The Canadian's lifelong friend and guest singer, Jennifer Warnes, shared on her website
how a radiant Cohen came over to her house to share this song with her after he'd been away on a silent retreat. She recalled sitting at her little rented piano, "as Leonard's twelve elegant, spartan verses unfolded. I remember thinking... something miraculous is happening, right this minute, in my stupid little living room."
"Leonard had found some old pictures somewhere," Warnes continued. "They were called The Ten Bulls
, old Japanese woodcuts symbolizing the stages of a monk's life on the road to enlightenment. These carvings pictured a boy and a bull, the boy losing the bull, the bull hiding, the boy realizing that the bull was nearby all along. There is a struggle, and finally the boy rides the bull into his little village. 'I thought this would make a great cowboy song,' he joked."