A blessing of winter new moon tidings to you and to all of your cozy nooks and crannies of books, hot tea cups and to the trees that squeak and the wind that creaks, greetings and welcome back to The Craneskin Bag. May the warble within your ears rejoice as you listen to the music that is now, that is January. And what a January it is! Our first time meeting together this year in fact and no better time than the new moon, when we can cleanse the way ahead, forge a new destiny with strong willed intentions and watch as our personal magics spring to life.
Here in America things have gotten somewhat obnubilated in the mirror, hard to see who is on the other side of the glass. Right-side up in the upside down or the other way around, whichever it is, the seething writhing beasts that seek to poison the well of wisdom, the fount of equality, have failed to find the source where this worldly water springs from and for me as I hope for you, the glass is still half full for the future dawn.
New Years Resolutions~
The great English arch poet and visionary William Blake, offers an outlook which I think very appropriate to share with you all as we are entering the new year. An opportunity to manifest, make real the dream and silence the nightmare~
“A sincere belief that anything is so, will make it so.”
The word sincere here is crucial in understanding this seemingly simple sentence. At first glance you might read this and think, “oh yes, that makes sense to me, right on Mr. Blake.” But after really dwelling on these words myself and having a personal investment in the world of belief, of magic belief, of naming my last record Make Believe, I come away from reading Blake’s words with a fervor of excitement and reinforcement that yes, truly, anything and everything is possible if only you sincerely believe it to be so. Think happy thoughts and you will fly.
And as I honor the tradition of making new years resolutions, (for why not adopt the yearly habit of reassessing and reinvigorating the evolution of this life?)
I will share briefly my own new years resolutions with you all in the spirit of happy change~
1. Create fodder for the spirit.
Imbue my art with a deeper and more intentional purpose. Perhaps I take for granted in thinking that the purpose of my art is plain to see by all and not veiled heavily behind obscure layers of symbolic clouds. However, I want to take the artistic purpose of what I do and why I do it, much further afield than ever before.
2. Commune with nature.
I recently started talking to ravens again and this felt so good, so right!! Taking time out of the day to speak to the trees, the elements, the creatures that walk seen and unseen. Slow down and tap into the ultimate source of magic, that is nature.
3. Take ritual baths.
I have found that the bathtub is a place of healing for me. In the darkness, with the water anointed with oils, herbs and flowers, I have found the inspiration of spontaneous song and I intuit that deeper into these watery realms I must venture.
Yes, I see you nodding your head, this one was on your list too, eh? Good for you! Well for myself mediation was something I once practiced regularly and why it slipped from my cerebral grasp I really can't say. However, I yearn to realign my inner three cauldrons, with a stone on the belly and a bounty of peaceful thoughts. I just noticed that this meditation bit transitions quite nicely into our next segment below~ (I swear I did not plan it!)
Illustration by~ Ethelwynne M. Quail
Puppet Meditation Class~
I was asked in December to prepare a short puppet skit for the Puppets In Prague virtual new years celebration that took place on January third via the modern wonders of zoom. At first I was not sure what to do exactly…you see I have not yet built the long awaited for puppet theater, so I had no stage for my friends to frolic upon. Be that as it may, when my fiancé Angie was guiding me in a new years eve mediation, I hit upon the idea! As I lay there with eyes closed Angie told me to let go of my thoughts and I was trying to listen to what she was saying, I really did try, but my thoughts kept drifting...
I thought a puppet would make an extraordinary meditation teacher, for whenever they are not in the act of preforming, they are in a natural state of meditation. Not lifeless inanimacy, but rather a refined distillation of ultimate being. A playful smile crept over my face as the idea formed and so the night before my skit was due, (nothing like a deadline!) I created a makeshift set and became the mouth mover and string puller for Dortchen, Rumpel and Herbert. Thank you Angie for the inspiration and for filming what may be the first ever puppet mediation class~
Recently I have been suffering from the strange and inexplicable phenomena known as insomnia. I do not know quite yet why this is manifesting, yet I am utilizing the unique opportunity of sleepless nights to better understand a great many things that were always on the tip of the tongue or in the corner of the eye. I am receiving answers to questions I had never before asked until being forced to. During these lucid moments of wandering awareness you never know what will happen. There is one gift I did receive which I shall share with you now. A poem suddenly was birthed in the dark soul of a wakeful winter night. May it bring good luck to you now dear reader~
A Wise Fool Once Said
A wise fool once said,
It is no waste of time to hunt for four leaf clovers
Nor to suckle on the tittle of tricks
Weening from wisdom
Spilling milk instead of tears
Watching snow fall on a mirror
Slow as sloth or fast as thought
Growing up without being caught
A wise fool once said,
It is no burden on the world to truly be yourself
Be myself? Well who am I?
