Song Lyrics

Refuge Of The Roads

by Joni Mitchell

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I met a friend of spirit *
He drank and womanized ^
And I sat before his sanity
I was holding back from crying
He saw my complications
And he mirrored me back simplified
And we laughed how our perfection
Would always be denied
"Heart and humor and humility"
He said "Will lighten up your heavy load"
I left him for the refuge of the roads

I fell in with some drifters
Cast upon a beachtown
Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs
And I wound up fixing dinner
For them and Boston Jim
I well up with affection
Thinking back down the roads to then
The nets were overflowing
In the Gulf of Mexico
They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads

There was spring along the ditches
There were good times in the cities
Oh radiant happiness
It was all so light and easy
Till I started analyzing
And I brought on my old ways
A thunderhead of judgment was
Gathering in my gaze
And it made most people nervous
They just didn't want to know
What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads

I pulled off into a forest
Crickets clicking in the ferns
Like a wheel of fortune
I heard my fate turn turn turn
And I went running down a white sand road
I was running like a white-assed deer
Running to lose the blues
To the innocence in here
These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn't see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads

^ On Travelogue this line is changed to:
A drunk with sage's eyes

© March 20, 1978; Crazy Crow Music (as "Refuge in the Road")


Friend of spirit: Joni discusses Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in an interview:

He was the bad boy of Zen. I wrote a song about a visit I made to him called "Refuge of the Road." I consider him one of my great teachers, even though I saw him only three times. Once I had a fifteen-minute audience with him in which we argued. He told me to quit analyzing. I told him I couldn't - I'm an artist, you know. Then he induced into me a temporary state where the concept of "I" was absent, which lasted for three days. [Later], at the very end of Trungpa's life I went to visit him. I wanted to thank him. He was not well. He was green and his eyes had no spirit in them at all, which sort of stunned me, because the previous times I'd seen him he was quite merry and puckish - you know, saying "shit" a lot. I leaned over and looked into his eyes, and I said, "How is it in there? What do you see in there? And this voice came, like, out of a void, and it said, "Nothing." So, I want over and whispered in his ear, "I just came to tell you that when I left you that time, I had three whole days without self conscious-ness, and I wanted to thank you for the experience." And he looked up at me, and all the light came back into his face and he goes, "Really?" And then he sank back into this black void again.

From the Shambhala website:

The Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche(1939-1987) was the 11th descendent in the line of Trungpa tülkus, important teachers of the Kagyü lineage, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism and renowned for its strong emphasis on meditation practice. In addition to being a key teacher within the Kagyü lineage, Chögyam Trungpa was also trained in the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the four schools and was an adherent of the ri-me ("non-sectarian") ecumenical movement within Tibetan Buddhism, which aspired to bring together and make available all the valuable teachings of the different schools, free of sectarian rivalry. Throughout his life, he sought to bring the teachings he had received to the largest possible audience.

Already installed as the head of the Surmang monasteries in eastern Tibet, Chögyam Trungpa was forced to flee the country in 1959, at the age of 20. Barely escaping Chinese invaders, he and a small party of monks made the perilous journey over the Himalayas to India on horseback and on foot. From 1959-1963, by appointment of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Chögyam Trungpa served as the spiritual advisor for the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie, India.

In 1963, Chögyam Trungpa moved to England to study comparative religion, philosophy, and fine arts under a Spaulding Fellowship at Oxford University. During this time, he also studied Japanese flower arranging and received an instructors degree from the Sogetsu school. In 1967, he moved to Scotland, where he founded the Samye Ling meditation centre, the first Tibetan Buddhist practice centre in the West. Shortly thereafter, a variety of experiences--including a car accident that left him partially paralyzed on the left side of his body--led Chögyam Trungpa to the decision to give up his monastic vows and work as a lay teacher. In 1969, he published Meditation in Action, the first of fourteen books on the spiritual path published during his lifetime. The following year represented yet another turning point in Trungpa's life, when he married Diana Pybus and moved to the United States, where he established his first North American meditation centre, Tail of the Tiger (now known as Karmê-Chöling) in Barnet, Vermont.

The ancient teachings and practical instructions that Chögyam Trungpa brought with him found an eager audience in the America of the 1970s, a decade during which he travelled nearly constantly throughout North America, published six books, established three meditation centres and a contemplative university (Naropa University). He became renowned for his unique ability to present the essence of the highest Buddhist teachings in a form readily understandable to Western students.

During this period, Chögyam Trungpa conducted six Vajradhatu Seminaries, three-month residential programs at which he presented a vast body of Buddhist teachings in an atmosphere of intensive meditation practice. The seminaries assisted in the important function of training his students to become teachers themselves. Chögyam Trungpa also invited other teachers, including His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa--head of the Kagyü lineage--to come to the West and offer teachings.

It was also during this period that Chögyam Trungpa founded Vajradhatu (headquartered in Boulder, Colorado), the umbrella organization for the many centres that were springing up throughout the world under his direction. In 1976, he appointed Thomas Rich to be his Vajra Regent, a traditional position giving someone the responsibility of carrying on the teaching legacy left by a teacher. Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin was the first westerner to be acknowledged as a lineage holder in the Kagyü tradition.

Beyond Buddhism

Late in the 1970s, Chögyam Trungpa expressed his long-held desire to present contemplative practice to those who were not necessarilly interested in studying Buddhism. He developed a program called Shambhala Training, based on the legendary enlightened kingdom of that name. During the 1980s, while continuing teaching tours, Vajradhatu Seminaries, and book publication--and establishing a Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada--Trungpa increasingly turned his attention to the propagation of teachings that extended beyond the Buddhist canon. These activities included not only Shambhala Training, which was attracting thousands of students, but also Japanese archery, calligraphy, flower arranging, tea ceremony, health care, dance, theatre, and psychotherapy, among others. In planting the seeds for these many activities, Chögyam Trungpa sought to bring, in his words, "art to everyday life." He founded the Nalanda Foundation in 1974 as an umbrella organization for these activities.

The essence of the organization that Chögyam Trungpa had founded was the offering of meditation instruction and teaching programs at the more than 100 city-based centres (Dharmadhatus) spread throughout the world and at the several rural contemplative centres where intensive meditation and study programs were held. At these various centres, which formed a large and somewhat informal network, students were introduced to the possibility of integrating meditation practice and study into their everyday lives. Depending on their interests and inclinations, students engaged in any of the many contemplative activities that are now part of the Shambhala organization--from traditional meditation practice to flower arranging and dance.

A New Era

In 1986, based on his desire to establish the centre of his organization in a less agressive and materialistic atmosphere, Chögyam Trungpa moved to Nova Scotia, where hundreds of his students had already settled.

It would prove to be the last of his many moves. Not long after, in April 1987, Chögyam Trungpa's life came to an end. His passing was marked in an elaborate day-long ceremony, attracting more than 3,000 people, held on the Vermont land where he had first established a foothold in the West.

Transcriptions of Refuge Of The Roads

Refuge Of The Roads has been recorded by 12 other artists


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merlinbear on

Jaco is so amazing on this tune. I can feel his ingenious play and joy at the opportunity and platform that Joni has created and offered with this awesome song.