Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ovilina and the blessed sky

And now, halfway through my finals, I am off to Massachusetts for the funeral of my grandmother. I got the news Tuesday morning that she had died overnight. I am scrambling to get everything sorted out, attend to things here, get up there for the weekend, and then return for my next final Monday morning.

Grandma's name: Ovilina Napikoski. (last mentioned on this blog here) Ovilina is not the most common name, and she's definitely the only Ovilina I've ever known. Well, there is an Indigo Girls song called "Ozilline" that Amy Ray (one half of the duo) wrote about her grandmother. I've often thought about my grandmother, Ovilina, when I listen to Amy sing about her grandmother, Ozilline. Especially lately, since my own grandmother has been sick over the last few years.

On the studio version, Ozilline herself is heard at the beginning, speaking with Amy, in a recorded conversation. Since the recording of the album, Ozilline has died. Amy sometimes does not feel emotionally up to playing it in concert, but other time she does, in tribute. The song, which I already loved since its 1999 release on the album Come On Now Social, has had a profound effect on me recently when I hear them perform it live, which I was lucky enough to do again at the latest Indigo Girls concert I attended, here in NYC in March.

I also love the last line of the song, and I often sing it to myself in the mornings when I pause to gaze out the 4th floor window of my building on my way to start my day. It's such a nice reflection on life. The circle of life, even. And seeing as my brother-in-law and I will both experience our birthdays while in Massachusetts over the next few days for the funeral, the circle of life is an interesting reflection.

And so, even though you won't get the full banjo- and emotion-laden experience of hearing it, I will put the lyrics here, as I fondly remember my grandmother Ovilina.

words and music by Amy Ray

Oh, Ozilline
The moon is almost full
And you don't need a torchlight
To see into these woods
Now sister, bring the medicine
To keep you from decline
And it's the waxing and the waning
That's always on your mind

Oh, Ozilline, I feel for you
Oh, Ozilline, I feel for you

As soon as the corn's in
The deer will come to feed
Yeah, when the berry ripens
The bird will come to eat
You build by the river
It's pretty but you'll pay
'Cause the springtime brings the flood plain
Your cut bank washes away

Oh, Ozilline, I feel for you
Oh, Ozilline, I feel for you

I had to put the dog down
Before I hit the road
Yeah I watched that sweet old life
Become a bag of bones
So when your body's broken
And your heart wants to give in
And you hear that hoot owl callin'
Just like she was a friend
I said, oh, Ozilline, I feel for you
I said, oh, Ozilline, I feel for you

I said Ozilline, she don't let you cry
If you ask her where it hurts
I said Ozilline, she don't let you cry
If you ask her where it hurts
She said, What a blessed sky.

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