The Sound of Silence

This morning, I was tinkering with a partially written (but long ignored) post from a trip to Nashville  in 2017– wondering if it was worth reviving, completing, and posting.  Somewhere into this thought process, somewhere toward the bottom of a cup of coffee, as I was figuratively walking away from that post– leaving it once again in blog-post-purgatory– the universe began pelting me with spitballs, each one hitting me with a ping that whispered “Nashville.”  So, yes, that post will pop up some day.  But first, I bring you a little info of note– the spitball that hit me right in the eye/the delicious morsel of Nashville trivia that popped up, unbidden but perfectly timed, in my news feed this morning.

On this day in 1969, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded an album.  It was never released. 

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.  Recorded. An. Album.  Together. And it was never released.

How is this possible?  That’s like panning for gold and throwing back a shiny nugget.  Maybe the tracks weren’t up to snuff?  Maybe they just didn’t congeal together as an album and didn’t fit well with anything that came after?  Maybe people just forgot about them?  (Could a recording session with Dylan and Cash be so mundane that you just forget about the tracks it produces?)

According to an article from the website Open Culture, “On February 17 and 18, 1969, Cash and Dylan recorded more than a dozen duets. Only one of them, a version of Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” made it onto the album, Nashville Skyline. The others were never officially released, but have long been circulating as bootlegs.”  (You can access the article and a recording from Dylan and Cash here.)

So, there you go.  A random post, but too shiny a nugget to throw back.  Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded an album, and, if you are resourceful enough, you might be able to scare up a few tracks somewhere.  Cash and Dylan, and their rough around the edges but pure poetry music, is too good let lie in silence.

Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan

 

 

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Prague Winter

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A celebration of Prague:  my photo and Madeleine Albright’s words (from her book Prague Winter).

“On a hill in Prague there is a castle that has stood for a thousand years.  From its windows one can see a forest of gilded cupolas and baroque towers, slate roofs and sacred spires.  Visible too are the stone bridges spanning the broad and winding Vltava River as its waters flow northward at a leisurely pace.  Through the centuries, the beauty of Prague has been enriched by the labor of artisans from a plethora of nationalities and creeds; it is a Czech city with a variety of accents, at its best in spring when the fragrant blossoms of the lindens burst forth, the forsythia turns gold, and the skies seem an impossible blue.  The people, known for their diligence, resilience, and pragmatism, look forward each winter to when the days lengthen, the breezes soften, the trees regain their covering, and the river banks issue a silent summons to play.”   Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter.

 

The Return of Light: Candlemas

Happy Candlemas and Groundhog Day!

Travels and Tomes: One Expat's Amblings and Ramblings

Ripon Cathedral, Ripon, N. Yorkshire

Photo courtesy of @Riponcathedral twitter Photo courtesy of @Riponcathedral twitter

The winter-blooming snowdrops may be pushing up from the cold ground in England about now, and we are at the halfway point between the shortest day of the year and the March equinox.  Light is returning to the world, and slowly but surely we turn toward spring.

And the religious calendar turns also.  There are few places in the world where Candlemas is still celebrated on February 2nd– Americans are far likelier to think of today as Groundhog Day (same principle, though)– but the Ripon Cathedral is one of those glorious places where the holiday is remembered.  The cathedral is lit with thousands of candles, and candles only,  and a  processional service takes place in the evening.

Our first visit to a Candlemas service took place in 2005 or 2006.  Our children were very young, and we took them in…

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New Christmas Images

Re-blogging this from the wonderful Mark Sunderland, who takes amazing photos of Yorkshire. These Christmas photos feature my one-time home of Ripon and neighboring Harrogate. They put me in a festive mood! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Mark Sunderland Photography Blog

I’ve been out and about locally adding a few new Christmassy images , which may make an appearance in my 2020 range of calendars!

Montpellier Quarter in Harrogate at Dusk Christmas lights in the Montpellier Quarter at Harrogate

Montpellier Hill in Harrogate was looking particulatly pretty this year with white lights across the entrance to Montpellier Mews and Christmas trees in the shop windows.

Bettys in Harrogate at Dusk Red fairy lights in a tree at Bettys on Parliament Street in Harrogate

I prefer to shoot my Christmas images at dusk so that there’s a nice “blue hour” sky rather than later in the evening when the sky looks black.  The sky always looks lovely, but at this time of year dusk means around 4pm so it’s also very busy so it can be quite time consuming to get a few decent images!

