A Prayer for Musicians and Artists

Autumn in the Ozarks is an exercise in deciphering metaphors. Colors shift, and every tree seems a personification of a different truth. The modesty of the lady maples wanes, green giving way to a more inviting rouge. She mixes her wine for the mighty oak, who's yellowing foliage is not a thing of cowardice, but rather of rarity. Neither saffron nor citrine are native to these hills; the autumnal oak is our gem.

The rivers overflow these days, saturated by the fall rains that wash through the region. The white bass have long-since made their run through the spawning grounds and have returned to deeper waters. The fishermen have moved to deeper waters, too, allowing these banks a sort of reprieve, a Sabbath. The squirrels sense the deepening stillness, and work double-time to gather a winter's worth of acorns, walnuts, and Arkansas hazelnuts. One river's rest is another rodent's work, after all. They gather and gather under the eye of the bald eagle, who wonders whether a juvenile might make easy pickings for its young.

Maybe it's a bold statement, but [tweetherder]autumn seems an evidence of the thinness of the veil between heaven and earth.[/tweetherder] The colorful metaphors show a glory beyond the simple natural order. Here, glory turns and fills; here, it gathers and hunts. Here, it is.

This is my favorite season in the Ozarks. I see God everywhere in it.


Today's piece is inspired by the Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists from the Book of Common Prayer. It reads:

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  *Photo by Bhanu Tadinada, Creative Commons, via Flickr.



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Psalm #20 (Genesis)

From time to time I pen my own psalms. Follow the link for the entire corpus (such as it is). And too keep up to date with all of my writings, drop by my Facebook page and give it the old thumbs up. (Thanks!) Today's psalm was inspired in part by the artisans of Tuscany. In the same way, though, it was inspired by the artisans I've encountered in the Ozarks, the Appalachians, and the Mississippi Delta. Enjoy.


Psalm #20

These are imperfect metaphors: the wine-maker in the vineyard, tender with his grapes; the fromagère with aging cheese, gentle in the salty-washing of rind; the leather worker etching a name, shadows past the surface of tanned skin.

These are imperfect metaphors for times more tender, washings more gentle, and hides more etched with words eternal.

Creation creates; the work of hands echoes, "it is good."



*Enjoy a few photos of the artisans of Italy.



Luciana cultivates a vineyard and olive grove on the outskirts of Castelmuzio.


Sandra and her husband Ulysses (you read that correctly) operate a cheese farm on the road from Pienza.


Valerio Truffelli crafts amazing leather goods at Bottega Artigiana del Cuoio in Pienza.


Amber and Erika Morrison ran across this wonderful artist who'd set up shop near a small church in Pienza.

Ah, yes... This is Powerful Stuff.

It could have turned out different, I guess. Truth is, Amber and I almost called it quits twice in college. In fact, while we were engaged, we broke up for about fifteen minutes. I'd tell you the whys of that particular split, but it'd be too long, and boring, and probably a bit embarrassing. After a spell, I looked at Amber and said, "did we just break up?"

She looked at me. "Yes, I think so."

I thought for a moment, gathered my breath. "That's stupid. You want to get back together?"

We sat on the couch, laughed, and she said, "yes."

"That's good," I said. "I'm not sure what I'd do if you'd said no."

It took us a while to shake these wandering ways, the creeping notions that we might be better off alone. We carried wayward hearts into marriage, allowed them to be the devil on our shoulders, to threaten our vows, even. But the truth is powerful, and the truth is, all the wild horses in Montana couldn't drag us away from each other.

Ah yes, this is powerful stuff.

Last night, Preston Yancey commented a bit about his hope for a good love. I've been thinking about that, this being Valentine's Day and all. Good love doesn't come easy, and the process of becoming one is a painful refinement. I've never seen it play out any other way. But in that refinement, there's joy--faith and hope, too. (Not to mention children, and one day grandchildren, Lord willing.) And more than that, there's the working out of a grand metaphor.

But I'll leave that one for you to untangle.

Amber's away today, visiting her old stomping grounds to attend to some family business. I miss her something awful. I've abused this song lately, but if there's one thing our refining process has taught me, it's that the sun could fade, and... well... you know. Happy Valentine's, Amber!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYjC77nW51w]

If you have some time today, might I suggest that you read a good love story? I mean, a really good one? (And yes, I might be biased.) Visit Amber's "Love Songs," series

*For regular updates, follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page.


I've been playing with form, the shape of words.  Can we take language, put it together in ways that make mosaics?  And what if some of that language comes from others?  What if we paint in cento? Today I'm offering a bit of a concrete, cento, mosaic.  "Why all the poetry?" you ask.  Come back on Monday for an announcement of sorts, a project I'll be joining in the coming days.  But for now, would you take a gander at the Mosaic Post at Tweetspeak?  Would you consider writing your own found poem?  I did.  It goes something like this:

**This patwork-poem includes phrases from "Girl With 13 Necklaces" (Tania Runyun), "War in the Mind" (Lauryn Hill), "Dust Bowl iii" (Other Lives), and "Synchronicity" (The Police).

Give or Take the Hippies

At 30,000 feet Jimmy Ray of Prairie Grove spilled his Wranglers, chip-kickers, and conversation into the aisle. I was reading the July Harper's magazine. The cover read "Broken Heartland." Jimmy leaned across the aisle and introduced himself. Was I working on some kind of school project or something, he asked, and was that a liberal rag or a conservative one? I rattled the melting ice in my Delta cup, told him I'd long since quit the schooling business and I couldn't attest to Harper's politics, which both surprised and satisfied him. It's probably liberal, he said.

Jimmy tore the tin foil package of salted Delta peanuts and said that Harper's orghta visit an Arkansas cattle farm this year if they wanted to know something about being broke. The drought's been on, he said, and he with hay is king. Jimmy didn't have enough hay, so his wife kept reminding him that he was not a king.

Jimmy laughed self-deprecatingly.

Where you coming from, I asked. Portland, Or-eh-gone, he said. I ain't seen that much rain or that many hippies since Forest Gump; rains every day in up in Or-eh-gone. Then he said he'd kill himself if he had to live near all them Patchouli-wear'n, bicycle commute'n, rain drenched hippies. They just end up smelling like wet dogs. The irony, he said, was that he and his new angus calf would readily kill for a few weeks of rain in Prairie Grove.

Give or take the hippies.

He'd calved too early this year, right in the middle of the drought and the ribs of his youngest heifer were visible. She's flirting with starvation so they'd been bottle feeding her. If she makes it, Jimmy said they'd have to keep her as a pet. That'll be a sore loss, indeed. His face broke wide into the smile of a old-timey cattle salesman.

I'm nothing if not a softy at heart, he said.

I looked out the window and every square inch of grass was the color of Carhartt overalls. I thought of that song from Catholic school, the one wherein a singular spark gets a fire going. I imagined an apocalyptic inferno engulfing Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, then I whispered a prayer for John and his friends in Colorado.

That's when I saw it.

There was a road stretching northward across the great plains. Its straight spine split into a T, giving the allusion of two outstretched arms. Just above the T was a perfectly round cattle pond. Along the spine of the road were 8 chicken houses, four on either side. The ribs of this industrial skeletal sketching were rudimentary, but from 30,000 feet things seem much more clear.

The citizens of the heartland, we are dry. But we're still here. God as my witness.


Thanks for joining me in this experiment in dialogue. And, by-the-way, I linked out to John's place because he's been crushing it lately. Yes... there are more of us than you think.