Some folks are legends, some are magic, some magnificent. Terry and Jo Harvey Allen, longtime residents of Santa Fe, N.M., are all that and more.
A brilliant songwriter, Terry has released 14 albums. Lubbock (on everything), the second, from 1979, is a stone-cold masterpiece and a cornerstone of modern country western music. He was also an acclaimed art professor at the University of California, Fresno.
Jo Harvey Allen, a force of nature, is a writer, poet, playwright, actress, teacher, and artist who has appeared on the stage, toured one-woman shows, and was in the films True Stories and Fried Green Tomatoes.
Growing up in Lubbock, Texas, Terry and Jo Harvey were high school sweethearts who married at 18. Terry wrote a song for their 30th anniversary. It’s called “The Thirty Years Waltz.”
Thirty years of confusions and change
Thirty years of the stress and the strains
Thirty years to be accused and to blame
Ahhh thirty years that don’t mean a thing
When you put them beside
Them good songs we sang
The song is now more than 25 years old.
Two years ago, I went to Marfa, Texas, for a celebration of their 55th anniversary. Their motto for that event was “It’s amazing how long two people can misunderstand one another.”
That weekend in Marfa, the pirates came up from the sea, the outlaws down from mountain hideouts, Gypsies arrived by wagon, artists left their studios — so many veterans of both foreign and way-too-long-running cultural wars, coming together. They brought the weapons of old, which are always new: bagpipes, guitars, fiddles and drums, books, poems, paintings, jewelry, and clothing. The activities were of celebration, not despair — hugging, dancing, playing, singing, and talking, always and endlessly talking. The rising of those who have never settled and certainly never settled down, all coming together to celebrate.
Music was made, poems recited, stories told, guitars passed, as folks listened and danced with talk always, all and everywhere. Though part of the wonder of Marfa is that silence is never too far.
We live in a time of disparagement. Those who want to “make America great again” care much less about celebrating the country than they do about attacking the ideas and people they believe are destroying it. Their love is for an imagined Technicolor fantasy country, based on desire and bias, not reality. A past that never existed. They have no affection for the country conceived by the Founders and detailed in the Constitution. Their most crucial political principle is to hate others.
The Allens’ anniversary reminded me of what I’ve always known: The real way out of the spreading darkness is us — our families, friends, and work, being together and enjoying each other, keeping on through misunderstanding. The resistance begins with the light those fires create: a drive for common decency, equality, art, and justice. It will come from our minds, spirits, and souls, but most of all from love.
More than ever we need this resistance. Not ski mask-wearing apolitical hoodlums playing at revolution, or nostalgic dress-up warriors finding warmth in the fragments of fascism past. Not class hatred, unembarrassed racism, punitive politics, and fanciful economics.
Most of those people in Marfa that weekend have been involved in progressive politics their whole lives. You don’t win; you hardly even make notable progress. But you accept that, because what you are doing is right and righteous and is what needs to be done.
Don’t mourn, organize. Don’t riot, dance. Don’t despair, sing and make a joyful noise. Pray as you have always prayed and as you never have before. Without fear, but with the deepest passion, without simple restriction, but deep devotion, scream to the heavens out of the very depths of our Earth.