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Finding My Avalon

January 29, 2015
Finding My Avalon

One of my earliest childhood memories is of singing along with my father as he either played the banjo or the ukulele. I learned a lot of “old timey” songs that way, including one called “Avalon,” penned by Al Jolson way back in the long ago time. The chorus stays with me, and although the song was later recorded by Louis Armstrong (also of favorite of my Dad’s), it’s my father’s voice I always hear in my mind when I think about the lyrics.

I found my love in Avalon
Beside the bay
I left my love in Avalon
And sail'd away
I dream of her and Avalon
From dusk 'til dawn
And so I think I'll travel on
To Avalon

I always knew Avalon was some sort of dreamy, far off place, and once I’d discovered the stories of King Arthur and his knights, I think I somehow thought that the song referred to THAT Avalon, not to Avalon, New Jersey. I had after all, spent my childhood summers going to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, not to any of the New Jersey beaches so well known by most Philadelphians.
As an adult, I still love the Arthurian mythos and still read as much on it as I did in my childhood, and the Avalon I think of is the Avalon of the Isle of Apples, the place where King Arthur heals. Indeed, it is a dreamy, far off place, like the Irish Isle of Tir n’An Og or Hy Breasil.

In my college years, it was another song about Avalon that caught my attention, this time by Roxy Music. This time, Bryan Ferry crooned elegantly in a song that seemed more about missed connections or dancing or something to do with a party that I’d not be invited to than mystical places. Still, I tried to wrap my head around it and make it fit in with my Arthurian vision. They WERE an English band, after all.

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Roxy Music - Avalon
Music video by Roxy Music performing Avalon.

Now the party's over
I'm so tired
Then I see you coming
Out of nowhere
Much communication in a motion
Without conversation or a notion
When the samba takes you
Out of nowhere
And the background's fading
Out of focus
Yes the picture changing
Every moment
And your destination
You don't know it
When you bossa nova
There's no holding
Would you have me dancing
Out of nowhere

Sadly, the corporate, gilded eighties were not a great place for a dreamy artist gal with dreams of bohemia, and the music, fashion, and attitudes of those times reflected that. When I graduate from college in 1985, I began to dive into as many mythological stories as I could, including those of King Arthur, and I read a lot of decent material, saw some silly but enjoyable movies (Excalibur ranks as one of these), saw some dreadful movies, read some dreadful books, all in my quest to learn more about Arthur and Avalon.

In the end, it is not so much King Arthur or King Arthur’s time for which I have yearned. As the quote goes in Monty Python’s Holy Grail film, I can’t quite get on board with a system of government based on watery bints handing out swords in a lake. I’m more intrigued with what is under the water depths of that lake. Why is a woman living under that lake? Can I meet her? Can I go there?

Although I am very sad that some very negative things about Marion Zimmer Bradley have come to light, her Mists of Avalon was one of the books I read in my youth, and her tales of an island of women devoted to spiritual study moved my soul. I don’t feel that I have to remain in the sad place that ultimately that novel takes the reader, but to find my own Avalon, now that I realize it is within my own watery depths.

As I paint, as I teach, as I go through my day to day life, I can find that place of peace and solace and know that it is always within my grasp. Legendary islands are never terribly far in the distance… or they are unreachable and unfathomably far away if you do not realize their mystery. I can close my eyes and smell the ocean breezes and smell the fragrance of the apples now, just as I can still hear my father singing and strumming his ukulele.

7 Comments to Finding My Avalon:

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In my college years, it was another song about Avalon that caught my attention, this time by Roxy Music.
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Those old songs are the best kind of music. Good music brings out the best of us sometimes. It calms our mind and soul by listening to it, especially if it is our favorite music because behind every favorite song, there is an untold story. With good music, we either remember someone or it tells the story of our life. We can either forget everything or remember everything. Music is a piece of art that goes straight into our hearts. But above all, good music has a special place in our hearts.
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