A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

The Necklace

I grew to love those three-hour treks from the desert to the mountains. It gave me time to decompress from work before getting to the ranch, and time to reflect on the lovely weekend before getting back to Santa Fe. In two years of making that drive every week, neither of us had an accident. Considering how dramatically the road conditions changed from season to season, we were lucky.    
    I’d been driving a gas-guzzling minivan that was falling apart. The last mechanic to put it up on a rack said he hoped he would never see that tank again (the undercarriage was so rusted I think he was afraid it was going to disintegrate on top of him.) I traded it in on a used Subaru Impreza, a small four-door sedan.  It was a tight fit for my big speakers but it felt like a Porsche after the minivan and, most importantly, it had all-wheel drive. The road past the ranch gate climbed up a steep hill and when it was muddy, or covered with snow and ice, it was downright scary. But that little Subaru ran up the road like a fox, in any kind of weather. 
    Dan got rid of the big white Antichrist truck and bought a Toyota 4-Runner from a dealership in Santa Fe. He took me with him on the test drive and the seat and hood configurations were good - not a twinge of motion sickness.
    We both had cars that made the weekly commute more enjoyable now. I rented books on cassette tapes and CDs and when I stopped for gas at the edge of Santa Fe, I’d buy a Coke or a candy bar to help keep me awake. One week I had rented Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, and two hours into the drive I had to turn it off. I’d become so engrossed in the story, the last fifty miles was a blank - I had been driving the familiar route completely on auto pilot. 

     In the wintertime it got dark at five o’clock so I tried to leave work early when I could. One night I was on a long lonely stretch of Highway 84 about halfway to the ranch, when it began to snow heavily. Weary after the long week, I was concentrating on following the faint tracks left by a previous traveler when, off to the right, a large buck suddenly emerged from the darkness. He must have been running to cross the road in front of me and underestimated my speed. Unable to stop in time, he turned at the last second and lightly bumped into my car just ahead of the rear view mirror. He continued running, trying to get out in front of me, which could have been disastrous. My headlights lit his shoulder, head, rack, and large wild eyes, which probably looked just like mine at that moment.

     I’d driven on enough snowy roads to know that hitting the brakes at 40 miles an hour was not an option, so I gently tapped the brakes and shifted into a lower gear. The engine revved loudly and I had one last clear glimpse of him as he veered away from the car and disappeared back into the darkness. I was wide awake now, my heart pounding like crazy, and I’ll bet that buck felt the same. 

     It was so surreal, and I had been very tired; if I hadn’t told Dan about it that night I might have woken the next morning thinking the whole thing had been a strange dream. But when I went out to my car I could see where the buck’s wet fur had wiped away some of the caked-on Santa Fe road dust.

      Neither of us had cell phones, and at least one trip per week was at night, so an accident could have been serious. Even so, we never once called to say we weren’t coming because the weather was bad, or we were tired; the pull was too strong, the rewards too great.

Portrait Box Set

That winter of 1996, Sony Music was putting together a retrospective of Dan’s career. He was so pleased, and honored. Portrait - The Music of Dan Fogelberg From 1972-1997 was a  four-CD box set that would be released the following summer. The sixty-two tracks would include five previously unreleased songs: “Democracy,” “Hearts and Crafts,” “Mountains to the Sea,” “Song for a Carpenter” and “Don’t Lose Heart.”

      Dan had written "Song for a Carpenter" about his friend Bryan, a carpenter and wooden boat restorer who lived in Maine. Seven years later Bryan would build our home in Maine.

      The liner notes for “Song for a Carpenter” read: Included here for the first time, I recorded this with the Chieftains in 1983 for Windows and Walls. The Chieftains were on tour and I managed to get them to come into the studio on a day off. One of the most enjoyable sessions I’ve ever done and without a doubt the only time I’ve ever had Guinness Stout for breakfast. For Bryan and Seth.

      Dan did promotional "chats" with various internet outlets like AOL, Yahoo! and Prodigy. For these real-time chats, he would talk on the phone with the moderator while fans wrote in questions which the moderator would review and read to Dan. He would reply and the moderator would post the answer on the forum for the fans to see. During a Prodigy chat that summer for Portrait a fan asked:


     Ceolta (Prodigy Member): What was it like working with The Chieftains?? 


     Dan Fogelberg (Speaker): If I could remember, I'd tell you. Seriously, the Chieftains was one of the most enjoyable sessions I've ever done. We started the day with Guinness Stout and Fatburgers, and things went downhill from there. They were wonderful to work with, and I'm thrilled that in recent years, the world's attention has been turned more towards them. As a big fan of Celtic music and culture, I'm thrilled at their success. 

Song For A Carpenter
00:00 / 03:18

Song for a Carpenter

Oh, he makes his life as a carpenter
He works his hands in wood
And he lives the way his granddad
Might have liked and understood
He goes to work each morning
And he comes home every night
And the time that passes in between
He knows has been spent right


A child in South Ohio
A man in Northern Maine
He took his dream
To the end of the world
And he brought it back again

Here he met his sweet Rebekah
Here he came to make his stand
In a house he built in the piney woods
Where the ocean meets the land


And it's hey-ho, steady as you go
Sing for the love of the land
Hey-ho, blessed is the home
Born of the carpenter's hand


Oh, his hair is rough and curly
And his legs they reach the ground
And his eyes are full of living
And his back is broad and brown
And his heart is sure and stubborn
And his pride's too strong to bend
And somewhere in his life
He found the time to be my friend



Oh, he loves his sweet Rebekah
He'll love her 'til his death
And she gave to him a bonny son
And they named the child Seth
And now they are a family
A community of three
Living in the piney woods
Where the soil meets the sea



The liner notes for “Hearts and Crafts” read: "This was released as the 'B' side to  'Same Old Lang Syne' and is included on this CD for the first time. All done in one afternoon during the 'Innocent Age' sessions. I still like what this says."

Hearts And Crafts
00:00 / 03:03

Hearts and Crafts

Handing me a looking glass
You asked me who it was I saw
But if I was to answer you
You know I'd surely answer wrong


'Cause I've loved you too long
I've loved you too long


Turning halfway toward the sun
You asked me to become your shade
But why should I be made to run
At the end of the parade?


Love is not that way (at all)
Love is not that way


Looking back now toward the start
You said you thought I'd lost my path
And I asked if you still considered love an art
And you said, "No, I think it's more a craft"


And I just turned and laughed
I just had to turn and laugh

     Dan went to Los Angeles for a week in December to record “Don’t Lose Heart.” Peter Asher would be producing the track and Dan was excited to be working with him. The liner notes read: A new song recorded especially for this collection in December of 1996 in L.A. Recorded and mixed in five days. A very honest song of disillusionment and hope and the healing power of love.

Don't Lose Heart
00:00 / 04:38

Don't Lose Heart

This life is heartless and it's rarely just
Full of sad betrayals and misplaced trust
And it can suck your spirit just as dry as dust
And steal your soul if you let it


Ooh every life contains its sorrows and pains
Its stormy weather and its rough terrains
You watch me wrestle with my length of chain
And smile so bravely as you tell me


Don't lose heart, don't lose heart
Though it feels like yours will fall apart
Just remember when the road gets dark
I will always be beside you


Well, I've spent my life pursuing fortune and fame
Chasing rainbows in a shadow game
And I'm not sure what I've lost is worth the gain
Or why my soul remains so restless


You've seen me stumble, Lord, you've seen me fall
You shared my triumphs and you've seen me crawl
When I think that I could lose it all
You give me courage and you tell me




When the road gets rocky and the ride gets rough
And the best you've got to give ain't good enough
There will always be a place inside my love
Where you can find shelter, where you can find shelter


Ooh every life contains its sorrows and pains
Its stormy weather and its rough terrains
You watch me wrestle with my length of chain
And smile so bravely as you tell me


Don't lose heart, oh don't lose heart
Though it feels like yours will fall apart
Just remember when the road gets dark
I will always be beside you
Well, I will always be beside, beside you

     Dan called every night from his hotel room and we talked until we were both yawning and nodding off. One night he told me his favorite poem was “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. For him, it must have symbolized the times he had strayed from the Top 40 path he was on, even though he risked losing some of his established fan base. He had recorded albums like High Country Snows, the country and bluegrass album many considered career suicide and, sure enough, he did alienate some fans and reviewers. He had stayed true to himself though, recording the music he loved rather than music that would make money, and he was still very proud of that album.

      I reached for a book of international poetry on my nightstand and found the Robert Frost poem. I read it out loud and when I finished, he said, “You know that poem?!” I heard the delighted surprise in his voice, and I so wanted to be the cool girl who knows the Robert Frost poem by heart. But I had read it to him to be the cool girl who has a book of poetry on her nightstand. “No,” I said, feeling very un-cool, “I it from a book.” 

      He thought about that later; about how easy it would have been for me to say, “Yes, I do, that’s my favorite poem too!” He’d been down that road before though, and he was glad I hadn’t lied to win his favor.

      During the same Prodigy Chat, someone had asked:


blueskies29 (Prodigy Member): Your songs seem as if they come from your heart, all of them. What do you feel is the common thread that you touch us with in your songs? 


Dan Fogelberg (Speaker): I would hope it would be honesty.


