Caught by the River

Jeb’s Jukebox

Jeb Loy Nichols | 28th March 2020

A double whammy of 7″ deliciousness from Jeb Loy Nichols

‘No Man Is An Island’
The Van Dykes / Dennis Brown
Bell Records / Studio One
1967 / 1969

I try and make a joke of it.  I tell people I’ve been self isolating for years.  I tell them that social distancing is, for me, not a burden but a preferred way of life.

I live here in the hills with Loraine, a mile from our nearest neighbor, 17 miles from the nearest town, through two gates and down a gravel lane.  It suits us.  We don’t go to clubs or theaters or galleries or restaurants.  We’ve learned how to be here.  It isn’t better than any other way of life, but it’s ours.  We each, in the words of Rilke, ‘guard the solitude of the other’.  

I have a chair in which I sit and watch the weather.  I listen, occasionally, to music.  I write, I make prints, I play guitar.  And what I’m wondering this morning is this: am I lonely?  I watch some blackbirds settle in an ash tree and think, no, not lonely exactly.  Alone and often worried, anxious and disappointed yes, but not lonely.  What I am is solitary.  Lonely seems to imply a solution that involves people.  Being amongst them and with them and listening to them and joining in their ways.  To be solitary is to say: the preferable state, even with its myriad problems, is solitude.  I can’t be any other way.  I’m a born retreater.

Loneliness is a kind of pain that, in growing, makes the world less.  Or makes ones connection to the world less.  The world remains, we see it and hear it and feel its presence, but we have no connection to it.  Eventually it fades.  When forced to choose either the death of ourselves or the death of the world, we choose the world.  And we mark the death not with grief but with indifference.  We settle.  We begin to doubt whether or not the world ever existed.  To be solitary is to have come through the worst of loneliness and found something on the other side. 

We’re raised to believe that life is the highest good and death the ultimate failure, until we realize that there are worse terrors than death. 

I pull two records off the self and play them one after the other.

No Man Is An Island.

Truer words were never sung.  Especially now.  I need to remember that.  The Van Dykes and Dennis Brown, one in Texas, one in Jamaica, giving me the lowdown.  While I’m here in Wales, thinking about solitude and neighbourliness.  Thinking about the uneasy path between the two.  Thinking also about the two geese that came this morning to float around on my pond.  That’s new.  I’m watching them now, silent kings of social distancing, wary of me and my kind.  

There are always things I need to remember and once again it’s music that nudges me in the right direction.


You can follow the Jeb’s Jukebox Spotify playlist here.