Thesis

On Friday, I officially turned in my thesis, the labor of love that has taken up much of my head and heart space during these eight months on the Eastern Shore. The piece is entitled "Reweaving: The humanizing virtues of music for the weary and unwoven." The photos below capture some of the key moments in the process of the writing: the Frio River at Laity Lodge, where I attended the retreat entitled "Artists as Caretakers of the Imagination" with Jamie Smith, David Taylor and Isaac Wardell... a lunch at the Academy with painter Mako Fujimura... the fellows and I taking a study break for our first spring dinner... the librewery where we wrestled with words during those final nights of writing...and finally, the finished product. I plan to craft several copies of this little volume and mail them as thanks to the many folks who contributed to my writing.

From the introduction... "The arts, among other forms of discourse, have a unique capacity to help us live well. In the essays that follow, personal narrative weaves through cultural exegesis, aesthetic philosophy and Judeo-Christian theology to make a case for the humanizing virtues of the arts. I am a poet and a folk singer. In order to imagine how these theories and ideals will take root and flourish in my own life, I have focused these essays on the humanizing virtues of music. I hope, though, that this book speaks to craftsmen of all kinds—to novelists and dancers, potters and painters, gardeners and chefs. I hope that it reminds artists of the weighty privilege of our work, and spurs us to be faithful to our craft and faithful to our audience. I hope that it also energizes our friends and neighbors to enable artists to do good work. For it is by this good work that we might be rewoven and made more truly human."

House Concert on the Eastern Shore

The view from the stage: last Saturday night proved to be one of my very favorite shows, hosted in a bay-front home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I spoke about the thesis project that I have just finished, entitled "Reweaving: The humanizing virtues of music for the weary and unwoven."

My thesis topic shows up in many of the songs that I have written this year, including my latest, "Look On Beauty." The lyrics are below.

Look On Beauty

     Look on beauty

     To undo me

     To unite my disparate parts

     To receive me

     And reweave me

     Knit my hands to head to heart

Are you shocked with gladness?

Are your cheeks soaked by surprise?

Somehow filled and emptied

at the same time?

Don't say a word; rest here awhile

Rest here awhile; rest here awhile

Happy shivers at the snow-blown

Purple winter sky

When the moon don't shine

But the haze is bright

Or have the ballet dancers

Spun you dizzy with delight?

See their sinews flash

O! The grace and might

Are you swept away and swallowed

In your sweetheart's eyes?

Well she loves you through and through

Loves all of you

     Look on Beauty

     To undo me

      To unite my disparate parts

     To receive me

     And reweave me

     Knit my hands to head to heart

     Knit my hands to head to heart.

Quiet

Here is a new song written and recorded in the Old Library at Osprey Point. It is a song for readers and writers on the days when they can neither absorb nor offer any more words. Fellows Lindsay Beck and Chris Barrow lent their voices for this recording.

“Quiet”  
January 24, 2013
 
She’s bound to a one-room library  
Too many lovely books to read
Still too many books untouched.
She longs for a quiet mind
The snow on the field is empty white  
And the wind whirring over it says, “Hush”
 
There is time for all of this  
There is time for rest
There is time for no words at all
There is room for emptiness
An ivory page and blank canvass
For it is not by words you stand or fall.
 
Quiet
 
But she wants to be smarter  
And to be faithful daughter
To a father who’s a poet and a saint
To be careful in craft
To make something that lasts  
A song for the seraph to sing
 
There is time for all of this  
Now is time for rest
Now is time for no words at all
There is room for emptiness
An ivory page and blank canvass
For it is not by words you stand or fall.
 
Quiet

Listening

Listening
 
When even the sound of my steps on the wood is too loud,
I pause on the pier to stand and still
The brush of my hair against my ear
And turn my head slowly 
Over each of my shoulders
To find the pose that quiets the wind.
Then, finally, the silence.
Then, the listening.
I can hear outside of myself
The swans on the water that hiccup and coo,
The rowdy goose commune, still far enough away to soothe,
The waves lapping upon the poles like a kitten sips her milk.
 
Only then, though it is the cold and dull of winter,
And every glance is a different gray, and my fingers are bitten,
And the hearth and the kettle are a long way off and still unlit,
When the raindrops fall
And tumble through my eyelashes like tears,
I can hold out my hands and say, 
“Thank you.”

One day every month, my friends at Windrush house set aside an entire day for silence and solitude. These are the friends with whom I learn and work and cook and play, day after day, with whom I love to talk and holler and sing. For these precious hours, though, we scatter around the property for a pause from all of the noise, holing up in private rooms (the quick ones find the fireplaces), and stretching out for long walks on our flat Maryland country roads. In this quiet, I am learning to listen.

Finally, when the sun sets over the water and we return to speaking and laughter and lectures and stacks of books, I can hear outside of myself. It is only when all of my own noise dulls, and I am quicker to listen than to speak, that I can rightly honor the mystery and surprise that I uncover in these friends and our coursework.

fellows helping fellows

I happen to live with eleven of the most interesting and talented people on the planet. I think so anyway. In November, photographers Skyler Fike and Lindsay Beck treated me to a shoot around our little farm town on the bay. All of the photos on my web page are theirs. Please stop by their sites and have a look at the rest of their work.

Lindsay Beck Photography