Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley

Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley

Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley

Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley


Now an Independent Film

With a new Foreword by Ethan Hawke, Director of BLAZE
With a new Afterword by the author

Living in the Woods in a Tree is an intimate glimpse into the turbulent life of Texas music legend Blaze Foley (1949-1989), seen through the eyes of Sybil Rosen, the woman for whom he wrote his most widely known song, "If I Could Only Fly." It captures the exuberance of their fleeting idyll in a tree house in the Georgia woods during the countercultural 1970s. Rosen offers a firsthand witnessing of Foley's transformation from a reticent hippie musician to the enigmatic singer/songwriter who would live and die outside society's rules. While Foley's own performances are only recently being released, his songs have been covered by Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, and John Prine. When he first encountered "If I Could Only Fly," Merle Haggard called it "the best country song I've heard in fifteen years."

In a work that is part-memoir, part-biography, Rosen struggles to finally come to terms with Foley's myth and her role in its creation. Her tracing of his impact on her life navigates a lovers' roadmap along the permeable boundary between life and death. A must-read for all Blaze Foley and Texas music fans, as well as romantics of all ages, Living in the Woods in a Tree is an honest and compassionate portrait of the troubled artist and his reluctant muse.


Half a lifetime ago I was twenty-five years old and living in a tree house in rural Georgia with a country musician named Depty Dawg. It was, I would later write, “like falling out of a dream.” How could I know then where our lives would take us?

In the course of our love affair Depty Dawg would reinvent himself as Blaze Foley—the enigmatic, outlaw singer/songwriter whose fatal shooting at the age of thirty-nine would insure his status as legend. I, too, would become a writer, only to spend the next couple of decades trying to put that time and that man into words. Stuffed into plays and shaped into idealized characters, he eluded my attempts to recapture his untamed spirit, as there was always something missing, some misplaced piece of our story I forgot to remember for a very long time.

Fourteen years after his death, I found that piece again and was compelled to go looking for the reasons why I’d lost so much of the memory of our love. They were harder to face than I could have imagined, and surprisingly easier to find; Blaze had left me clues along the way. Now, sitting down again, this time to tell the unvarnished truth, it, too, wants to become a story; it’s inescapable I guess.

For the truth can be hard to recognize through a twenty-five-year-old lens. Translucent with age, veined with tiny fractures, the glass crinkles the borders of distant images, blurring certain moments and crystallizing others. I’m helpless to do anything but describe what I see and feel now, in the hope that these words will convey some of the fleeting sweetness we knew then.

Yet if memory is unreliable, what becomes of the past? Can it only be known through the present? At this moment I am fifty-two, a writer, single and childless. in the twenty-odd years since my life with Depty Dawg, I’ve known pleasure, jealousy, affection—though never again did I expect to find a heart in which my own could make a home. Over time I made up my mind: I would learn to long without suffering; I would make peace with being alone. Secretly, I used to dream that if I reached middle age with love still unmet, some man from my past would come back to claim me.

It never occurred to me that he might be dead.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.