Tag Archives: poetry

brim ep 1 out now

BRIM EP 1 Album ArtBRIM has released the first of what will be a series of recordings of River Project music, a limited edition of 250 signed CDs. It’s a four-song EP which you can get only while supplies last.

Order Online Now

01. I am really a very simple person
02. I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long
03. Wayfaring Stranger (live recording)
04. The Flood

Album Credits:

Eve Beglarian vocals, electronics, electric guitar, bass
Mary Rowell violin, electric violin, acoustic guitar

a day to Pittsburgh

Saturday, we headed out in the rain and cold towards Pittsburgh, stopping at Shanksville at the newly unveiled Flight 93 memorial, which is quite well-done: tasteful and thoughtful in that National Park-ish way. It might be strange to say this, but I found the absence of any information or images of the four hijackers to be a lost opportunity, somehow. I guess I really believe that seeing the bad guys, engaging with their craziness, is a way to guard against craziness in oneself or one’s culture. I mean, isn’t that at least part of why we read and watch movies about Hitler or mass murderers or whatever? I’m not sure how that could or should be done at this memorial, but in my opinion, erasing them completely from the picture is a sanitizing that minimizes the actual authentic heroism of the forty folks who brought down the plane in this lonely field.

We arrived at my friends’ Rick and Kate’s place in time for dinner, and I could help marveling at how different our pace was from that 20 to 40 miles per day I did going down the Mississippi in 2009. No wonder I got so interested in 19th century (and earlier) history, I was traveling at a pre-20th century pace! That’s super-obvious the moment I think of it, but I only realized it fully doing that quick drive on Saturday: nothing to it to drive from New York City to Pittsburgh, it’s only a few hundred miles!

It was great to catch up with Rick and Kate. Rick is a wonderful poet, you can check out his work here and here, and Kate is a passionate birder, and I was really gratified that she liked the movie of In and Out of the Game, that really means a lot to me.

sing it


As we were parking the car in town this morning, we ran into Nancy again, walking her Black-Lab-ish dog, Greta, (not kidding!) and we got to talking about parking and she told us that some residents of Wabasha complain about the parking, which had us sort of incredulous. And she told us that the way they solved it at the town meeting was that someone came up with an overlay of a standard Target store and its parking lot on the town map, which shows how the whole downtown of Wabasha is not as big as the parking lot of a Target store, and so therefore if you park anywhere in town you are within equivalent walking distance of any store in town as you are from the Target store in its parking lot. This clever argument seems to have worked; they didn’t build a parking structure downtown.

Mary Kay and I headed off to church to see the window, and wow, it really may be the best Tiffany window I’ve ever seen. The photograph doesn’t show how there’s cloudier and crisper glass that gives a really marvelous sense of distance and dimensionality to the image. And we nearly fell over when the lay reader read a sermon by none other than our beloved Father Barrie, how cool is that?! I guess Mary Kay and I made a bit of a scene when we heard his name, because after the service everyone came over to ask if we knew the author of the sermon, so we got to bask in a bit of reflected glory for a bit…thanks, Barrie!


Little House in the Big Woods is set in the woods near Pepin, which is just across the river from Wabasha. I had re-read the book yesterday for the first time since I was nine or whatever, curious as to what I’d find, especially after reading the New Yorker article about Rose and Laura Ingalls Wilder. We drove over to a wayside rest area that has a log cabin that purports to be a reconstruction. There was no cellar, the attic was a loft, and the spot is now surrounded by cornfields instead of big woods, so all in all I was not blown away by its historical veracity.

So we headed to early Sunday dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Pepin — actually, the most expensive meal we’ve had on the trip; not bad, but not exactly anything I needed — and I was really beginning to get a bit cranky. It began to feel like one of those endless Sundays Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in the book. I have always had a certain curious dread of 4 pm on a beautiful Sunday afternoon: like I might get stuck there in this enforced state of suspended merely attractive idleness and never get free. It’s occurred to me that perhaps I’m going to die on some future beautiful Sunday at 4 pm, and my aversion is a kind of odd prognostication. I would much prefer to die on a rainy Sunday. Or any other day of the week. I think Linda Norton knows exactly what I mean: see Landscaping for Privacy for evidence.

Anyway, we headed back over the river to our riverfront cafe headquarters with free internet and five bars of cell signal and three kinds of root beer to choose from, and I felt way better almost immediately, and then it was time to go to the gospel choir rehearsal Nancy had invited us to, so we drove back to Pepin to the high school, and walked in and there are what one woman described (not completely accurately, but pretty close) as “seventy-five white Norwegian Lutherans” singing serious old-school Black gospel, and I tell you, they are REALLY good. Not good-for-a-volunteer-choir good, really amazingly good. Tight, crisp, bright, beautiful, fierce singing. Absolutely committed. And hearing them sing “Let My People Go” brought tears to my eyes.

