significance beyond the moment, particularly Janis Ian’s “Days Like These”. Janis’s albums had been on the backdrop of our teenage years. When I got home I watched a Dawson’s Creek DVD just to indulge the sentiment some more and “Days Like These” played out the finale as if in perfect resonance. These synchronicities may be of dubious reality but they are hard not to pick up on.
The home-town was somewhere I was not happy to be after fifteen years away. I had to find ways of using the time constructively and in particular keeping my creative imagination vibrant. Regular visits to Arran helped do just that. So did revisiting my musical roots and the style of formative years. This was centrally a guitar-based music pulling on everything from the singer-songwriters of Laurel Canyon (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carol King) to the world-conquering British pop-rock of the early 70s (Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Free, Fleetwood Mac). Thus, holiday islands, teenage romance, school-mates, music and the making of it are all part of my spiritual history. I pull on it often for a sense of meaning in an otherwise existence of alienation and obscurity.
Although Allan and I went our separate ways he lives on in me in important respects. These are about the memories that mark the passage of time, the experiences that define a life, the pathways in the mind that are etched from innocent moments and then spread down decades carried by custom and by psychic processes. These are the things that build spirituality in my book - all spirituality I think. It is drives like these, thoughts and feelings of this type, that put a little spring in my step and show me I still have a way to go.
Dawson, the aspirant film-maker, the creator of his own little universe of close friends in a New England backwater reminded me of myself, the aspirant musician in a small town in the West of Scotland. This serves as a tribute to that, to Arran and to spiritual friends, to Allan. I could identify another dozen or so people for whom I have similar respect. I won't name them here but I guess they would know who they are.
these are the memories that mark the passage
of time, the experiences that define a life