Suzanne Holland (California/South Africa)

Suzanne wrote this in May 2002, before the Hydra Event:

I never knew I would become a street musician, although I did wish that one day, when I was a tourist in Copenhagen, listening to five teenagers playing their sweet violins. I had worked for the South African army for four years, hating every moment being ensconced amongst four dead walls. Then they moved me to the sea, which I love so much. Instead of being at work, I often spent time on the beach, which caused the good navy folk to started whispering. Looking back, I think they were a little jeaous.

I started learning many songs, “si a funi sangoma”--We are looking for the witchdoctor” and Jantjie kom huis toe, afrikaans for “Johnny come home”, “Suzanne”, and “Joan of Arc” (Joan Baez and Judy Collins helping me with the latter songs). All these voices were so far away, and I sang these songs in restaurants and bars where everyone wanted to sound American.

I did not really know much about Leonard Cohen. But I did read a book about a very depressed teenage girl who grew up during the sixties and fell in love with a very old and beautiful gentleman. Everyone was so worried about her, for she was pretty and he was old, and her soul was bursting with all manners of confusion, and she listened to Leonard Cohen sing all these songs, and the old man was amazed that she, such a sweet young thing, should listen to songs with such depth.

I love the way Joan of Arc has a relationship with the fire, which I imagine as an entity with a voice. I love fire; it is such a strong force, and Joan of Arc, cold and lonesome on her riding horse, loves the fire so much that it burns her up. I can almost feel it. And “the “Sisters of Mercy” reminds me of someone so lonesome, for one lovely night being accompanied by two princesses of such beauty, only his eyes to be touched and he touching the dew on their hem.

I don’t have expectations for Hydra; I like things to happen spontaneously. I hope we can remember Leonard in nature, perhaps he took many swims, looked in awe at the sea creatures and the many grains of sand, wondering if he could ever count them, smelling the fresh breezes hearing the waves lap on the shore, living so close to the sea that he heard them by night lying next to his lovely sweetheart. I hope to hear the sea as I lie next to my own dear sweetheart, Michael, sweeter than any other sweetheart in this wide world.

O yes, one expectation I have, is that we perform a ritual in Hydra which puts folk in a very good mood: Womack, my wonderful swimming buddy with his enormous tummy , and I greet each other, with a series of tummy bangings -- not hard to harm the tummy, but nice and firm -- so that the little smacking sounds are heard, and we continue until the first one gets tired. (Womack, with his strong arms, known to wrestle singers and Hollywood producers, always wins.)

I wonder if we should all take ourselves very seriously. Some time or other, we shall turn into dust, just as my mom did. I had intimate knowledge of her sweet ashes between my fingers, as I let them merge with the sea at Blousbergstrand in Cape Town. If we are able to change into other forms of life after we echange worlds, I might like to be a big albatross who can fly so far, or a small swallow, who flies just as far.

What particularly fascinates me about the swallows, is all the trepidations they could go through as they make their long, long journey from England to the Lowveld of South Africa. They may fall prey to the pot of a certain Central African tribe, or get so thirsty that they can’t handle anymore flying, dropping down from the sky to earth, maybe to begin the cycle right over and over again --“until you do it right”, as my teachers at our school, the Braille Jail, used to say. So, my friends, one moment we shall laugh, whilst honouring Leonard and ourselves and the beauty of nature, and the other moment, we shall cry. What more can I say.

Lots of love, from Suzanne Holland, street musician.

Photos © (1) Jarkko Arjatsalo, (2) Henning Franz, (3) Esther Salzman