Here are two more tunes that accompanied me on the trail this summer.
Resolution (Part 2 of A Love Supreme): John Coltrane
When, as a young student of psychology, I began listening to A Love Supreme I was unsettled by not knowing where John Coltrane was trying to take me with this music. It was different to anything else I’d heard up until that point, including earlier work by Coltrane, and I couldn’t fathom it, not at first. Thirty years on, the fact that I do not where A Love Supreme will take me is precisely what I find enthralling. It has become an antidote to a staleness of thought, and whenever I listen to it I feel more grounded, emotionally, in life.
Coltrane was a profoundly spiritual man and regarded A Love Supreme as his musical gift to God. In the poem that appears on the album’s liner notes, and which is expressed musically in the suite’s final movement, Psalm, he asks of that God: Help us to resolve our fears and weaknesses. I find Coltrane’s choice of verb here interesting. Resolving our fears and weaknesses would mean that some course of action can be decided upon in relation to these aspects of our self, that some kind of solution can be found. But resolution is not the same as triumph; it is not, in our emotional life, a final settlement. The root of the verb also gives us the noun resolve, and implicit in Coltrane’s plea to God is that we may be granted the determination required to resolve the challenges we face in life. This, I think, is why Resolution is the second movement of Coltrane’s four-part suite, coming after Acknowledgement but before Pursuance. Resolution, Coltrane seems to be saying, is not the end point, but rather the step that enables us to begin pursuing a deeper connection to things. Only by addressing our own limitations can we begin to pursue what really matters in life.
Several people have asked me what I was hoping to achieve by walking from Catalonia to Cornwall, the implication being that anyone who engages in such behaviour must surely be trying to resolve something in his or her life. Have you found yourself?, one old friend asked me. Questions of this kind are legitimate, but they are also wide of the mark. For many years I did struggle with the reality of living in Catalonia while longing for Cornwall, but gradually over time I have come to celebrate rather than suffer the task of calling two places home. Having reached that point, the act of walking ‘home’ was simply the continued pursuit of something already resolved.
Walk On: Michael Jerome Browne
It was my brother David who introduced me to the music of this Canadian guitarist and songwriter. This tune might be little more than a straight-up slice of R&B, but how could I not include a song that so effortlessly captures a feeling known to anyone who has walked alone for hundreds of miles: Well your mind gets worried, when your shoes get thin. Don’t know where you’re going, but do know where you bin. Walk on, walk on… I’m gonna keep on walking til I find my way back home.