Thanksgiving, Squanto and Hope

How can you not like the story of the Pilgrims?  They came to America to find freedom, we remember.  Religious freedom.  They were “separatists,” believing that the True Church must separate itself from the corruptions of the world, in particular the Anglican church and its state-supported status as an established church.  They were known as “non-conformists,” as in non-conformity with

1911 depiction of Squanto teaching the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn.
1911 depiction of Squanto teaching the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn.

the state and with the book of Common Prayer as its guide.  As in, “Hey, one of us needs to watch for the sheriff.”

First they went to Holland, where there was greater religious freedom.  Amsterdam was a bit much for them, so next they went to Leiden.  All was going well until they realized their children were speaking fluent Dutch and fitting in a little TOO well.  They couldn’t go back to England—only jail and more trouble with the state awaited them.

So, after a lot of political and economic negotiation, they struck a deal to go to the New World.  They set sail with two ships, but one had to turn back.  Only the Mayflower made it.

During the trip there were divisions between the Pilgrims, who called themselves the Saints, and the others on the trip, designated “Strangers.”  The Mayflower Compact was struck just to keep harmony among the differing groups.

There was great illness on the ship—at least one died en route.  They left in September, went off course, and landed far off their destination—in November.  Cape Cod in November can be, well, brisk, to say the least. Continue reading Thanksgiving, Squanto and Hope

“Sixty is Just Alright”

It’s a good time to polish up friendships, love family, forgive, thank and bless.

So I turned sixty, and for some reason the people around me celebrated for a week.  I know with Ebola, the Ukraine, ISIS  and Israel causing the end-of-the-worlders to crank out their book my firthday isn’t a big deal globally, but it has been to me.

Sixty
Sixty is alright for sure.

Over the last five years I have laid to rest a close friend, a father-in-law (who was a second father to me) and a mentor and colleague I have known for 21 years and was my predecessor.  The Shadow has been around lately.  I have grandchildren.  There is likely more life behind than before me years-wise.  You know—morbidity hangs around.  Joints ache a little more.

You’ve poured a lot of concrete by sixty.  Decisions, patterns, character, and events harden into tracks out of which it’s hard to escape.  On the other hand, those same tracks give a certain comfort and stability to life.  It’s hard to break them up.

The upside has surprised me, though.  A certain amount of “I just don’t care about that anymore.”  I don’t care very much at all what others think about what I think.  I don’t need to correct them all Continue reading “Sixty is Just Alright”

Thou Shalt Love Thy Bandmates

Anyway, riding in a van for a week turned us from “Friends

and Brothers” to angry inmates who couldn’t wait to bust out.

Fifteen Years.  That’s how long Shades Mountain Air has been together, at least the core of Greg and Nancy Womble, Gary Furr, and Don Wendorf.  We have spent a couple hours a week most of that fifteen years weekly at Greg and Nancy’s house, practicing, horsing around, composing, arranging, learning and growing from one another.  We’ve only had one personnel change in all that time–Don’s son, Paul, our outstanding fiddle player, left us to move on with wife, kids, career, to Texas, and so, we were four again for a while, then found Melanie Rodgers.  Mel has added dynamic new joy to our sound, and is now a part of our 15th Anniversary Live Album that is now available.     (Go to the website store for our new CD click here!)

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Shades Mountain Air at Moonlight, 2013

The album sounds great!  We hired Fred Miller of Knodding Off Music to record and engineer our live concert.  Fred did a fantastic job and we are so happy with the result.  He captured our live sound and energy.  It sounds like us!  There is NOTHING like live music, and though it’s fun to be in a studio and monkey around with something until you get it “perfect”, there is a corresponding loss of that spark that performers-audience and a venue provide.  We did it at our favorite gig–Moonlight On the Mountain in Bluff Park in Hoover, Alabama, with Keith Harrelson, as always, handling lights and sound.

I say all this because Shades Mountain Air is more than a band.  We have become family together.  We love playing together, singing, creating, whether anyone is listening or not.  Greg and Nancy’s kids grew up having to hear us every week in their house. We have been through life crises, griefs, and changes Continue reading Thou Shalt Love Thy Bandmates

Thanksgiving

Anne Lamott has written a new book called Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential PrayersI This represents a

Anne Lamott’s new book

considerable development in her theology of prayer, because she said in an earlier work that there were really only two variations of prayer–“Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” so I look forward this expanded theology!   I haven’t read it yet–I will–but “wow” seems fitting.  I believe part of the artistic vision is to tromp around in those parts of reality that hunger from neglect by politicians (a finishing school for becoming a world class dullard if you aren’t careful), scientists, economists, the military and cynics.

You would think the realm of artists and mystics (really, they overlap), would be tiny and easily mapped, but you would be wrong.  In this week devoted to giving thanks, counting blessings and generally being glad that we aren’t as bad off as someone else, it might do well to visit this realm.  It is where beauty, mystery and wonder abide.  The ancient Hebrews would be astounded by us, who surround ourselves with astonishing things and spend little time considering them.

So, I would add to the litany of Thanksgiving an apology for wonder.  Thankfulness assumes an enlarged view of life.  How mundane if all we were to call thankfulness consisted only of a listing of possessions and good fortune!  The ocean belongs to no one, yet who can forget the first time they saw it?  The excitement of a small child in a car, eagerly waiting to arrive at the beach, smelling the warm salt air long before arriving, driving along the beachfront road trying to peek between the houses and condos, the incomprehensible moment when at last the child stands and tries to take in a lake with no shoreline; that is a morsel of wonder.

Here are some others:

  •      the first day in a long time without the pain
  •      a time of laughter after weeks of draining grief
  •      The mystical fellowship of fellow worriers in a hospital waiting room
  •      The never-boring ritual of watching children, then grandchildren discover life
  •      Mountains, rivers and deserts, or the blades of grass in our backyards
  •      The good ache of sore muscles at the end of a hard day’s work now finished
  •      Rich memories of people and places and happy times, available at will whenever I call
  •      The deep silence of the universe, signifying not emptiness but a different kind of fullness from the noise and       clatter of my everyday life–wherein a prayerful heart can trace the embedded pathways of God.

So, “Thanks be to God, ” not just for the relative prosperity that gives me a better chance to survive than someone in the Third World.  All around are unburied treasures, opportunities to grow and see and touch and live.  We are loved, we are blessed, we are alive if we so choose to be.  Thanks, indeed, be to God!   We have plenty of those reasons that the dullard realms of money, power and dominance recite to us, but my prayer is to discover and give the thanks goes beyond and that flows our from deep joy.  Strangely, it doesn’t usually cost any more than a little time, the right attention and a bit of slowing down.  Oh, and a dash of being present!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and readers, even if you are not in the US for our holiday.  Thanksgiving wonder knows no calendar or border.

Those Two Little Words

There are two little magic words that can open any door with ease

one little word is “Thanks” and the other little word is please

Since we now have a thirteen month old GC (I’ll just abbrieviate “Grandchild” so I can resist declining into obnoxia braggadocci , which can be fatal to the hearer), I travel more than I normally do.  And I am having to watch all sorts of media and sing songs that were long forgotten.  My wife’s fav is “A helper I will be, a helper I will be, stop what you’re doing and clean up nice-ly” to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”.  We have a luscious video of our GC slinging toys down as fast as her Mom can pick them up while Mom sings (in vain) “A helper I will be…” Continue reading Those Two Little Words