By Lorette C. Luzajic
September 2,2006

The slate and charcoal sky over Hamilton’s pre-dawn is the first breathtaking sight on the drive north to Manitoulin Island. The dazzling display of electrical excess re-stars the night skyline. The sludgy lake is a dark streak, hollow and endless, a gaping maw beneath the strange architecture of the steel sky.

Here, under the grey dawn, on the car radio, I hear the faraway strains of Gypsy.

Lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice….and it lights up the night…

Ahh, Stevie Nicks.

I’m an old fan. Through out the years, Stevie’s offerings have wavered in the strength of their material, but her fantastical dreamworld has always been an undercurrent of my psyche.

Stevie Nicks- her horsey ordinariness is eclipsed by the mythical glimmer of madness and ritual. Eighties style, of course, all castle moats and hairspray.

But who can refuse the spell of her dusky voice, and the far-reaching, dizzy-sad spiral of her poems?

The characters she knows are all Tarot and cocaine. They exist in a hazy mirage, a mythic alternative to the daily routine of offices and Burger King. You think of deep night highways and deserted gas stations, and the summer radio. Baby, I’m just thinking that the rooms are all on fire…every time that you walk in the room…

Hard-hearted cynics may find plenty of watered-down country to sneer at on Stevie’s newer material, but it’s hard to find fault with Rock a Little’s seamless gravity, and I’m sorry to say, but it’s hard to have Fleetwood Mac without Ma Nicks.

I recall with clarity the first time I heard the lyric, poet, priest of nothing, and how I shivered under the exquisite truth of those words. Stevie was like an older sister, who had been through it already. She faced the challenges of emotion with dignity and toughness, but still she honoured the human heart and its mad tangles, acknowledging with sadness and grace the depth of human feelings.

You say I have everything, well, I’m living on dreams and chains…but I sing for the things money can’t buy…I Sing for the Things is one of my all time favourite Stevie smashes. When a ballad takes your heart and wrings tears out of in the middle of the supermarket, that’s something else. Have you ever been in love, Stevie asks with that choked-up voice of hers. Have you touched the soul of someone? Did the fear inside you make you turn and run? She looks right into your deepest fears and says, me, too. You want to start writing poetry about someone you could never forget. Your fingers ache for the relief of a pen, your feelings fly forth like water, you are falling, falling, spilling, tumbling, it’s all just coming out of you now.

It all goes back to Gypsy, of course, when I was much younger than the Rock A Little velvet torch glam era. The first strains of Gypsy were somehow among my first memories of being found. A strange and lost little girl who didn’t fit in at church or school, fascinated by magic and poetry, I spent countless hours in the town library browsing dusty, thin poem volumes, watching the words dance on the page. Trying to share the discoveries I found there wasn’t easy. Everyone else wanted to play T-Ball or watch television.

Gypsy was my first conscious realization that perhaps mine was a mythic, not a misfit, life. So I’m back to the velvet underground, back to the floor, that I love, to a room with some lace and paper flowers, back to the gypsy, that I was… Here was where I came upon a profound sense of belonging, where my melancholy and sense of doom at age ten fit. In the world of bratty kids picking on the freaky little Lorette girl, Stevie Nick’s autobiographical song seemed to be my own biography. Why, I, too was an old soul! I was slippery and inexplicable, tied with scarves and beads and earrings, a traveler from the sky. I was a gypsy! I was destined for a life of sadness, not because I was some kind of freak, but because it was my fate.

In adult perspective, of course one looks back and knows they weren’t so alone in feeling alone. But Stevie let me share a world of music and ghosts, of long, flowing skirts and hoop earrings, of crushed leather boots and a mystical beauty. For this song to come out of the radio and tell me that difficult but great experiences lay ahead for the gypsy made the first markings on my psyche of madness’s glittery allure. Well, lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice, and it lights up the night…

Most of the stories in Stevie’s songs are about herself, about the different facets of a nomadic, intuitive soul. Giving a parallel complexity to the women drawn to her music means a sisterhood of sorts, a coven if you will. The church blasted Nick’s for her references to witches and goddesses. But before the old age became new, before everyone and their Shi Tzus had incense and crystals in their décor, before academics brought up some of the hidden truths surrounding the wise women’s history of erasure, before it was in vogue to know your goddesses, Stevie was talking about it and living it. Her songs showed her knowledge that life is tough, unfair, and heart-breaking, but full of magic. Her lyrics understood the beautiful appeal of the lost, the mad, the strange. They showed the soul’s breakings aren’t cut and dried, that people are complicated, good and bad at the same time.

And love, of course, is the backbone of Stevie’s songs. With all the passion in the world, she sings of its multiple layers, of the signs and portents that enchant the soul. With so much loss, she survived, yet retained her feelings. Not jaded, but smart. Tough, but tender. Leather and lace. Love is a dark and dangerous road, she admits in her works, but to deny the highs and lows of it is to deny the very layers of your own identity. Love isn’t a safe and happy slice of cheese, but a risk, a surrender, a purging. Love will lift you up and love will let you down. Love will bind you and free you. In Silver Springs, she writes, Time cast a spell on you…you won’t forget me…I know I could’ve loved you, but you would not let me… How eloquent, this acknowledgement of that peculiar strain of grief when you just have to accept that something can’t be, not for any reason to do with you.

With that understanding comes the paradoxical knowledge that one day, that person will understand what they lost, and the real grief lies there and then, still to come. …the sound of my voice will haunt you; you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you… A friend of mine, much older, once told me during a love-loss of my own, that “they always come back.” She warned me that by that time, I would be even sadder, because the hole I felt right now wouldn’t have their shape anymore. But for that person, the sense of me would still be a huge empty hole, and they would seek to fill it, and never be able to. I wouldn’t be the person who wanted them anymore.

I forgot about her words until much later, when I noticed that the people who had wounded me with Cupid’s darkest arrows had begun to surface, full of regrets and needs. Yet for me, the days I had lost in tears over them seemed like someone else’s TV sitcom.

This was the same lady who told me that sometimes it will be us to play the cruel one, and that it isn’t intentional, it’s just the mythic web of dark and light that constructs the universe. That we would lose people we love very much to the underworld of our own emotions.

These are the things I am thinking about as the car rambles further and further north. It begins to rain, sheets of water crashing against the windshield, and the pines at either side of the road are swinging ominously. Mother Nature, the Giver and the Taker.

I’m reminded of another, perhaps rarer, Stevie Nicks song that appeared on Tusk, called Storms. Here she sees that her wild heart, the wilderness of her own self, has contributed to the losses love brings. Every night that goes between us, I feel a little less, she confesses. But how to part, how to explain the poignant truth that you just couldn’t keep something? So I try to say goodbye, my friend, I’d like to leave you something warm…but never have I been a blue, calm sea…I have always been a storm.