Home | A Story of Return 

“We carry each of us an urn of native soil…sweet enough to find the smell of home.” — Malcolm Cowley, “The Urn”

Believe it or not, the song that provides the storyline for this video was inspired by a 1969 Harmony ukulele, my own uke as a kid. I wrote about it in a post three years ago called “Welcome Home, Cowboy Bob.” In some ways, this post should actually be titled “Cowboy Bob: The Sequel,” because like the original story, this one, too, explores the theme of leaving and returning, of what we choose to hold on to and what we choose to leave behind, and how our perception of which should be which can change over time.

Quotes in the video, in order of appearance, by: Malcolm Cowley, Joan Didion, e.e. cummings, Herte Müller

Winter Reprise

“Weather kept them humble.” — Annie Proulx

Last Sunday, we had blue skies and bright sunshine that hinted at spring; by Tuesday, a snowfall. Though it was short-lived, for the better half of the day it appeared as if we’d gone back in time to December. I suppose that never knowing what to expect can make even the mighty feel humble.

This winter, none know this better than the residents of the U.S. East Coast who’ve gotten wave after wave of the kind of snowfall for which we’re better known here in Minnesota, the kind for which you need a yard-stick, not a ruler.

Putting on five layers of warm clothing (I’ve never been known to love the cold), I trekked in to the marsh near my home to catch the snowflakes on video, figuring this might (wishful thinking, perhaps) be their final appearance here for this season.

“…winter, on its knees, observes everything with reverent attention.” ― Anna Akhmatova


CREDITS: Music in the video is “Por Rosa” by Peter Walker, from a live performance in the studio of WFMU, made available in the creative commons through the freemusicarchive. Field recording during closing credits by Peter Caeldries is “January Sleet” shared via freesound.org. Filmed in the marsh behind The Marsh, Minnetonka MN.

In the winter of 1863, my great, great, great, great grandfather, David Mathews, left home to serve in the Civil War. He was 36 years old, not a wealthy man, and regretted having to leave his wife, children, and extended family as he felt his greatest responsibility was providing for them in the lean times the war had brought.

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“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” — Hal Borland

Sitting on my front stoop in the early spring of 2009, I was playing my guitar on the first warm, sunny day of the season. Named “Little Girl,” my guitar is a far better instrument than I deserve. I had been sad when I discovered she had developed a long, narrow crack during the cold, dry months of winter, and I felt pretty negligent in tending to her properly. Read More

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