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October 2016

Earth's gifts

Autumn bench

I started writing a post this morning about my adventures during my week away from Chagford, and it seems to be turning into an essay on me, so it's going to be a few more days before its done. It's coming, I promise.

Pomona by Arthur RackhamI've returned home to a garden (or "yard," as we Americans say) that has turned decisively to autumn, dressed in rusty reds and golden yellows, the air smelling of wood smoke and apples. When the weather permits, I've been working outdoors, soaking in the sun before the winter is upon us. The Hound is glad to have me back, and is sticking even closer to my side than if I might slip away again if she lets me out of her sight.

One of the books I have on the go
at the moment is Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature, an essay collection by naturalist, educator, and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore. I started reading Wild Comfort half a year ago, and for some reason, I didn't stick with it then -- I can't imagine why, because this time I can't put it down. Books are like that sometimes. They open to you when they're ready, and not before.

Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore

"The earth offers gift after gift," writes Moore, "life and the living of it, light and the return of it, the growing things, the roaring things, fire and nightmares, falling water and the wisdom of friends, forgiveness. My god, the forgiveness, time, and the scouring tides. How does one accept gifts as great as these and hold them in the mind?

Autumn in the garden

Crooked fence

"Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver. That's what's wrong with living a careless life, storing up sorrow, waking up regretful, walking unaware. But to turn the gift in your hand, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift -- this honors the gift and the giver of it. Maybe this is what [my friend] Hank has been trying to make me understand: Notice the gift. Be astonished at it. Be glad for it, care about it. Keep it in mind. This is the greatest gift a person can give in return.

Contemplative Tilly

" 'This is your work,' my friend told me, 'which is a work of substance and prayer and mad attentiveness, which is the real deal, which is why we are here.' "

Meldon Hill

Autumn leaves

Apple harvestThe passage by Kathleen Dean Moore above is from "Burning Garbage on an Incoming Tide," published in Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature (Trumpeter Books/Shambhala, 2010). The poem in the picture captions is from Poetry magazine (January, 1985). All rights reserved by the authors. The illustration is "Pomona," the Roman goddess of fruit and nut trees, by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). 

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Wild geese in flight

My apologies for being away from Myth & Moor for longer than expected. I spent a week of solitude in a very beautiful place (more about that tomorrow), then came down with the flu shortly after my return. I'm on the mend now, however, and back to a regular studio schedule (touch wood).

I was surrounded by birds and birdsong during my week away from home, so this morning's music is an homage to all of our winged neighbors....

Above: The Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra performs "Cantus Arcticus, Op.61" by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016). Rautavaara passed away just a few months ago, but his gorgeous and rather mystical music lives on. In this piece, the conventional instrumental soloist is replace with taped birdsong from Arctic Finland.

Below:  "The Lark Ascending" by English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958), performed by Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti. Williams' composition was inspired by George Meredith's poem of the same name.

Greater hoop lark in flight

Below: "The Blackbird," a short piece for flute and piano by French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), performed by Kenneth Smith on flute and Matthew Schellhorn on piano. Messiaen was a passionate ornithologist as well as a musician, and spent a great deal of time in the wild studying birdsong.

And last: "The Birds," a suite for small orchestra by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936), inspired by 17th & 18th century works attempting to render bird song and movement as musical notations. The first three movements of the suite are performed below by the Academic Chamber Soloists Prague.

Green Willow by Warwick Goble

I wish I could also offer you something from John Harvey's Bird Concerto with Pianosong, but I can't find any performances of it online at all -- so I can only urge you to seek out London Sinfonietta's recording of this stunning piece of music if you don't know it already.

I also recommend "The Wild Dove, Opus 110," a favorite piece of mine by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, beautifully performed by the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen here. And American composer John Luther Adams' spare and magical "Songbirdsong," which you'll find here.

You might also be interested in the BBC documentary Why Birds Sing, available on YouTube in six parts starting here.

A young Eurasian collared dove, photograph by Diti Torterat

The illustration above is "Green Willow" by Warwick Goble (1862-1943). The photographs are from Wiki Commons, photographers credited in the picture captions.