Posts Tagged ‘Sting’

Soul Cakes

Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If the barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we’ll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.

Soul Cakes, Traditional British Folksong

Going to just play a tune this morning that is a bit seasonal. It’s a performance of Soul Cakes from Sting at Durham Cathedral from 2009. He also included the song on his If On a Winter’s Night album. 

The song itself comes from England in the early 1800’s, if not earlier. It was one of the souling or begging songs that were sung by the soulers— usually children or the poor– who went from door to door on Allhallowtide and Christmastide— Halloween and Christmas as we know them– offering songs and prayers for the givers’ departed family members and the givers themselves. In exchange, they were often rewarded with soul cakes which were often spice cookies with raisins or currants. Though the practice had pagan roots, the cakes were sometimes blessed by parish priests.

It’s a practice, much like mumming, that still exists in corners of the world. A little connection to our near distant past.

This is a really fine performance of the traditional song from Sting. Hope you’ll enjoy. Have a good day and if you hear me singing outside your door, you better have a cookie ready for me!

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I am going to be hopeful this morning. But first, let me make share one short analogy about the current situation. After looking at the charts that show the projected curves for this pandemic, I see that most show us not reaching our peak infection rate until sometime in June or July.

That means we are still in the opening phase of this whole episode. It’s unfolding, not like 9/11 where within hours our world was shocked and forever altered, but in slow motion. We are left to wait and for those among us who are young and feel healthy, or just feel young and healthy, the idea of having to put these lives on hold seems ludicrous in the face of what seems a like crawling threat. Why shouldn’t we go out to the bars and restaurants? Why should we do anything differently?

Here’s the analogy: It’s like the hours before a tsunami, when the ocean waters begin to recede to gather further off shore. Those on shore who recognize the danger that’s ahead react. They begin to move away from the shore toward higher ground. But those who are sitting in the oceanside cafes sipping drinks with umbrellas and chunks of pineapple in them, seem not to notice.

They see the waters pulling back and they think that the sea is simply calm today. They can’t understand why those people are running away from the shore. They ask their waiter, who is heading out the door himself to run inland, what the problem is, why is everyone reacting this way? The waiter says that the tsunami is coming and they should move.

Some will move. Others, will after a bit grudgingly and slowly move inland. But others will say that this is ridiculous. The water is fine, the sun is shining bright, my drink is tasty, and I am young and healthy. What could possibly happen? You others are just crazy.

But the waters are coming back. Lots of water. It’s not a matter of if but when and how many of us get swept away. Maybe it won’t be as large a tsunami as we fear. Maybe. But to stand on the shore in ignorant defiance simply because you can’t yet see its approach is a fool’s gambit.

Alright. That was a little longer analogy than planned but hey, what else do I have to do?

here’s the hopeful part. Ten or twelve or fourteen days ago, I was putting out some sunflowers seeds for the birds that feed outside our house. I tossed a handful and realized I had almost pelted a small goldfinch that was standing on the ground only a few feet away. This was unusual as most birds retreat to the surrounding trees until I am done. But his little guy, its drab yellowish coat telling me it was a female though it could be a nonbreeding male, just stood its ground. I spoke to her for a moment and she stayed put, pecking at the seed that surrounded her. Looking closer, I could see that something was amiss with one of her wings.

We watched her from the window for quite a while and she couldn’t fly. She hopped well and kept feeding throughout the day, staying in place even though all the other goldfinches had flown away for the day. The next morning I located her in the woods just behind the feeder resting in a small dip in the snow. I went towards her and she stayed in place, not trying to fly away so I left a little seed just a foot or so from her.

I thought that she surely couldn’t last long sitting in the snow with a broken wing. But we decided to give her a little time. Late that day she was back around the feeder hopping a bit and pecking at seed. Still no sign of being able to fly at all.

The next day she was gone. We kept looking and couldn’t locate her. Perhaps she had been swooped up by a hawk or owl or some other nocturnal predator. A fox? We just hoped that she was safe.

