This song seems to be part of a triptych, on this album, of songs whose titles start with the word "Love."
It is a curious song. Like many other of Simon's songs, it seems like two songs sewn together. At first.
The first records a visit, or perhaps a "visitation," by God and Jesus on Earth. Naturally, this happens on a "Sunday morning," when it was Sunday in the Western Hemisphere, that is. We know this because of the "cottonwood" trees mentioned.
In any case, Nature welcomed Them with "orange blossoms," and "songbirds." And the humans? "Old folks wept for His love in these hard times." God, not the Son, seems to be the antecedent of "His." Also, it seems that the "times" were known to be "hard" already, and that the Divine Presence(s) brought "love."
It was only to be a brief visit, a "courtesy call," so it soon came time to leave. After all, as the Lord says unto His Son, "There are galaxies yet to be born/ Creation is never done." Furthermore, God doesn't care much for the "slobs" of Earth who will only create a "mob scene" if They stick around. Interesting that of all the pejoratives, the Lord thinks of humans as messy; perhaps it's the way we dress, but more likely the way we spread our mess all over God's (once) Green Earth.
"But," God does note, if They "disappear," then what's left is "love and hard times." Which implies that "love" is a constant whether God is here or not, but "hard times" return when He leaves.
At this point, it is as if another song starts, a love song (and the music agrees, as more instruments are added and the melody shifts). "I loved her the first time I saw her," the speaker says, immediately apologizing, "I know that's an old songwriting cliche." He follows it with another: "The light of her beauty was warm as a summer day." Actually, that's not only a cliche, but a mixed metaphor; light is "bright," not "warm."
But then, we see the pen of a true songwriter: "Clouds of antelope roll by/ No hint of rain to come in the prairie sky." So this love at first sight gives no sign that sorrow will follow. Everything from here to the horizon is "just love." And... no hard times.
Yes, but this is Earth, not Heaven. "When the rains came, the tears burned/ Windows rattled, locks turned." Well, sure-- there was no sign of rain, so no one thought to bring an umbrella, and now everyone is soaked and miserable.
Here, the speaker offers this observation: "It's easy to be generous when you're on a roll/ It's hard to be grateful when you're out of control." So... hard times? "...love is gone."
Then "dawn" comes back into the bedroom. The house noises are keeping the speaker awake. And he is "uneasy," probably now more than before, since before he was just "out of control"... and now it seems that his relationship is suffering because of that, too!
"But then your hand takes mine." Oh, so the relationship is stronger than his unease after all. And even stronger than the turmoil and ingratitude that his unease caused. His reaction? Sheer gratitude: "Thank God I found you in time."
Excuse me? Thank whom? Or, rather, Whom? Why, God, of course. Who we thought had left. Guess not. Oh, omnipresence... right.
So it's not "love" or "hard times, but "and." We think that hard times come and go whether or not God is Present. Or that both can't co-exist without God.
But neither is true. Love and hard times are always with us. Sometimes, we feel God's love directly. Sometimes, the love comes from others. Sometimes we feel that human love is a manifestation, or gift, of Divine Love.
But love is there despite hard times. Or, for all we know, because of them.
The word "celli" in the liner notes does not refer to an exotic instrument; it is the formal plural of "cello."
(Also, there are rhymes in this song, but you have to find some of them.)
Next Song: Love is Eternal Sacred Light