This posting is in honor of poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who died this past Monday. I learned of his passing the day before yesterday. The day before yesterday is also when I discovered the underdog in my courtyard, the climbing Hyacinth Bean, had finally, after five months of meager growth and persistent attending to on my part, yielded one flower, just two days before our first forecasted frost. This particular Hyacinth Bean was my second attempt; the first had died in early June, while I was away enjoying a two-week vacation.
Listening to the radio coverage about Leonard Cohen, I learned it took him years to complete his most covered song, “Hallelujah.” We know this because Bob Dylan, the story went, once asked Cohen how long it took him to write “Hallelujah.” Cohen said “two years,” but, according to his biographer, Sylvie Simmons, he was too embarrassed to admit that it took him much longer.
This was heartening to hear, for me and I would think for anyone whose approach is slow. I am a slow writer—plodding, pondering. In fact, I’m slow at just about everything. This makes me feel out of pace; the words “hurry up,” voiced by others to my child ears and later parroted in my inner monologue, are an uneasy and constant low hum.
But if slowness leads to a single Hyacinth blossom and a work of beauty like “Hallelujah,” it is good, not bad. I’ll always be a slow writer, though I can imagine, overtime, being able to tap the heart of the matter with a few less drafts, a few less turnoffs, maybe.
The evening of the day before yesterday, while reading the book Coffee: A Dark History, as part of some research I’m doing for one of my slowly evolving writing projects, I came across this quote:
The only certain things in this world are coincidences.