A Lament for Taylor

Ariel Lewis is a childhood friend of Taylor's.  Emily asked that it be posted.  


A lament for Taylor Mitchell, a folk musician who died early Wednesday morning by two coyotes who may or may not have known what they were doing. This is neither a news report nor an examination of a talent taken too soon; those have been done numerous times over. This is just a reflection by a close friend who will miss her dear companion greatly.

It is early Wednesday morning, 8am, and I've forced myself out of bed to start one in a number of mid-term essays. The phone rings but I miss it (as I said, it's early). The missed caller ID reads Mitchell. What is she calling me for, she's on tour? Fears hit my stomach but I never consider them seriously. When I call back her mother picks up. Her voice is slow but calm and any fears I had are relieved when she asks to speak to my mother. I don't know why she's calling but I don't care, I've got an essay outline to write. Then I notice my mother's face; something is wrong. She's broken her leg, she's been in an accident, she's at the hospital with an ice pack on her head. It's nothing serious; my mom's just overreacting because that's what mothers do. And then she hangs upTaylor's gone.


Several confirming news reports later and it's still impossible to believe. A beautiful voice, talented musician and insightful writer. An old soul wise beyond her years, that sang the blues like she was three times her age. All so true, but I'll never know where she got it from, for Taylor was one of the most bright and enthusiastic people I knew. She was as much a talented, blues-singing old soul as she was a high-pitched, Tolkien worshipping, cat cuddling, French fry loving, daydreaming young girl.

I first met Taylor in Grade 9. Back then she sang Frank Sinatra, devoted herself to the classics of Russian and British literature, and had decided she was going to go to Oxford to study English. Then she discovered Bob Dylan and school hit the fan. From Bob Dylan she found Joan Baez, which lead to Joni Mitchell, guitar lessons and ultimately a fullfledged obsession with music. This is what kindled our friendship. We would spend our lunch hours ruminating about our most recent pop-culture discovery. Each of us got a small bite of pride when we displayed a fact the other did not know (I remember frantically explaining all the "facts" to her on why Paul McCartney had to be dead and looking up with glee when I saw her swimming face).

We spent the rest of our time on her porch making completely unrealistic plans for the future, such as driving down Highway 61 all the way to Texas, or backpacking across Canada. All had to be planned on her porch because I couldn't step two feet inside her house without sneezing because of her cats. She loved her cats. One thing that will always surprise me about Taylor is her overwhelming dislike of toy dogs. How could a person who had managed to adapt animal like mannerisms into every move and noise she made be adverse to the Pomeranian? But every time we passed a pooch that would never grow more than one foot in height, I could spot her grimace and roll her eyes. That is something that will always both vex and puzzle me.

She is the only one I ever knew who agreed that go-go dancing to the Jefferson Airplane was the only way to start your morning. She is the only one I ever knew who was prepared to debate over who was the more attractive, Pete Townsend or Mick Jagger, with the same degree of importance as if debating world politics. She was the only one I ever knew who thought that going out at midnight to watch The Last Waltz on the big screen was a brilliant proposition rather than an absurd one.

Now the unthinkable has happened. Music has lost a great talent, Canadiana stores have lost their most enthusiastic customer, the environment as lost a loyal activist, all Westerns have lost their most devout fan, and I have lost a dear and loyal friend.
I understand that in such bizarre and unfortunate circumstances we search for answers as to why and how such a thing could happen. Many have decreed that had it not been for the over population of coyotes this tragedy would not have occurred or that this can only be expected if one chooses to walk through wilderness alone. But this is not so. That so many have tread the Cabot trail alone and unharmed, that this was only the second recorded killing by coyotes in North America, and that this has become a shock that has reached its way around the world shows that this accident was least of all expected. No, this accident is only the result of the ill and cruel timing of life.

I am grateful that so many people have discovered Taylor's talent and music but very sad it had to be under these circumstances. It is unfortunate that only in death can we become immortal. Tragic that one cannot realize how much a person means to them until that person IS gone.

It is hard to believe that less than a month ago the two of us were sitting at the Local where she was encouraging me to try my hand at writing for the Varsity. I got my first assignment a few weeks ago and decided I would keep it a surprise for when she returned. My first article was published just a week ago and I deeply regret that I cannot share this triumph with her- I know her high-pitched voice would explode with pride.

-Ariel Lewis

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