Author Archives: eucharisto

October

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood,
Touch of manner, hint of mood,
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry,
Of bugles going by,
And my lonely spirit thrills,
To see the frosty asters like smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame,
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

Bliss Carman

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Filed under Nature, Poetry

Small graces

These are the small graces,
The little moments when the miracles come…

I always loved the Bob Bennett song, Small Graces. I hear it as a philosophy of life; the choice to collect pennies and crimson leaves and birdsong like treasure. I suppose if I were to look at the world like that, I would find myself a wealthy woman. But that would only happen if I actually saw all those little jewels, which, being an intuitive with my head solidly in the clouds, I usually don’t. So I’ve decided to make this my day of reclamation; the day of small graces. I think it’s because I’ve discovered quite a few of late, little kindnesses that make life surprisingly good. I always find myself astonished (though I know I shouldn’t be) by the way God arranges details so graciously, but it makes life worth the living. So here, cupped in the hands of my thought, are the tiny jewels of grace I’ve recently found:

1. Friendly people. Imagine that. I’m just beginning to volunteer with the discipleship program my church runs for kids in highschool and I walked into the orientation meeting last night all geared up for another evening of trying very hard to make friends. But I didn’t have to try. On girl just took me under her wing, we chatted, laughed, she introduced me to a bunch of her gals and we went to the service together. I met guys, girls, leaders, all friendly, all outreaching. And I know its silly but its a huge grace to me. I have tried to so hard to find community and have so often failed, that their smiles and easy conversation last night were as good as God hugging me. Sometimes, I really do think simple friendliness equals godliness.

2. Autumn Catalogues. I get in a nesting mood come October. It’s when I like to pile catalogues with really good books and wares and homey sort of things by my chair and page through in ridiculous leisure. Right now I have Eerdman’s Fall Catalogue, The Victorian Trading Company, and The Vermont Country Store autumn edition in the basket by my chair. Let the daydreams begin.

3. Honeycrisp Apples. Have you tried one? Crisp. Sweet. And bright red. Everything an apple is supposed to be. They’re my favorite and I’ve got a bowl of them sitting on my windowsill.

4.  A Book for Writers. It is a rare thing indeed for a book to make me laugh so hard that I nearly snort over my salad in a restaurant. Being rather introverted by nature, this is a rare occurrence but the way this author captures the quirks and insanities of writers was so hysterically funny I couldn’t help myself. If you read, be forewarned, there’s a bit of language and more mature themes, but I find the healthy self-deprecation and rare humor so comforting. I don’t feel quite so strange anymore. And boy does that book make me giggle.

5. Cool air. A simple thing, I know, but this means I can walk any time in the day I please and not sweat. I hate being hot. But I love being out in the gold of sunlight and turning aspen trees. And somehow, I feel as if I can smell the trees when the air is chill, it makes a sort of incense.

6. Wikimedia Commons. Have you visited? I don’t know if this will be as cool to anyone else, but I love the vast, unending hoard of copyright free art. I can post it anytime I want! And it’s such a fun place to explore. Take for example, the picture under my art widget today. Is it not bewitchingly cute?

7. Caramel Macchiatoes and Chai Tea from various coffee shops. I get a lot more writing done with one of those steaming spicy inspiration under my nose. There really is at least one secret trick to writing well: hot drinks.

I could go on, but I’d better stop. Another, rather larger grace of late in my life is the chance to propose five, yes five (I know, I’m crazy) books to a publisher here in town. Considering I have about three more chapters to write by next Wednesday, I’d better get cracking. But I had to pay my tribute to the little bits of grace like melody in my life. Autumn seems like the season for it somehow. So for now, grace to you my friends!

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Filed under Books, Contemplations

An ode to ocean waves…

Well, at least a half-poetic tribute. There is something stark and frightening to me in the ocean, in the pounding grasp of dark water, in the crash of surf as it climbs the sand. I stood on the edge of a sunset shore two nights ago and turned my face  to watch the sun fall into the sea and die in a splendor of gold. The water rippled in deep waves for endless miles, its surface bright with the satin blue of evening sky. Far off the sun sank deep into the waves, a golden orb of light that crested the blue water with a lace made of golden light. Beneath my feet, the wet sand caught the sunset light, held the orange and gold, the fading crimson and purple shadows so that the whole shore was an Impressionist painting of color and blended light. I sat on the edge of it all, heard the crash of water, smelled the tang of salt, felt the grit of sand, tasted the night-cool air and knew that kindling of soul that always tells me I’m in the middle of a mystery. For there I was, my daily bit of self, and there was my world, a crashing symphony of color, of woven light, of music woven of wind and wave.

I often wonder, in the modern, concrete and asphalt grid of our modern lives if we miss that rare knowing. Paul said we are without excuse of God’s knowledge, because He is known in all that he has made. And yet, if we grow farther and farther from His making, how can we be aware of His soul, brooding in the wind and jeweled light of sunset? The waves have made me wonder…

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Ocean day

Well, I have a long weaving of thoughts about oceans and God’s love to tap out at some point, but today is the last day out in sunny CA so we’re off to a little breakfast cafe in Laguna Beach for some writing. We had a day of rest yesterday, a day of quiet and it was a gift. I will write more soon, but for now, hello and have a lovely, sunny autumn day!

A sunny bit of a quote from my much admired G.K. Chesterton:

If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God. 

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Evening Thoughts

I write you from a hilltop house high above Newport Beach in California. Mom and I hiked up to the top of the neighborhood this evening and saw the city lights for miles and the stars above them. The day began cloudy; we flew into a sea of grey in the sky and down below. But the stars bode well for the weekend. I’m here with Mom for a day of speaking on books, several days of writing and occasional meanders down the shore. It should be good. Here’s a bit of a poem I scratched out the other day to get the inspiration flowing:

It’s a getting up
A keeping on
The singing of an endless song
A turning round until you’re right again.
A setting to,
A journey on,
The dance to an eternal song,
A crazy tune that never seems to end.

It’s the high road up to heaven
And it just keeps windin’ round,
Up to laughter, down to sorrow,
Through the nights and new tomorrows
And though I’m breathless, still it seems that I am bound,
To journey on.

Life feels like that sometimes! (Especially when, like me, you act like a gypsy from days of old.) Come October fourth, I’m home for good. Or at least a month. But meanwhile I intend to keep up the crazy song and sing my heart away to this endless dance of a life. Here’s wishes for music to you all too. Keep up that crazy dance!

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Filed under Poetry, Quotes

Celtic Music

Since several of you asked… I thought I’d post my favorite Celtic albums (go on, twist my arm). There is just something about Celtic music; soulful, keening, mournful, glad, and sometimes all at once! Here are my favorites with further details:

Celtic Visions (Instrumental, Artist: John Mock, Green Hill Music) – My first Celtic CD. Traditional Irish melodies put to symphony. Just the sound of the first strains can send me into a contemplative mood.

Celtic Portraits (Instrumental, Artist: John Mock, Green Hill Music) The second in the series, also full of traditional and a couple of original melodies in symphony arrangement. There is an added drama, an extra flavor of depth to this one. I first heard it while driving up into the Rockies, so maybe that influenced my perception.

Celtic Highlands (Instrumental, Green Hill Music) The Scottish flavored final CD in the trio. Mournful bagpipes, penny whistle, toe tapping, buoyant while yet quite mournful. Sounds like Scottish history in song if you ask me.

Celtic Fantasies (Instrumental, Artist: David Davidson, Green Hill Music) The violin on this album is breathtaking, it seems to weave a small world of melodic enchantment. Every piece is arranged around the violin as this album was done by David Davidson, one of the best violinists in the music business. We heard him in Nashville, no words to describe it.

Celtic Crossings (Instrumental, Artist/Guitarist: William Coulter) I bought this on a whim with some Christmas money and love it more every time I hear it. William Coulter is an acoustic guitarist and all his albums are done on acoustic instruments with fellow musicians. There is a real hearthside flavor to the music, as if you were present watching bards play around a fire. I love finding good, acoustic collections like this

The World Turned Upside Down (Instrumental, Artist/Guitarist: William Coulter) Ditto to the above; this one is not quite so Celtic in its roots, but so beloved in my house, I had to include it.

Celtic Christmas Spirit (Voice/Instrumental, Artist: Caroline Peyton) Caroline Peyton voiced some of the princesses in a couple of Disney movies (I think) and she has a lovely Celtic sound. The songs (not at all Disney) are traditional Celtic tunes that she selected and often sings in Gaelic.