Knaresborough Castle at Dusk Coloured lights on the King’s Tower at Knaresborough Castle

In Knaresborough this year the King’s ower at the…

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A Tale of Two Ebenezers

. . . And an Edinburgh Churchyard 1charlesdickens
“His name became an aphorism for meanness, but the base nature of Ebenezer Scrooge was inadvertently fashioned by failing light and an author whose eyesight was equally dim.”  The Scotsman, December 24, 2004

Ebenezer Scrooge– his story is synonymous with Christmas these days, his changed fate is the stuff of redemption stories (“Christ was born for this” to be sure), and his hauntings both thrill our narrative nerves and warn us of our own shortcomings.  Most of us roll our eyes when A Christmas Carol comes on TV for the umpteenth time in the wind up to Christmas, but it’s a tale well told and it probably deserves its stature as a holiday classic.

These days, Dickens is even recognized as a key “inventor” of our modern Christmas traditions.  He and his Victorian age put a certain stamp and feeling on the holiday that we still embrace: carolers, Christmas trees, gifts and goodies, and a St. Nick who was less complex and more “festive elf” than the saint of years past and countries east.  None of the traditions was new, but the packaging and cheer of it was differently polished and easily palatable.  The general rallying cry? “God bless us, every one!”

Charles Dickens had a well tuned sensibility about what made for a good tale.  But how funny would it be if this Christmas tale of his was founded on a misunderstanding? What if Ebenezer Scrooge was birthed by a mistake, a misplaced letter, and an imagination that barreled full speed ahead?

It’s said that Charles Dickens kept a diary.  And that diary kept a secret about A Christmas Carol, which was published in 1843.   While in Edinburgh in 1841, Dickens took a stroll through Canongate Churchyard (or Kirkyard, as the locals would say).  It was evening and the light was dimming.  He paused at the tombstone of an Ebenezer Scroggie (1792-1836) and mused at the inscription “A Mean Man.”  What horrible person had this Ebenezer been, that his epitaph would be so harsh?

Not only did Dickens note this in his diary, but clearly he puzzled it over to the point that Ebenezer Scrooge was born and fully fleshed out in a tale that would delve into that miserly past but offer a redemptive future, if only Scrooge would take it.  Poor, mean old Scroggie could finally be redeemed.

Except that, as the kirkyard tale goes, Scroggie wasn’t a mean man. In fact, by some reports he was quite the bon vivant.   Scroggie, who was a vintner and corn/grain merchant, was actualy a Meal Man.   Dickens needed better glasses.

You can’t verify this story, I’m afraid.  Scroggie’s grave marker was removed in 1932, during kirkyard redevelopment.  However, you can read more about Dickens and Scroggie here.

If you find yourself in Edinburgh, you can enjoy your own stroll through Canongate Kirk and Kirkyard. It’s quite a beautiful church on the Royal Mile, close to the Houses of Parliament and Holyrood Palace.  Back in September, I found myself strolling the Royal Mile and happened into the church.  It was a slow day, and a young docent was eager to bend my ear about the bright and beautiful space.  Interestingly, the space is especially bright and beautiful because of it’s sad past.

The church was built in 1690, with a Dutch gable to the façade.  It’s simple and elegant, and just a little different from everything around it in Edinburgh.

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The front façade of Canongate Kirk

The interior was to be refurbished in the late 1930’s, but WWII intervened and a war time of belt tightening and serious endeavors put that on hold temporarily.  In December of 1945 the work was started, and it was finished in 1952.  This is significant because, according to the docent, it changed the tone of the work done.  The parish, as the United Kingdom, had suffered and lost much during the war.  The number of young soldiers who did not return home was a wound that would be long in healing.  And so the decision was made that the interior space must be light and bright, must be cheerful and uplifting– a reminder that, though sorrow was heavy, the world was a beautiful place and this was a space for rejoicing as much as grieving.

Still today, the interior of the church uplifts.  To me, it has a nautical sensibility, at least in its coloring (though it’s possible that I’m influenced by the sea gull cries that are heard over the skies of Edinburgh– a constant subliminal reminder that you are in a port town nestled by the North Sea).

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If you find yourself in Edinburgh, it’s worth your time to take a peek into Canongate Kirk.  I guarantee that you won’t leave saying “Ba Humbug”!

A very merry Christmas and happy holiday season to you all! (And may God bless us, every one!)