The New Sun

 Hear Judy on why she loves what she does (13 seconds)

Lese Dunton: What song that you sing brings you the most peace?

Judy Collins: I think that changes from time to time. I am finding lately that the song that I included in the CD that comes with the book...I like very much singing, "The Fallo Way." It seems to do something special. So, that's my current favorite. I like a lot of the meditative songs like "Suzanne" and there's a song called "Risk" that I wrote a few years ago that I like a lot from an album called Shameless. I think that's one of the best things I've ever written. I like singing the story songs, like "The Blizzard" is really great, if you need to get some relief, you know? That's a good song to sing.

LD: Do you ever wake up with a song in your head? Or dream it? Or does it just come to you at any time?

JC: I don't dream songs. I'm more apt to write dreams down and then to be able to interpret them into a song. I've done that. I also tend to get up and write prose in the morning from which will come songs. If I give myself a chore, for instance, when I was writing the songs for Shameless, I said to myself, "Now, every day for 90 days you have to write a song; good, bad or indifferent." So that was really helpful. I wrote songs on planes and wrote a song one night after being with my sister and her family. If I put myself on the burner, so to speak, I can discipline myself to get things to happen. I have to write like that, but I have to write on a schedule to get anything to happen anyway.

LD: I love the dreams that you wrote down in your book, about your son. Those were amazing. Have you had any new ones since? Or any further insights on it?

JC: I had some wonderful dreaming meetings. I can't tell you specifically what they've been in the recent months. In the past they've been verbal kinds of messages that he needed to give me. Now they're more dreams of his presence. A lot of dreams of his presence.

LD: After your son's passing, you looked for books that helped with the grieving process and couldn't find that many at the time. Do you think there are more books now or more help available?

JC: There were a couple of books. There's a book by Sue Chance that's out now, that came out a couple of years after Clark's death, Leftover Life to Live, I think it's called. Of course there's Gloria Standard's little book. Danielle Steele's book. These books are not as much about survival, which is why I felt I really had to write my book. With the exception of My Son, My Son, which was written by Iris Bolton, most of them are about literary ideas of suicide. There's a wonderful collection called On Suicide, but they're mostly literary pieces.

What I needed to write about was how I was getting through it and what I was doing. I wanted to write a history of suicide too, which I gleaned from all kinds of sources and put that all together. I think it's really important to know that. You're dealing with something very pragmatic: what is this? Where does it come from? What's the history of it? Why do people do it? When do they do it? How do they do it? Why don't they do it when they think of it? Or, if they try many times, why don't they make it? I have friends who've tried many times and haven't succeeded. I myself made an attempt, so I had a connection with that sort of group of people who have tried suicide at one time in their lives.

So, there wasn't anywhere that I found put together, the thoughts that I wanted to see -- which is really why I had to write the book. This book would have jumped into my hands because it talks directly to the issues. I needed to hear things spoken about openly. I think the impact of seeing something all down on paper is very helpful. It took me months and months and months and years to get a lot of this information to use and digest. I would have liked to have had it all in one place.

LD: It's great what you've done.

JC: Thank you. I originally intended to write this book just about suicide and recovery and the meditations that I've written. I was convinced finally that it was better to do it the way I've done it, but now I'm thinking I might extrapolate the chapters on survival and depression and the meditations and put them in a separate book. I think I might do that.

LD: What coping techniques help you the most?

JC: The things that I did on a daily basis were the most helpful. Trying to do some work every day. Getting my exercise in; keeping my nutrition clear, not getting into the sugar if I could help it; sleeping, not too much but plenty; talking to my friends, always staying connected with people that were in a healthy place; not listening to negative people, staying absolutely far away from negative people. I don't tolerate negativity in my life. I don't tolerate whiners. I can't be around people that are dumping. The issues of boundaries are so important, so that you don't let invasive or negative people into your life.

LD: You mention in your book a meditation practice called Krya Yoga?

JC: Yes, Yogananda's method of yoga. Well, Yogananda means "Yoga Teacher." He is my guru so I do that meditation form, which I had done for quite a long time before this happened, so in a way it prepared me for this. The Tibetan Book on Dying says that when you meditate you're practicing death. You're practicing letting go of everything. And as long as you can practice that, staying in the moment and letting go, then you can get in touch with the thing that charges you up to have a life. So that was very powerful for me because I was in exactly the right place because of that. I was able to bring everything I knew about meditation together to help me to get through this. I don't know how people can get through this without meditating, quite frankly.

LD: You say that your father believed in you and that was a great gift. Who else believed in you?

JC: My husband, my mother, certainly. Male mentors, Jack Holtzman. The powerful men in my life have always believed in me: my husband, my son.

LD: What are your plans and goals for the future?

JC: Well, I'm always on tour, so that's something that goes on that's pretty constant. 70-80 concerts a year. I'm on the road about 160 days a year, with the amount of travel that it takes to do what I have to do. I'm working on a screenplay now and I've got a record coming out in October, a new album of classic folk, followed by an album of classic rock done with Jonathan Tunick. So that should be fun. A pair of records.

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