Lester Bangs wrote the definitive piece on Astral Weeks and although he gives no credence that it 'finds' people during the proverbial 'dark night of the soul,' it, well, just read it here.
Astral Weeks and T.B. Sheets both held - and hold - special places for me (you breathe in, you breathe out) not only from my Cambridge days when they still talked about Van - a decade and a half after he had left the neighborhood - but as the soundtracks to great loss and the aftermath. I still can't listen to "Into the Mystic" because of the anguish that it accompanied. In Cambridge, I would wander around Harvard Square hungover early in the morning, out to buy cigarettes, unable to get the image of the 90-something drunk man playing knucklebones or the jailbird with "1%" hand tattoos who both shared our table the night before, not knowing how or why I had ended up there, until finally it was time for the movie theater to open where I spent days away from my stifling apartment. Most nights I slept in my giant claw-foot tub. Eventually, I fled to New York.
Loss is not singular although it can make you feel that way. I've always found solace and rebirth in the bathing, white baking light of the remotest of places - one summer just a few weeks after I stood on a rainy mountaintop in Wales, I fled to the outskirts of Turkey, alone on a remote island with an empty black sand beach; now I'm mostly at my true home-where-my heart-is: the high desert of Joshua Tree (your wavelength and my wavelength, baby.) It would seem against all logic and reason (two things I don't hold that much stock in) that I would feel best in those kinds of places, but genetically it does. Yes, 75% of my genes are Celt, but surprisingly, my maternal grandmother's family were desert people: Bedouins, Africans, travelers. (This was baffling to me, outlined on a medical report that I was at first convinced belonged to someone else.) So there I had it: now I knew why I drink my morning and afternoon tea on the giant rocks of Joshua Tree. Hats off to you:
Having two larger than life, important presences in my life gone and going, respectively - that's either a black hole in a quasar's aftermath or, if you're lucky to feel some kind of hope, a 'clearing of the decks' to make room for the new - (A period of transition/you have taught me about my destiny) - these patterns are circular (change, change, change). It's funny what happens when you put your hand out and say "No more of that. I'm done." Since then, I've been teaching writing workshops (what stories - and not my own!) and reading cards, which is something I have been able to do for a very long time but now it's time to do it for other people. I've been doing readings every day and it's such a good thing. (I could go off on this subject for paragraphs, but I won't.)
To quote Lester Bangs: What Astral Weeks deals in are not facts but truths. Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim.