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Refuge of the Roads
Joni Mitchell Lyrics


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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 then for the refuge of the roads

I fell in with some drifters
Cast upon a beach town
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
'Til 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

Overall Meaning

In "Refuge of the Roads," Joni Mitchell writes about her journey of seeking refuge from her complications and judgement in life by escaping to the road. The song commences with Joni meeting a friend of spirit who drank and womanized. The friend simplified her problems and mirrored them back to her, leaving her reflecting on how their quest for perfection will always be denied. The friend advises Joni to lighten up her heavy load with heart, humor, and humility before she leaves him to find refuge on the roads.


She encounters a group of drifters and spends some time fixing dinner for them. Joni finds herself welling up with affection thinking back down the roads to then. She continues to describe the joyous moments she encountered along the road, but her mood changes when she starts analyzing things and falls back into her old ways. Judgment clouds her vision, and it makes others uncomfortable as they try to avoid her. She eventually finds her refuge in a forest, where she hears her fate turn, turn, turn, and runs like a white-assed deer to lose her blues and embrace the innocence in her heart.


In the end, Joni refers to a photograph of the earth taken from the moon. The photograph reveals how insignificant they are in the face of the vastness of the world. She describes how she is taking refuge in the road amid the baggage overload and en route to finding herself.


Line by Line Meaning

I met a friend of spirit
I encountered a bohemian fellow


He drank and womanized
He enjoyed booze and women


And I sat before his sanity
I listened to his coherent ideas


I was holding back from crying
I was trying not to cry


He saw my complications
He noticed my problems and complexities


And he mirrored me back, simplified
He reflected back to me a simpler version of myself


And we laughed how our perfection
We chuckled about our ideal selves


Would always be denied
Knowing it would never be achieved


"Heart and humor and humility"
These qualities make life less burdensome


He said, "will lighten up your heavy load"
Said that it would help me manage life's difficulties


I left him then for the refuge of the roads
I decided to hit the open road


I fell in with some drifters
I joined some wanderers


Cast upon a beach town
Washed up on a sandy shore


Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs
Barely any food and poor quality clothes


And I wound up fixing dinner
I became the cook


For them and Boston Jim
For them and a man named Boston Jim


I well up with affection
I felt emotional and sentimental


Thinking back down the roads to then
Recalling my past travels


The nets were overflowing
The fishing baskets were overfilled


In the Gulf of Mexico
In the waters of the Gulf of Mexico


They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads
They were filled up in the place of solace


There was spring along the ditches
The canals were full of life and vibrant colors


There were good times in the cities
I had fun experiencing the urban life


Oh, radiant happiness
What a wonderful feeling of joy


It was all so light and easy
Life felt untroubled and comfortable


'Til I started analyzing
Until I began overthinking


And I brought on my old ways
Same self-destructive patterns resurfaced


A thunderhead of judgment was
A cloud of criticism hovered above


Gathering in my gaze
Building up in my sight


And it made most people nervous
It scared most individuals


They just didn't want to know
They chose not to learn


What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads
What I was perceiving in my haven


I pulled off into a forest
I turned off onto a wooded area


Crickets clicking in the ferns
Chirping insects amid the foliage


Like a wheel of fortune
Feeling like I was at the mercy of fate


I heard my fate turn, turn, turn
Perceiving my destiny shifting


And I went running down a white sand road
I ran along a pale sandy route


I was running like a white-assed deer
Running with the speed and grace of a deer


Running to lose the blues
Running to overcome the feeling of sadness


To the innocence in here
To recapture the purity within


These are the clouds of Michelangelo
These are the clouds that inspired Michelangelo


Muscular with gods and sungold
Powerful clouds lit up by the sunrise


Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads
Illuminate your testimony in your space of safety


In a highway service station
Inside a rest stop on the highway


Over the month of June
Throughout the month of June


Was a photograph of the earth
Displayed an image of the planet Earth


Taken coming back from the moon
Captured during the moon landing return journey


And you couldn't see a city
None of the cities were visible


On that marbled bowling ball
On that swirled looking globe


Or a forest or a highway
Nor a wood or a road


Or me here, least of all
And especially not me here


You couldn't see these cold water restrooms
You could not view these icy bathrooms


Or this baggage overload
Or these excessive amounts of luggage


Westbound and rolling, taking refuge in the roads
Traveling towards the west and seeking solace on the highways




Lyrics © Reservoir Media Management, Inc.
Written by: Joni Mitchell

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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