(10) A Blue Journal


(photo by Lee Ka-sing)


(10) A Blue Journal

This is no ordinary notebook, so thought Mrs. Bento. Every once in a while she'd like to spend more time on the third floor library, touching this and that and hoping to find something out of the ordinary. Here it was a Pierre Belverdere journal, designed in fashionable Montreal. She loved the indigo blue, lightly padded faux leather cover, ran her index finger through the embossed line Thinking Through Our fingers, and wondered what was written inside. The writing appeared to be in the form of letters, all addressing to Vio. Could it be to Viloet, the lady who sold her the house? Who was the person writing? She couldn't withhold her curiosity and had already begun reading from the first page.

"My darling Vio,

I don't know much about popular music in present tense. Naturally, at my age I don't follow it any more. There was a time, when you were much younger, I did watch more carefully what kind of music you were listening to, like I needed to know your classmates, or the circle of friends that you were surrounded with. I knew you heard a lot of American and UK pop songs, I remotely recall names like Backstreet Boys, U2, Eurythmics and Celine Dion. Now you're always on you earphones when I talk to you, when I hand signal, you return with a frown, heavy metal spills out of your earphone as you put one down.

Can one's mental state be defined by the music one's listening to? Music, for sure, can change, affect or reflect one's mood. More and more your dad and I are turning to classical music. Part of it is psychological, a manifestation of being 'matured'. But the truth is, we enjoy the tranquillity, the rationale and order most classical music brings. We enjoy the lightness of our beings. Then the other day you asked, why are you listening so much Joni Mitchell these days?

Thinking back, it might be psychological too, a yearning to return to youth. Last year, after spending a night with good friends and driving a hundred and forty miles round trip between Toronto and Napanee, I drowned so much in Joni Mitchell's music that, like struck by lightning, I heard her calling, and longing to reconnect. For a full year I have been listening to all her songs, and reading whatever books about her I can find. I learned aspect of her I'd never known, and heard songs she made after 1975 that my head never registered. It was really a shock to myself - such a long blank period, neglecting altogether a person you loved so much!

My dear dear Vio, you don't know how much I loved Joni Mitchell when I was in my twenties. There was always a close connection, like looking into a mirror, like walking in her shadows, like sharing intimate conversation in whispers, like a, hmm, doppelgänger. I was not self-conscious and I never joined any fan club. It seemed so natural I wanted her all to myself. But where was that feverish person in this span of forty years? Where have I gone?"

Yes, where have you gone Madam Mystery, or the mother of Violet for all those years? Mrs. Bento surely has heard of Joni Mitchell in Hong Kong, the famous Both Sides Now song in a Cantonese version sung by Chan Mei Ling, or even the English version sung by Judy Collins. Whatever special about JM that MM boasted, the person she loved so passionately in her youth, drifted away for whatever reason or length of time, to Mrs Bento now, is just another lost and found. What's behind this storm of emotion and fervor to reconnect? And, to reconnect to what?