Now holding out my thanks

Just Now

In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever believe
simpler than I could have begun to find words for
not patient not even waiting no more hidden
than the air itself that became part of me for a while
with every breath and remained with me unnoticed
something that was here unnamed unknown in the days
and the nights not separate from them
not separate from them as they came and were gone
it must have been here neither early nor late then
by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks

“Just Now” by W. S. Merwin from Collected Poems. © The Library of America, 2013. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

Five things and three practices


At our Laity Lodge retreat I gave each of the speakers the same assignment:

What are FIVE things you wish you had been told when you first started off as an artist and what are THREE practices that keep you healthy and sane as an artist?

Here is how two of our speakers, Sandra Organ-Solis and Charlie Peacock, answered this double question. I’ll post Ginger Geyer’s answers in a subsequent post.


Five things I wish I had been told when I first started out as a ballet dancer:

1. That I would be misunderstood by both black and white communities.

2. That hard work will not always be rewarded; and concomitantly that diplomacy and cooperation are essential, that being a team player is non-negotiable.

3. That it would be incredibly important to learn how to take correction well.

4. That I should be prepared to reassess my artistic life and try other things along the way.

5. That losing dancers in your company (to other companies or other opportunities or “greener pastures”) would be heartbreaking, that it would be wounding.

Three practices that have kept my healthy and sane along the way:

1. Prayer and small group life (I’ve been in one for thirty years non-stop).

2. Taking a sabbath–daily ones, weekly ones, monthly ones.

3. Exposing myself to other pursuits and interests outside of my artistic work.

Finally, Sandra involved specific “movements” with each of her five points and at the end invited us to move with her. Here is a small video of that experiment and I’ll be surprised if I’m not sued or de-friended on Facebook by the people who show up in this video. But hey. It was an experiment. You guys look awesome. And there’s something to be said for dancing like there’s no tomorrow. And, yes, the dance makes better sense in its original context.


Five things I wish I had been told when I first started out as a musician:

1. That all of life is grace. That there is nothing that I could do to make God love me more. To the extent that I have not appreciated grace, any instance of it becomes creativity and imagination killers.

2. That your senses, mind, imagination and body need to always be learning, absorbing, taking in.

3. That the word “Christian” would someday be associated in the entertainment industry more with a genre than with the person of Christ.

4. That there are many ways of knowing and being known.

5. That even among the best of people … financial success, awards, consistent presence in the media, and work with recognizable brands and names means more than a quiet faithful life. Even the best of people, that is, give in to the temptation to desire the former over the latter.

Three practices that have kept my healthy and sane along the way:

1. God: having a conversational relationship with God.

2. People: hearing my wife regularly say to me when I’m in the thick of a music project, “You need to remember that there are more people in the world than just you and your artistic making.”

3. Place: learning, accepting and even embracing the way in which the places of my life have shaped me and continue to shape me rather than wishing to escape them.

Last question Charlie asks himself consistently: Who am I becoming while I’m doing all this making?

Finally, here are two videos from Charlie’s performance on the Friday evening of our retreat: one that includes music from his forthcoming album and one that involves an improv collaboration with Kenyon Adams on Charlie’s more famous song.

Delight at seeing the beauty

A total solar eclipse. Credit: Public domain via Pixabay.

.- As Americans prepare to view a total solar eclipse passing from Oregon to South Carolina, the director of the Vatican observatory has reflected on what the event can teach us about God and his creation.

An eclipse “reminds us of the immense beauty in the universe that occurs outside of our own petty set of concerns,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, told Time magazine. “It pulls us out of ourselves and makes us remember that we are part of a big and glorious and beautiful universe.”

Brother Guy is in Hopkinsville, Ky., 80 miles southwest of Owensboro, one of the places where the Aug. 21 total eclipse will last the longest.

The eclipse reflects that “God chose to make a universe that was rational, so that we could predict these eclipses with enormous precision,” he said.

In addition, it shows that God made creation beautiful: “it is not only that the eclipse occurs just when it is supposed to, but that, along with the delight that our calculations are right, there is the delight at seeing the beauty that comes, that we can experience, while we are underneath this eclipse.”