The Visit (Voice/Instrumental, Artist: Loreena McKennit) Loreena is one of my favorite artists in the world. (I’m seeing her in concert next week!) She has a gift for music I think, and travels all over the world setting her albums in the musical flavor and history of certain regions. This is the one she did after spending extensive time in the UK.

Elemental (Voice/Instrumental, Artist: Loreena McKennit) The first album Loreena did; all traditional Irish ballads and folksongs with her own haunting arrangements.

Whisper to the Wild Water (Voice, Artist: Maire Brennan) Maire, (pronounced Moya) is one of a large Irish family of Gaelic-speaking musicians. She is well known for being a member of the Irish group Clannad, but has begun her own career in which she combines her beautiful Celtic music, sung often in Gaelic, with the love of her Christian faith.

The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (Voice, Artist: Kate Rusby) I just discovered Kate Rusby, an acoustic musician and vocalist from the UK. She takes traditional old folk songs and ballads and sings them to her own mellow arrangements. I listened to her all through the Lake District and felt right at home. Her voice is so warm and earthy, her music so natural, it is a comfort to listen as well as delight.

All right. That ought to do for now. I could go on you know. Hope that begins some Celtic inspiration for you all, and if you know of some outstanding ones I’m missing, please post! I’m always on a quest for Irish music old and new.

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Soundtracks to life

If there is one thing about this technological age that I love with shameless abandon, it is the presence of music in my mundanest moments. There’s an awful lot of gladness to be gotten out of cleaning if you do it while waltzing to Josh Groban’s So She Dances. There’s a secret abandon to be had in twirling round to a lively fiddle on an early morning walk when the neighbors are still asleep. And road trips with music, well sometimes the sky and song seem to meet and make a dance all their own. Music has long been my companion and writing muse. I love all sorts, especially Celtic.

But a few albums have grown to be soundtracks to my life. Their songs are so vivid a part of certain days in my life that to hear them is to live the loves and griefs of those days again. They are companions, and often, teachers that have walked with me through doubt, through moves, through uncertain days. Their melody and poetry were a faithful rhythm to ground me, to keep me strong throughout the different dramas through which I walked. So I thought I’d recommend a couple, just for fun. It’s always delightful to find a new artist, discover a new trove of music. So here are some of mine, and if you have any yourselves, well, let me know!

Fernando Ortega’s Storm is one of the real soundtracks to my life. I first discovered this particular album with my friend Gwen. We listened to him in the autumn, driving down old dirt roads lined with changing leaves and played our favorite bits (the guitar solo in Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent) over and over again. I rediscovered this album last year on my trip up to PEI and the message of his songs, the woven themes of God as Savior, Redeemer, present in our days, tender toward our yearning, came strongly to me. I would set my prayer book open on the passenger seat, turn on the music and pray. Those long hours of music mixed with autumn hills brought about a renovation of faith in me when I was struggling to live close to God. I still get slightly teary at the song Sing to Jesus; so simple, so poignantly true.

Celtic Visions was the first celtic CD I got, given to me by my brother Nathan on my fifteenth birthday. It’s probably still my favorite. It’s one in a series of three collections of traditional Irish melodies in symphony arrangement. This is my afternoon in the mist with candles and a good book sort of music. I put it on, sit down with my tea and feel mysterious and happy and wistful all at once.

And then, of course, Rich Mullins. I still get sad that I can’t have a talk with him face to face. His music has companioned more phases in my life and probably taught me more than almost anything I can think of. I first heard Songs when I was thirteen, on a winter foray into the southern Colorado mountains. My entire family belted out Sing Your Praise and Awesome God all the way up those narrow, snowy passes. But we all got quiet when Calling Out Your Name came on. We still do. As I grew up, I discovered his other music, especially the Liturgy, Legacy and Ragamuffin Band album. The Color Green is one of my life songs.

And lastly, for now, an album I’ve just discovered in the past year: the soundtrack to The Village. A lovelier, more yearning violin you’ll never hear. It mesmerizes me.

So there you are. Autumn is a good time for music; it’s a pleasure to find a song to heighten the passion of crimson leaves and bring out the mystery in the brooding of a good storm. The first snow is supposedly rolling in over the mountains and I’m away to light the candles and start the music singing…

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