We used to sing this song at summer camp, when summer felt like a year, and a year felt like a decade. At the time, this song was a cheesy, lame, warbly corn dog of an earworm that put hot tears in our eyeballs. We couldn't have known that years later, "Circle Game" (and really any song by Joni Mitchell) would make us want to die in a fire.
One look at the lyrics, and anyone over age 25 will see why they'd literally rather perish from smoke inhalation while cowering behind a dresser in the corner of a second story bedroom than hear this song ever again:
Yesterday a child came out to wander
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
First of all, who catches dragonflies in jars? Fireflies, sure. I can see catching fireflies (and I don't mean that catalog of shit ass made-in-Hong Kong Halloween costumes that keeps coming to my mailbox), because fireflies light up and are therefore super cool. But a dragonfly? Dragonflies are a gross, hideous cross between a giant fly and a prehistoric moth. And yeah, I can see being afraid of thunder I guess, but who CRIES when they see a falling star? (And don't even get me started on "wandering."). I have never seen anyone, young OR old CRY when they see a shooting star. It's more just like "Hey, did you see that? A shooting star!" And then, "Nope, missed it." I'd also point out a meteorological impossibility here: a thunderstorm and a falling star would never co-exist in the same firmament. If there's a thunderstorm it's too cloudy to see stars, JONI.
Then the child moved ten times round the seeeeeeeeasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like "when you're older" must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams.
Ok, I get it. The kid is ten, but at least in 2016, ten consecutive frozen streams are a non-starter. Good luck finding ten years in a row where a stream freezes anymore. It's called climate change, JONI. And I don't know this kid or his parents, but "promises of someday" do not make my kids' dreams. I tell them the truth: enjoy childhood while you can, when you don't have to fill out a time sheet or a leave slip, and your biggest responsibility is MAYBE being forced to wipe up some spilled Honeynut Cheerios. Because honestly, "someday" you will have to file a health insurance claim for a preventative colonoscopy, climb a ladder to power-wash green mold off the siding of your house, change countless flat tires, and repay a student loan for a useless masters degree. That's what happens "when you're older," kids!
Years go by and now the child is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenteeeeeeeeeeee
Before the last revolving year is through.
Oh yeah. A kid's dreams "lose some grandeur," that's for sure. But I can't promise there will be plenty of new or better dreams before you die in your sleep in a nursing home in Fort Lauderdale. Basically you might have your own kid, and then literally your only dream is for them to outlive you and for you to live to see them become semi-competent adults. And maybe Joni doesn't get it because she's Canadian. But the American Dream boils down to this: go through puberty, fuck a few peeps, buy a flat screen TV and a Weber kettle grill, visit another country (if you're lucky), squirt out 2.5 kids, and die. The end. But it's the chorus between each of these verses that really, really makes me want to die in a fire:
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on a carousel of tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round in the circle gaaaaaaame!
Now THAT's more like it, Joni! Yup. The years keep zooming by. And not just the years, but your bleak, monotonous days too. Where you wake up, go to work, walk on the elliptical for 30 minutes, come home, eat a microwaved Amy's frozen burrito while standing up, go to sleep, and do it all over again for 30 years until you retire and do all the same things listed above minus the going to work part. At least you have that to look forward to! Call it a carousel with painted ponies if you want, but it's really just like a real life documentary version of the movie Groundhog Day, where nothing ever really changes except your face which looks like a raisin, your back which keeps telling you to get an MRI, and your hair which either falls out or turns into squiggly, coarse white wires.
And the whole time, you've watched as Cheeto Jesus and his ferret weave, burnt umber face, and Chicklet veneers rose to power and destroyed the world as we know it.
THANKS FOR NOTHING, JONI!