Sand And Foam

In 1926, Kahlil Gibran wrote a book titled Sand and Foam which is a collection of parables and aphorisms, in true Eastern style that draws on a world of kings, hermits, saints, slaves, deserts, animals that talk and wind that laughs.  Kahlil was a Lebanese poet who lived in the United States and he was also a writer and painter.  He wrote in his book “Half of what I say is meaningless, But I say it so that the other half may reach you”, which is very similar to the starting words used by John Lennon in a song that he wrote about his mother.  Also in this poem is a line, “When life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind” is the inspiration for John writing, “When I cannot sing my heart I can only speak my mind, Julia”.

Supposedly the name Yoko Ono means ‘ocean child’ in Japanese, with Yo meaning ocean and Ko meaning child.  Yoko is a variant of the more popular Japanese name Youko.  Her last name Ono means ‘small field’.  Yoko was born on February 18, 1933 in Tokyo into a wealthy aristocratic family.  Her father was a frustrated pianist who held degrees from Tokyo universities in mathematics and economics.  In 1935, he became head of a Japanese bank in San Francisco, two weeks before she was born, as a result he did not meet Yoko until she was two years old, since she stayed behind in Tokyo with her mother.  Her father gave her that name because during her first few years save for a picture on the wall she was an ocean child to him.  In the Lennon song Julia, John wrote “Julia, Julia, ocean child, calls me.”

Ono first met John Lennon on November 9, 1966, when he visited a preview of her exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London. He was taken with the positive, interactive nature of her work that featured a mix of word play and word paintings.  He especially cited a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain, which revealed the word “yes’ that was written on the ceiling.  They began an affair approximately 18 months later.  Lennon divorced his first wife, Cynthia who he had a son, Julian with, and married Ono on March 20, 1969.  During the recording of the Beatles White Album, John insisted that Yoko be present in the studio with him, as they wanting to be involved in each other’s lives as much as possible and this frustrated the other members of the group.

John’s mother Julia Lennon (1914-1958), was knocked down and killed by a car driven by an off-duty police officer when John was still only 17 years old.  John said that the song ‘Julia’ was written as a tribute to his mother Julia and that it was put together from a combination of imagery given to him by Yoko, blended with his mother’s name.  ‘Julia’ was written while John and the Beatles were in India, and while they were there, they wrote a lot of songs that later became part of the White Album.  The Beatles spent the spring of 1968 in Rishekesh, India studying and practicing Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  When Lennon was in India, one of the biggest revelations that he had was truly opening up (to himself) regarding the feelings he had for his mother, Julia.  During John’s stay in India, Yoko would send letters to him with phrases that ended up being an inspiration for this song.  Yoko wrote things like “I am a cloud.  Watch for me in the sky”, and other picturesque phrases that combined nature with human characteristics, such as “seashell eyes”, “silent cloud”, “windy smile” and “hair of floating sky” among others.

Julia is the only Beatles song that John Lennon played and sang unaccompanied on a Beatles track.  Donovan Leitch was also present in India and the Scottish musician taught Lennon the finger-picking guitar style featured in this song, known as ‘Travis-picking.  They spent some of their afternoons playing the acoustic guitars that they had all brought with them.  John was a good student and he wrote ‘Julia’ and ‘Dear Prudence’ based on what he learned from Donovan.

John wanted to write a song about the childhood that he never really had with his mother, because he was forced to live with his Aunt.  He had images of them at the beach holding hands and walking together.  This song was like an exorcism of the years of hurt and regret that he felt from losing his mother Julia.  ‘Julia’ is a beautiful, gentle love song with a bittersweet melody that was the final song on side two of The White Album.  It is a kind of impressionistic meditation by an earthbound man reflecting on the ethereal presence of a woman calling to him, yet hovering in an excruciating way just out of his reach.  Lennon plays delicate arpeggios (notes of a chord played in succession, either ascending or descending) around his fragile yet somehow soothing vocal melody.  There is an undeniable loneliness that is evident in his voice, a mantra-like calm and profound yearning that he conjures each time he sings his mother’s name Julia.  Yoko filled an empty void that was left in John’s life after he lost his mother.

Salvador Dali thought that Yoko Ono was a witch when she paid him for a hair from his moustache.  He felt that she might use it in a spell, so he didn’t want to send her a personal item, much less one of his hairs.  Instead he sent her a dry blade of grass from his garden in a nice presentation box.  It amused him to rip people off and he said that Yoko paid 10,000 dollars for it.  Oddly enough Yoko Ono released an album titled Yes, I’m a Witch on February 6, 2007, and the criticism that was heaped upon her over the years is mostly unfair at times, but she did taint her own cause.  Nine months after they married on December 5th 1969 John and Yoko arrived at The Bull Hotel in Long Melford, Suffolk, UK on a Friday evening to film the documentary The World of John and Yoko.  The BBC documentary known as Apotheosis 2 shows John and Yoko, dressed in monk-like cloaks and hoods, seated on stools in the Market Place as the giant orange balloon is inflated.

Paul McCartney also drew from the work of the Lebanese poet-philosopher Kahlil Gibran in his Beatles song ‘Blackbird’ which was inspired by novel titled Broken Wings that was first published in Arabic in 1912.  This is a story of a love that is doomed by social convention.  On November 8th, 1976, Capitol issued ‘Julia’ as the b-side to the single ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ in the U.S., but neither side of this single made the Billboard Top 40.  In 1988 ‘Julia’ was one of the nine Beatles songs on the soundtrack album ‘Imagine: John Lennon’.

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia

Julia, Julia, ocean child, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun

Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Hum, hum, hum, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia, Julia, Julia

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Excruciating, for FOWC with Fandango – Dry, for Ragtag Community – Friday and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Taint.

19 thoughts on “Sand And Foam

    1. Yes (not a real stoner) I saw that Kahlil Gibran from The Madman on your ABOUT page, “I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.”


    1. This was a good week for me with Walk Away Renee, Michelle, Jennifer Juniper, Layla and Julia. I hit on the French connection, the Donovan connection, the Boyd connection, the meditation connection in India and possibly some others. Would you believe that I can actually relate all of these songs back to Kevin Bacon?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have a Kahlil Gibran book I bought in, I think, 1981. I didn’t know any of the Beetles were so influenced or influenced at all by him. If I recall, my book is called The Propjet.

    [There’s another story rhyme, I see, to the Beatles’/a Beatle circle and Fleetwood Mac, but I won’t say it “out loud” — I’m sure you’ll come across it (or have done).]

    I enjoyed your writing and this song.

    Liked by 1 person

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