I drove the dirt road to The Piñon Group five days a week. The office was in a converted two-bedroom guest house next to Rebecca and Nic’s beautiful adobe home. A row of wooden stairs ran up the side of the office building to a landing at the front door, which was about four feet off the ground. The windows behind my desk looked out on piñon trees and vistas that went on and on.

      It was very homey as offices go, with an electric kettle and plenty of teabags and milk in the kitchen, and a large black lab who often slept under my desk. Abby was a sweet, sensitive dog, and no one was more embarrassed than she when, with a sound like air escaping a balloon, her body released the most toxic farts known to mankind.

      One day in early January, I stopped by the office supply store before work for ink cartridges, reams of paper and binders. It was a cold morning so I parked near the office then carried the supplies up the stairs. I set everything down on the landing so I could remove my glove and unlock the door. After setting the bags inside on the floor I went back out and moved my car. 

      I was putting the supplies away when I realized that my beautiful birthday necklace, which I’d worn every day since Dan had given it to me, wasn’t around my neck. I checked my coat and scarf, then retraced my steps, back and forth in the snow; in and around the car; all over the office, but it was nowhere to be found. 

      The first time I put the necklace on, I had wondered how safe the toggle clasp on the chain was. I’d never worn one before. A toggle bar at one end of the chain is inserted sideways through a ring at the other end, and the bar then lays flat against the ring and holds. It had worked fine for almost two months so I’d forgotten my initial apprehension. 

      When I got home I tore the car apart, lifting mats and looking under the seats with a flashlight. It could have fallen off anywhere from my apartment to the store and from the store to the office. I was devastated, and so embarrassed when I had to tell Dan that I’d lost the beautiful, expensive, one-of-a-kind, first gift he’d ever given me. He told me not to be upset; it was just a necklace, but I felt irresponsible and terribly sad.

      February arrived and Dan was in Los Angeles working on the box set package on Valentine’s Day. We had agreed that we would wait and celebrate together when he got back home. He was excited about the proofs; the women who designed the package for Sony had understood the look he wanted and he was really happy with everything they had done. Even though we'd agreed to wait, I sent a Valentine card to the hotel so he would know I was thinking of him.

      Valentine’s Day was frigid and the wind was blowing snow flurries around the office building as I pulled my car up right next to the stairs to unload bags from my trunk. As I reached for my purse on the passenger seat, a movement out the window caught my eye. I looked up and there, swinging at the end of its silver chain under the front door landing was the topaz pendant. I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough.

      Holding on to the edge of the landing with one hand, I reached out and gently tugged on the chain. It didn’t budge. I didn’t want to pull any harder for fear of breaking it so I hurried to my desk for a letter opener. Kneeling on the landing, I brushed the snow away and inserted the letter opener between the two planks right next to the toggle bar. I wiggled it back and forth to make a slight groove, then I gently pushed the bar sideways into the groove until it released and fell. 

      Back down the stairs I raced to retrieve my treasure from the snow. I was ecstatic, and so glad I had bought the little Subaru - in the minivan I would have been sitting too high to see the necklace. 

      After work I went home, showered and dressed, loaded up my gear, and drove to the cafe. The necklace was safe at home in its suede pouch. I wasn’t going to wear it again until I could figure out how to make the clasp more secure.

      As I was setting up my equipment Patricia walked over to me with that Cheshire Cat smile of hers and handed me a gift bag. It contained a small white box and a Valentine card from Dan. I opened the card, which was funny and sweet, then I reached for the box and lifted the lid. Inside, in a light blue suede pouch, was an exact duplicate of the topaz necklace.

      Dan had gone back to Ornament and commissioned the artisan to recreate it for me and, since he was out of town when it was finished, he arranged for someone to deliver it to Patricia on Valentine’s Day. It was so thoughtful, and so incredibly romantic. 

      I actually considered not telling him about finding the necklace. I could let him ride off into the sunset with this quest, undertaken in the name of love, undiminished. After all, a spare necklace wouldn’t be a bad idea, surely, since the clasp had proven unreliable. But the cost niggled at me, as did the knowledge that even the best-intended secrets can tarnish what they are meant to protect.

      When he called that night I thanked him profusely and gave him some time to tell me all about how he’d pulled the whole thing off. Then I said, “So, I have something kind of...funny to tell you.” I sheepishly told him about my morning. He burst out laughing, amazed at the series of serendipities: the toggle bar freeing itself from the ring yet clinging tenaciously to the gap in the landing; my parking in the perfect spot to see it, and the fact that I'd found it today, of all days. 

      We explained things to the owner of Ornament and she was very gracious. She even said I could keep the shiny new necklace and return the original, but I opted to keep the one Dan had given me for my birthday; it had found its way back to me and now it had its own wonderful story; a story we would tell for years to come.


Posted May 30th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020