Honored that my friend Barbara McAfee agreed to help me with this greeting card project a few years ago. Her interpretation of the message of my song, “Where the Angels Live,” in this spoken word meditation (shared below) was a beautiful addition to the project and a gracious contribution on her part. She also helped me record the musical tracks for each of the three cards in the series, adding piano and harmonies that lifted my melodies and lyrics to their fullest. Deeply touched that she felt moved to write about our collaborative endeavor in this post.

If you’d like to read more about the greeting card project, and hear snippets of Barbara’s collaboration on other tracks in the series, visit: https://studio-lu.net/cards-by-studio-lu/

The photo above is from Glendalough, “Valley of the Two Lakes,” in Ireland where a sixth century monk named Kevin, Coemhghein in his native tongue, made his home. In this place, the legend of Kevin’s love for nature and animals was born— a legend that Irish poet Seamus Heaney borrowed over a thousand years later to craft a reflection on doing the right thing.

Why is it that the phrase “doing the right thing” often conjures thoughts of obligation, burden, or hardship, as if doing the right thing is always a huge undertaking and always synonymous with forgoing one’s own needs for the sake of others? Without a doubt, there are times that it is. The stories of heroic sacrifice are the ones that make headlines and go viral in social media.

But a few years ago, when I heard Irish poet Seamus Heaney introduce his poem “St. Kevin and The Blackbird,” I was touched by his description of the story as “a little meditation” on “doing the right thing for the reward of doing the right thing.” Read More

An American Elegy

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” — Albus Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Composer Frank Ticheli has said that his hope for “An American Elegy” is that it might serve as “one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.” Ticheli was commissioned to write the orchestral piece to remember those who died in the shooting at Columbine High School in April of 1999, and to honor the lives of those who survived.

One of my dearest friends, about whom I’ve written often, heard the music played by her son’s school orchestra and was moved beyond words by the power of it, the poetic strength coupled with such vulnerable emotional resonance. She tucked away the title just like she tucked away other other things that moved and inspired her, quotes from Emerson and St. Augustine among them. After she died from metastatic breast cancer, Ticheli’s piece was played at the beginning of her memorial service, an instruction she had left behind for her family. Whenever I hear the opening bars, the music never fails to take my breath for a moment, in goosebumps and tears, just like it did the first time I heard it at her service. Read More

Summer in the Marsh

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

What began as an impulse last fall to go into the marsh to photograph the graceful movement of the withering cattails turned into an eight month project that now spans four seasons. I have appreciated the beauty of this marsh for years, but until I started to pay closer attention, I didn’t realize how many of its nuances and changes through the seasons that I had been missing. And I am sure there are countless more I have yet to catch, even now. Read More

Peace in the Storm

“There is peace even in the storm.” — Vincent van Gogh

A summer hailstorm kicked up yesterday afternoon, coming on quickly and with unexpected ferocity. As the hail grew larger, it fell faster, battering everything it touched. I don’t know why, but as I watched the storm, the tragic shootings earlier this month at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston came to mind.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” —Mother Teresa

Read More

Spring Comes Slowly

‘Tis a month before the month of May, and the Spring comes slowly up this way. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Spring in the marsh is about patience and attention to details. While elsewhere, the crocus, daffodils, tulips, and crabapples are in colorful profusion, spring has a much more austere arrival in the marsh.

Over the last month, I made four treks into the same wetlands I filmed this past fall and winter. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the marsh, but have never paid as close attention to its chronology of changing seasons until I began this project. Looking for signs of new growth in early April felt like a needle-in-a-haystack search. I was sure that spring would mean the cattails would be bursting forth in green, or at least showing some bare signs of emerging from the ground anew. Silly me. Ironically, I found that this time of year, when everything is blooming outside the wetlands, the marsh cattails and grasses are actually more brittle and decayed than any other season I’ve witnessed yet.

I don’t know why I expected spring to burst forth from the center outwards, but I did. What I saw instead was that new growth seemed to be working its way in to the marsh from the fringes, from the treetops down and from the edges inward. Once again, Mother Nature showed me that what she can conjure up is far better than what I can imagine.

 Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored. ― Oscar Wilde

 

Filmed between April 12th and May 9th of this year in the marsh behind The Marsh health and wellness center in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Musical track, Hire Purchase [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0], written and performed by Irish guitarist, Cian Nugent, was made available through freemusicarchives.com. Sounds of marsh birds recorded by dobroide and nicStage and shared at freesound.org.

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.

Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay. — Robert Browning

When fall begins, I always feel a tremendous burst of energy. Doesn’t everyone? I give the credit largely to the crisp air and the red, orange and yellow of the trees. It is hard not to feel buzzed on life with so much color surrounding you.

As the season begins to wane, there is a quiet transition between autumn and winter, a small sliver of time when it is neither one nor the other. The colors are muted but no less inspiring. The energy of the season shifts into low gear. While winter sometimes feels to me like a forced respite, the brief resting place at the tail end of fall is a choice, a reward before the season changes. Read More

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