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December 2018

Tunes for New Year's Eve

Reindeer hound

What could be better for Hogmanay -- the Scots word for the last day of the year -- than glorious music from the Band of Burns? The group, directed by Alastair Caplin, consistz of Adam Beattie, Rioghnach Connolly, Ellis Davis, Feilimi Devlin, Miley Kenney, John Langan, Ewan MacDonald, Lewis Murray, Dave Tunstall, Dila Vardar, and Chagford's own Dominie Hooper. These songs come Live from Union Chapel, a recording of a concert dedicated to the life and work of Robert Burns (1759-1796) last year.

The song above is ""Now Westlin Winds." Below, "Banks o'Doon."

Above: "John Anderson, My Jo."

Below: "One Hundred Years."

And to end: "Green Grow the Rushes."

As we cross the enchanted liminal space between the old year and the new, Tilly the Grumpy Reindeer and I wish you safe crossing, and much joy ahead. I'll be back in the office and studio on January 2nd.


After the dark...

Saint Lucia's Day by Carl Larsson

Painting by Kay Nielsen...light.

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color...

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
Marianna and the Whippits by David WyattThe passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

- John O'Donohue

"It could be said that this is a hellish moment on earth environmentally, but I don't choose to see it that way. We are definitely disconnected. We know the litany of horrors: the degredation of resources, the level of consumption...I could go on and on. My grandfather would always say, 'I'm as low as a snake's belly.' So what do we do to pick ourselves up from the realities of the world we live in? I believe it is through art we can find our lifeline."  - Terry Tempest Williams

And so do I.

Spinning the Moon by David Wyatt

St. Lucia's Day by Carl Larsson

Pictures: The first and last paintings above are by Swedish painter Carl Larsson (1853-1919); the second picture is a detail from "Out Popped the Moon" by Danish book artist Kay Nielsen (1886-1957); the third is a detail from "Marianna and the Whippets" by our friend and village neighbor David Wyatt; and the fourth is "Spinning the Moon," also by David.

Words: The poem is an excerpt from "In Praise of the Earth" by Irish poet & philosopher John O'Donohue (1956-2008), from his beautiful book To Bless the Space Between Us (Convergent Books, 2008). The Terry Tempest Williams quote is from A Voice in the Wilderness, edited by Michael Austin (Utah State University Press, 2006). The poetry excerpts tucked into the picture captions are by Andrew Colliver, Elizabeth Reniger, Theodore Rothke, Mary Oliver, and Denise Levertov.

All rights to the works above reserved by the artists and authors.


Happy Winter Solstice

The title of this magical animation by paper cut artist Angie Pickman refers to the winter solstice, but it's also symbolic of other "long nights" we face in life: a mental or physical health crisis...a period of grief, hardship, or trauma...or the political situations unfolding in Westminster, Washington DC, and other troubled places around the world.

"We are always on a journey from darkness into light," the Irish poet/philosopher John O'Donohue reminds us. "At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother's womb. You lived the first nine months in there. Your birth was the first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born of darkness. Each day is a journey. We come out of the night into the day. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover the balance in your life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm."

Copyright by Karen Davis

In the mythic sense, we practice moving from darkness into light every morning of our lives. The task now is make that movement larger, to join together to carry the entire world through the long night to the dawn.

Stray by Jeanie Tomanek

Capturing the Moon by Jeanie Tomanek

The art above is"The Spirit Within" by Karen Davis (UK); "Stray" and "Capturing the Moon" by Jeanie Tomanek (US). The video is by Angie Pickman (US); go here to see more of her work. The quote is from Anam Cara (Bantam Books, 1997) by John O'Donhue (1956-2008, Ireland). All right to the video and art above are reserved by the artists; all rights to O'Donohue's text are reserved by his estate.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

From ''The Wilful Thing'' by Gill Smith

Above: "Only Ghosts" by Pine the Pilcrow (Kevin Murray, Hannah Ryan, Shay Sweeney, Robert Campbell), from Dublin, Ireland. The song appears on their new EP of the same name. The video was filmed by Donal Moloney.

Below: "Dahlia" by Pine the Pilcrow, also from their new EP. The video was filmed by Freida Freyta.

Above: "The Curse" by Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel (based in Berlin), accompanied by Anna Müller and Mika Posen on cello and viola. The song appeared on her second album, Aventine (2013).

Below: Obel's rendition of "Katie Cruel," an American folk song of Scottish origin. The recording comes from her first album, Philharmonics (2010).

Above: a cover of Destiny Child's "Say My Name" performed by Icelandic pianist/composer Ólafur Arnalds at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow -- accompanied by Arnór Dan and Douglas Dare (vocals), Björk Óskarsdóttir (violin), and Hallgrímur Jensson (cello).

Below: a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River," performed by fellow Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan. The song appeared on Mitchell's Blue in 1971, and on McLachlan's Wintersong in 2006.

Illustration by Gill Smith

The art today is by Gill Smith, a wonderful artist from Liverpool, currently working on her Masters in Children's Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. The two pieces here are from her forthcoming book The Wilful Thing, inspired by the life and work of Brontë.


On the cusp of winter solstice

Nattadon and Meldon Hills in winter

Contemplating winter solstice

The Nattadon path

Lines for Winter

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
Drawing by Arthur Rackhamwalking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

 - Mark Strand (from Selected Poems)

Trollsin Starlight by John Bauer

Pictures: The drawing is by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939); the painting is by John Bauer (1882-1918). Words: "Lines for Winter" is from New Selected Poems by Mark Strand (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007); all rights reserved by the author.