John Whelan: Both Sides Now

Rows and flows of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feathers 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


Joni Mitchell wrote the song and Judy Collins sung it on her “Wildflowers” album released in 1967. It is a wonderful song and Judy Collins has an incredible voice and her rendition is unforgettable.

I have often written of how, as residents of Cape Cod, we have so much to be thankful for. Well, it just got even better. Bob Weiser of WOMR-FM and the Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival brought Judy Collins to Monomoy Regional High School on Dec. 19. Judy Collins is a major star and a phenomenal song stylist. One of her opening songs was “Both Sides Now” and I felt her audience sensed they were hearing an all-time classic. Judy is 78 and looks wonderful and I don’t believe she has lost any of her beautiful clear voice. Near the end of her program she did Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” The ovation was loud and long and, again, the audience realized that this was a perfect combination of singer and song. The Monomoy auditorium was a excellent venue and no one had a bad seat. Thanks to Bob Weiser for this Christmas present to the Cape Cod. And an alert to those of you who love live music. There will be more concerts from time to time. You just might get the opportunity to see and hear someone special right here in the Lower Cape. Don’t miss it!

I’m always a little torn about what to write in my final column of the year. So much has happened and so much is happening now. Seeing Judy Collins has renewed my optimism despite all the discord around us. It seems that our country has taken a lot of hard body blows this year. The ever-widening gap between our political parties weighs on all of us. The art of compromise appears to be forgotten. It feels like this was the worst year ever for damage from hurricanes. Harvey was the first hurricane to make landfall since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Harvey came ashore in Houston and stayed for days causing disastrous floods and tremendous property damage. We had barely read the news when Irma, a category 5 hurricane, wrecked havoc across the Caribbean and Florida. Irma had winds of 185 miles per hour and totally destroyed the Virgin Islands and much of the other islands in her path. Only 17 days later, Hurricane Maria traveled a parallel course across the Caribbean crippling Puerto Rico. Electrical service has yet to be restored to some areas. FEMA has tried to respond but three major storms in the space of 30 days created a most difficult situation. We will be rebuilding for years.

The American public may have felt shell-shocked and clearly needed a rest. Rest may come, but it hasn’t come yet as the California wildfires burn out of control. The Santa Ana winds have been particularly strong and there have been incredible losses of homes and property. People have lost everything and the fires burn on. The dollar value of the losses will be astronomical. In addition, the news of mass killings every so many weeks further depressed America.

So it feels like those body blows just keep on coming. The American public is suffering from loss and fatigue. As the song goes, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute.”

I subscribe to the magazine “This Week.” It is a weekly, balanced, brief look at the news of the day. The editor, William Falk, wrote in his year-end message of his attempt to make sense of the world at year’s end. He admits to being an optimist, despite all the discord. I quote his statement: “Like many Americans, I am the descendant of immigrant strivers, bred to believe that tomorrow will be better than today, that human ingenuity can surmount all obstacles, that goodness wins out over evil in the end.”

I read that sentence and thought immediately about the good people of Chatham and Cape Cod. I feel that Chatham is a wonderful town and it is the people who make it wonderful. Our lives are made better everyday by those around us. Chatham is fortunate to have an effective and sensitive police department. Our fire department is terrific, particularly those involved in the rescue operation. Our town officials are responsive and dedicated. I often wonder if the residents of Chatham have any inkling of the time and effort expended by our selectmen. This town runs pretty well and we collectively enjoy Chatham’s AAA bond rating and the lowest per thousand tax rate on Cape Cod.

We seem to take Chatham’s beautiful shoreline for granted. We shouldn’t; it is exceptional. Downtown Chatham at Christmas is like a picture book. We have a wonderful public library and an excellent new high school. Chatham has a wealth of museums that seem to get better every year. Our churches are beautiful and historic. The Monomoy Theatre and the Chatham Drama Guild offer a variety of stage productions. The Orpheum has been a terrific addition for those who enjoy the latest films. No one should complain that there is nothing to do.

And Chatham has layers of social service organizations which do their utmost to aid those in need. For we who live here, it is not a surprise that we have people in need. Volunteers are required for each of those organizations. And it is the people of Chatham that make it all work.

So as the year ends, I draw reference to Chatham’s First Night celebration to make my point. First Night is off the charts. It is advertised as a “family-friendly, alcohol-free cerebration of the arts with over 70 performances and events.” There is clearly something for everyone, and something for every taste. The quality of the entertainment and events improves each year. And First Night is an all-volunteer production. So many people pitch in and somehow it all works. So I feel justified to be optimistic when I consider the complexity and sheer mass of the First Night effort and how well it evolves.

Judy Collins invited us to “Send in the Clowns.” Yes, of course First Night has clowns, and so much more. Enjoy First Night and Happy New Year!