A few years back, I turned on the radio to hear an old favorite sung slowly and sensitively by Caecilie Norby, unknown to me at the time. It moved me to ponder each line, each word, each syllable as never before. That song was Both Sides Now, by the artist Joni Mitchell:

Bows and flows of angel hair

               And ice cream castles in the air,

               And feather canyons everywhere,

               I’ve looked at clouds that way.

               But now they only block the sun,

               They rain and snow on everyone.

               So many things I would have done,

               But clouds got in my way.

               I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,

               From up and down and still somehow

               It’s clouds’ illusions I recall;

               I really don’t know clouds at all.

               Moons and Junes and ferris wheels,

               The dizzy dancing way you feel,

               When every fairy tale comes real,

               I’ve looked at love that way.

               But now it’s just another show,

               You leave ’em laughing when you go.

               And if you care, don’t let them know,

               Don’t give yourself away.

               I’ve looked at love from both sides now,

               From give and take and still somehow

               It’s love’s illusions I recall;

               I really don’t know love at all.

               Tears and fears and feeling proud,

               To say “I love you” right out loud,

               Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,

               I’ve looked at life that way.

               But now old friends are acting strange,

               They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed.

               Well something’s lost but something’s gained,

               In living every day.

               I’ve looked at life from both sides now,

               From win and lose and still somehow

               It’s life’s illusions I recall;

               I really don’t know life at all.


It really is true that when I reflect on life these days, I often recognize my current perspective as my story, doubtlessly different from the actual experience lived through – and certainly a departure from another’s memory of the same event. Just when I think I know something for sure, I realize I’m only acknowledging part of a greater picture.

Warmth and tenderness are but two facets of human nature. Bits of anger and bitterness also dwell within, even though some might not like to admit to these unsavory qualities. Looking at life from both sides allows one to mature and grow through witnessing stretches between the agony and the ecstasy of experience. Conceding to both sides can be accomplished simply by observing, without harshness or judgment, what is. Rejoicing in the light, one acknowledges the inevitable shadows. From both polarities, one gains perspective, balance and eventual integration into a sort of muddy middle.

Life is not black or white, nor are clouds, nor is love. Nothing in our world is that static. I daresay most of us live life as though on a fulcrum, constantly balancing give and take, win and lose, up and down, joy and pain. If we plunge to any extreme with the hope of remaining there, aren’t we are bound for disappointment, not to mention discomfort? Think of the hapless particle in an accelerator – the more the physicist tries to isolate and pin it down, the faster it moves.

Life itself does not have the power to disenchant us – only our illusions about life can do this. One can choose to recall certain poignant moments, but they may prove to be illusory when scrutinized more carefully. Two people involved in the heat of romance may experience rapture, but would no doubt describe the experience quite differently. Two siblings remember a parent or a family event on their own terms. Who is right? Who has the final say on the nature of experience?


Observing clouds is most interesting when they're moving in opposite directions. (north shore, Hawaii Island)





12 thoughts on “BOTH SIDES NOW

  1. Great rendition of this song.

    Yes, we all carry our own perceptions, for sure. My sister has said to me, “We certainly had two different mothers.” It’s fascinating to me – not right vs wrong. i suspect she would like to argue, but it’s pointless.

    Vive la difference.


    1. Haha – well, we had the same parents, all seven of us 😉 I think we’ve all been in agreement about that. How we healed from childhood stuff, however, has been quite different.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting – always appreciate hearing from you!


    1. Yes, it was strange for me, hearing the song, which I’d heard dozens of times in my youth, sung by someone in what seemed to me to be a totally unique way. It took it out of the box, so to speak, and revealed itself to me differently. And of course nobody has the final say on the nature of experience – guess that was stating the obvious 😉


  2. Dear Bela, I always loved to hear Joni Mitchel sing ‘I’ve looked at clouds, life, and love …” Have you ever heard Pete Seger’s response to Joni’s negativity?. But, it amounted to reminding her that life and love are worth the pain. Thank you for visiting my blog (it isn’t really mine, alone, but who but a few would believe me). I envy your rustic life style, and Hawaii – I love it.


    1. Aloha Jean, and thanks for visiting. I worked 9 years in radio at a station begun by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary (in his Blue Hill, ME barn!). So it seems odd that I’ve never heard Pete Seeger’s response to what you call Joni’s “negativity.” It’s funny how different we all are, isn’t it? I’ve always loved Joni Mitchell’s lyrics – so ahead of her time, so Scorpionic of her to write them! 😉 She was never afraid to dive deep, and I greatly admire that. Seeger was far more upbeat in tempo, lyrics, and, I daresay, outlook on life. In my purview, all is valid, all simply Is. Hope to see more of your blog in my Reader. Today was the day to cruise my friends’ feeds to find like minded souls to enlarge my observations. That’s the first time I’ve done that in two years of blogging. Most people have found me first – so this was fun, different. We’ll see where it leads. Take care.


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