September 12, 2023

If I could turn back time

"If I could turn back time." Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash.

I loved the book The Time Traveler’s Wife when it first came out in 2003. I don’t know if it still holds up and I’m not interested in reading it again and finding out it doesn’t. 

However, the movie About Time I’ve watched multiple times and it always gets me. I even suffer through Rachel McAdams’ American character saying the word “fringe” just to get to the beautifully simple but profound ending.

I don’t know what I would do if I really could travel through time but recently I couldn’t help but wish I had a time machine that would have let me experience, live and in person, Joni Mitchell with Brandi Carlisle and the Joni Jam Players* at the Newport Folk Festival in July 2022. 

If you haven’t seen clips of this performance, I’m kind of envious that you get to see them for the first time. Here they are:

Both Sides Now

A Case of You

The feeling I get when I watch these is almost indescribable and I can’t quite comprehend how powerful it would have been to be there. This was Joni Mitchell’s first performance in twenty years. 

In 2015 she had a life-threatening brain aneurysm and here she was sitting on this throne-like-chair on stage, surrounded by musicians who obviously revere and adore her and she’s steady as a rock. Her voice is more powerful, richer, and imbued with years of experience, love, loss, and light. I watch it and feel absolute awe. I can’t help but cry every time. It’s an example of what author Susan Cain calls, “bittersweet,” and the whole performance a showcase of intergenerational collaboration, love, and support. As perfect as anything in nature. 

Joni Mitchell isn’t the same as she was when she wrote Both Sides Now at 23 years old but her honesty and her fearlessness loom as large. And when she sings “And still be on my feet” in A Case of You, it seems to be as much a proclamation of resilience as it is about her ambivalent feelings towards an ex-lover. The crowd explodes and so does my heart. 

What moves you like that?

What brings you fully and completely into your humanness?

And how can you give yourself more of that?


*Joni Mitchell: vocals, guitar • Brandi Carlile: vocals (courtesy of Elektra Records) • Phil Hanseroth: bass, backing vocals (courtesy of Elektra Records) • Tim Hanseroth: guitar, dulcimer, backing vocals (courtesy of Elektra Records) • Lucius – Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig: vocals, backing vocals (courtesy of Mom+Pop) • Taylor Goldsmith: guitar, vocals, backing vocals • Celisse: guitar, vocals, backing vocals • Ben Lusher: piano • Blake Mills: guitar, backing vocals (courtesy of A New Deal Records/Verve Records) • Marcus Mumford: percussion, vocals, backing vocals (courtesy of Capitol Records) • Josh Neumann: cello • Allison Russell: clarinet, backing vocals (courtesy of Fantasy Records) • Rick Whitfield: guitar, backing vocals • Matt Chamberlain: additional percussion

Group Vocals: Wynonna Judd (courtesy of ANTI Records) • Shooter Jennings • Kyleen King • SistaStrings — Monique Ross & Chauntee Ross • Jay Carlile • Marcy Gensic • Sauchuen Yu

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Sara Smeaton

Sara Smeaton is a certified professional coach and facilitator who helps midlife women follow their dreams after forty. She works privately with clients in Canada, the US and the UK.

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