Here we are...

Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

Songs of Travel

If you watched Downton Abbey this week you will have noted the scene featuring the famous Australian Dame of the opera, who sang to the assembled weekend guests after dinner on the Saturday night (whatever the last night of the weekend was).  The sidebar pathos of Lord Grantham's struggle to accept the gifted Dame as a dinner partner may have been the screenwriter's focus as this scene was crafted.  I was drawn into the wonder of such high after dinner entertainment.

Truth be told I would not have been so drawn in had we not been invited to a similar gathering at a friend's house, a gathering which took place last night.  But, there we were, in a lovely house, parlor cleared of clutter and filled with chairs, and all facing a grand piano and an impromptu stage.

The gathering was small, maybe fifteen folk; some friends, some relative strangers, and all with deep connections to the hostess.  There were two parts to the performance: a recital of an amazing cycle of songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Songs of Travel - piano and baritone solo, and then a solo performance by the pianist of Liszt's Sonata in B minor.

Both were done brilliantly, and I could go on and on about both for lots of reasons.  For the purposes of this post, however, I want to focus on the songs, as they evoked something deep and timely within me.

I am a romantic, and live in the fields and country lanes of my imagination, my past experience, and my present circumstance.  Most of the literature I consume is old, and thus redolent of country life imagery, country life as it was one hundred or more years ago.  I find these images more pleasing, and more stimulating of personal reflection.

(By the way, Mary and I took a walk in the woods yesterday....all snow melted of away, but the ground still quite frozen.  We went down a familiar logging/hunting track on the other side of our road, into the deep woods.  While out and about the only sound we heard was that of an enormous grader, a vintage town monster, which had once been discernibly yellow, which was attempting to smooth out the mud ruts of our thaw softened dirt road.  We, of course, are grateful to our town road crews.  They go out of their way to keep our back roads in good condition, and do so in all sorts of horrid weather.  Yet, there was a part of me which wondered at the effort.  The road is so soft right now that even by later in the day, when we went out to this evening of music, the ruts were mostly restored and ready to manhandle any and all comers.  It is a dirt road after all, and we do live in the country.  I don't begrudge the efforts of our town crews.  I did, however, heave a sigh as we made our way along what might otherwise have been a silent woods track.)

Back to Vaughan Williams.  (...who composed the music, basing the lyrics on a poetic cycle of the same name written by Robert Louis Stevenson.)

This cycle of songs is evocative of so much.  I was transported to the country footpaths and lanes Mary and I have walked in England and Scotland.  I was moved by the melancholy and metaphor of life as a journey down these lanes....and the omnipresence of love, uncertainty, beauty, repose and death.  I/we were all painfully aware that death had visited this particular home just weeks earlier; and here we were in the presence of a minstrel, listening to a song of a very particular journey.

I can't go for a walk in the woods or on a country road without halting from time to time, by a stone wall, near a grand old tree, or by some flowing water, to take in the sounds (excavators notwithstanding), sights, and smells.

Well, this is such a pause in the day.  Nothing tangible has been accomplished in this reflection, beyond the mindful pause in the day's progression.  It is raining right now.  The fan in the stove is turned down low (how I wish it were the crackle of aged firewood burning instead of propane), and the rabbit is his usual silent self.  It is quite a nice bit of music, actually.

Getting Out of your own Way

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