But  a few days passed and as I was putting out seed one morning, I almost threw seed on a goldfinch in another feeding spot across the yard. But his finch lifted up and haltingly flew away, bobbing up and down as its injured wing tried furiously to lift it. I went inside and we watched  her for a while. It was our goldfinch. She was able to fly just enough to get up into the trees and onto the feeder where she would sit for hours at a time., eating seed every so often and basking in the sun.

She’s here every day now. Her flight is still limited but it’s better and he moves with confidence. She stays on a nearby limb when we are putting out seed. I smiled like a fool the other day when she retreated from me and flew awkwardly  but competently high up into the white pines, some 50 or 60 foot above me. I think she knows she’s safe and has a pretty good gig even with her little wing.

That’s my little bit of hopefulness. Here’s Jimi Hendrix and his classic Little Wing. It’s surprisingly hard to find an original version online so if the Amazon Music box doesn’t appear I have included a version from Sting that I also like. It ain’t Jimi but there times when you have to make do with what you have, right?

Have a good day and be hopeful. And be careful.



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Thought for this Sunday I’d share a painting from my upcoming solo show, The Rising, which opens July 13 at the West End Gallery.

I think this piece, a 24″ by 24″ canvas titled Never Alone, represents the theme of this show very well. The rising moon and the angular, colorful  shapes of the light of the sky creates an almost cathedral-like presence. The two Red Roof houses may be separated physically– and perhaps these days idealistically– yet they seem connected by that which is rising above them.

I’ve lived with this painting for a few months now here in the studio and it never ceases to give me pause when my eyes fall on it. I find great tranquility and comfort in it.

The song for this Sunday’s musical selection is fittingly a version of The Rising, the song written by Bruce Springsteen in the aftermath of 9/11. The lyrics describe the thoughts of a firefighter as he ascends one of the towers after being hit by a jetliner.

Can’t see nothing in front of me
Can’t see nothing coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

It progresses to depict the darkness that descends upon him and his subsequent resurrection in spirit with a chorus that is triumphant rather than grim. It is a grand portrayal of the selflessly heroic.

In the years since, it has become more symbolic and uplifting as it celebrates a rising of virtue to overcome impending darkness. It’s a song that definitely is right for the time and one that played a large part in my choice of title for this show. I can see it in the painting above.

This version is performed by Sting from the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors. Give a listen and have a great Sunday.

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GC Myers- Island of Souls  Called Island of Souls, this painting, 16″ by 26″ on paper, uses the isolation of an island as its central theme.  I am not sure if my photography on this particular piece accurately captures the true color and feel of this piece so I may have to re-shoot this.  But this image does get most of what is important so I will get on with it.

The idea of an island has always intrigued me.  I think it comes from the paradox of perception that comes with them.  The isolation offers escape and safe haven from the outer world on one hand but at the same time has a sense of captivity and limitation on the other.  As an artist my working life is spent on such an island, either safely ensconced in the quiet safety of my studio or trapped in a self-made prison, depending on your viewpoint.

A lot of artists have trouble with this isolation but for me it has always been preferable.  I always think of  the film Papillon where inmate Louis Dega, played by Dustin Hoffman, finally accepts and adapts to his fate on Devil’s Island, the penal colony off the coast of French Guiana.  He eventually lives in a little hut away from the others and lives a quiet and simple life until the end of his life there.  I have always thought that , outside it being forced upon him as punishment, it was an existence to which  many  people might aspire, living on a tropical island with little to worry about from the outside world.

Maybe that’s what I see here.  I suppose it could be seen as some sort of a prison with the cluster of huts on a rocky island with a dock and no visible boat.  I tend to see it in more aspirational terms, as a place of peace with a sense of tranquility in the colors of this piece that complements this reading of this picture for me.

One man’s penal colony is another man’s paradise.

Here’s a song of the same name from Sting.  It’s from his 1991 album The Soul Cages and uses the island as a dreamed of place of escape for the boat builders of Newcastle as they toil over the great ships that they will never sail on.

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