Music changes the world. For real.

touch beautiful places


It rained pretty seriously last night, and I woke up before six and set up in the convenient shelter Palisade’s town park offers its users and read some more of this really curious and interesting book, Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief, and a Native American Culture in Motion, by Michael D. McNally. I found it in the giftshop at Itasca State Park visitor center, next to all the tourist stuff – go figure! Anyway, the book is about what the Ojibwe people have made of the Protestant hymns taught them by Christian missionaries. The book’s claim is that a specifically Ojibwe method of singing these hymns — in unison, very slowly and solemnly, usually at wakes or funerals — came into being, and is quite separate from the ordinary hymn-singing that happened under the supervision of the missionaries on Sunday mornings in church.

Hymns were among the first texts that got translated from English into Ojibwe, starting sometime in the late 1820s, but because various concepts central to Christian theology (e.g. sin, salvation, grace) just simply aren’t directly translatable into Ojibwe, one can imagine that the Ojibwe texts are not terribly literal embodiments of Wesley and Watts.

Here, for example, is my favorite re-translation of the Ojibwe in the book. First, the original stanza, from Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (Isaac Watts), #510 in the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal, for those of you following along at home:

And shall we, Lord, for ever be
In this poor dying state?
Our love so faint, so cold to thee,
And thine to us so great?

And here is Larry Cloud Morgan’s re-translation of the 1910 Ojibwe version of the hymn.

As we are thinking,
As we sing,
Our prayers
Touch beautiful places in us.

The Ojibwe version may not have a whole lot to do with Isaac Watts, but it’s definitely taking me someplace I want to go!

charged again


kayaking day today on a real summer day — the river through this area was straightened by the loggers so it’s practically a canal, no trouble to find the channel. and on some turns you can see the Blandin Paper Company smokestacks ahead in Grand Rapids, sort of a weird and unexpected sight in this waterway that’s nearly completely empty of people. two powerboats passed me, heading up to the lakes, but other than that, my company is birds and insects, and no doubt lots of fish as well.

when the wind was with me, I would stop paddling and just feel the current and the wind easing me downstream. when it was against me, if I stopped paddling, I would end up at a complete stop in an excellent equilibrium of upstream wind and downstream current.

I’m getting comfortable enough with this kayaking business that I begin to be able to just ease into thinking in that nice, loose, relaxed way that I so enjoy on a long car trip, with the added pleasure of the mild physical exertion of paddling. I could definitely get used to this life! a good thing, since I’m going to be doing this for a while!

one of the things I was thinking about was the whitman poem, and corey and steve and yvan’s comments on it, which I really love. I’m thinking that perhaps by “charged with”, Whitman didn’t mean that contentment and triumph are demanded of him, but more that the energy of contentment and triumph fill him, like an electrical charge. I like thinking of contentment and triumph as a continuum, and that they are visited upon me, not as an act of will, but by my learning to be conductive..

“I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.”

a difficult charge to live up to, from my man Walt Whitman, but if he managed to avoid despair and desolation in the face of the Civil War, I can certainly at least aspire to his mystical engagement with the wonders of this world, exactly as it is, rather than as I might wish it could be.

today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death, so along with the Whitman my brother so eloquently posted in the comments yesterday, I am posting a recording Joycie introduced me to in 1985 or 86, which I regret not playing at her funeral. full volume. I play it every year in her honor.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Walter Hawkins: I’m Goin’ Away on Love Alive II

I visited this high volume ritual on patient and hopefully not too long-suffering Richard and Mac in the midst of driving around Bemidji today doing various errands, which take on thrilling overtones when you’re camping out. Laundry! Groceries! Oil Change! we also had a few hours in a pleasant cafe in downtown Bemidji where I tried to get the bills organized, if not actually paid. we set up camp at Bemidji State Park, which is blessedly nearly empty midweek, and laid out all the clean laundry and organized it into little subsections, each going into its own plastic bag. and each category of food into its own bags as well. totally OCD. I feel like I’m re-inventing skills the army has been inculcating in recruits since forever: a place for everything, everything in its place. but with a small car and three people suiting up for three different kinds of activities, it can get crazy pretty quickly if we aren’t anal about it!

Richard made a fine dinner for us with the new groceries, and read to us as he has each night from Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out
by Annette Atkins, a really wonderful book about Minnesota history for the general reader. Totally recommended!