I am what I am and who I am is I
Myself I am, or am I more than I?
It is neigh on time the will will decide
to divine with a symbol
And portend with a sign
For I am the crib of that changeling child
I am the jagged crumb of an eggshell
I am the buried ghost
Left in dreams un-recalled
The space between words
what is nothing, is all
I am the howl caught in a dry throat
The violent laughter of the oldest joke
I am the cat that’s got your tongue
Away I go, now how fast can you run?
A wise fool once said,
It is no wishful thinking to make wishes come true
On birthdays certainly, yet any day will do
Nor to imagine for long enough and find
Imagination is creation and that means you!
So forever it is in the pocket a pen
To write down the words a wise fool once said
To shamble and ramble the frisky road
For there is always another mile to go
Awhile away, away for awhile
Following footsteps with the heart of a child
The Allegory of Folly by Quentin Matsys
My relationship with music is akin to that of an alien species traveling the galaxy in search of new worlds to learn from and thereby grow and develop into a better understanding of our small place in the eternal cosmos. I thirst for discovery, for the lost chord that tickles the ear with what is really possible in the stratosphere of music. There is certainly a lifetime of such discoveries I could share with you all, yet I am given this chance once a month and in small doses I will do my best to pepper your salad with a litany worthy of your attention.
In my quest to understand music in all its forms I have eventually come to have an abiding love and a prodigious respect for what is broadly categorized as classical music. I worship music in all its forms and manifestations and listen to its genres from one end of the rainbow to the other, yet within the world of classical and also jazz, my ears begin to be stretched and challenged in a way that arouses my own inner expressive desires when making music. The dedication it takes to not only learn music on such a profound level but then to hear the voice of the muse and compose your own translation of the universal language into a song, an opera, a symphony, a sonata, a nocturne, etc. You see what I mean. I pit myself against the great masters of music while composing, not in the hope that I might touch the hems of their gowns, but that with these musical geniuses as a star to shoot for, I might land closer than if I had not aimed at all.
One such musical prodigy I desire to highlight is~
Franz Schubert, 1797-1828
While I was studying music at college, I sang one of Franz Schubert's more jolly art songs, Das Fishermadchen and this was really my first dalliance with a man whose tree of life was cut down at the sorrowful age of 31 and who in such a short span of fleeting life, composed some of the most heartbreakingly splendiferous music that the earth and its inhabitants have been grateful for ever since.
Schubert is actually a godfather of sorts of what we know of as the song. Yes, the form of music which most people in the world listen to, the all-pervasive, ever evolving, sometimes simple, sometimes catchy, gold medal winner of ear-worms, the song. One of his epithets is actually, King of Song. Schubert crafted many masterpieces in this genre which consistently are performed today to sold out crowds who leave the theatre, eyes wet with tears with how much sublime beauty one man can summon with just a piano and a bruised heart for company.
And so I share with you now, the 24 song-cycle known only as, Winterreise, The Winter journey. This monumental, thought provoking musical tour de force has been evocatively described by musicologist and German song expert Susan Youens as~
"...an alienated, isolated wanderer on a journey into the wintry geography of the soul in search of self-knowledge."
Monk in the snow by Casper David Friedrich
The poetry for this entire cycle of songs was written by the German lyric-poet Wilhelm Muller and paints the tortured landscape of winters bitter isolation with a romantic melancholy that we, as listening bystanders, can’t help but feel a connection to. I believe the entire cycle of Winterreise captures the spirit of the winter season as perfect and unique as a snowflake does before it touches the ground. Schubert himself even had this to say of his Winterreise when speaking to a close friend~
“Come over to Schober’s today and I will sing you a cycle of horrifying songs. I am anxious to know what you will say about them. They have cost me more effort than any of my other songs.”
Add to the fact that just days after finishing Winterreise, Schubert departed from his earthy mortal coil, thus becoming a wanderer himself in the foreign otherworld of death which he himself had just composed the soundtrack for. Schubert's own knowledge of his imminent death, (he had contracted the then fatal syphilis) makes these songs even more spectral and eerie. Here it is now in its epic entirety sung by the famed Schubert interpreter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Computer speakers as always will fail to obtain the true sonic grandeur, yet nevertheless I hope you can hear that Schuberts plaintive music, nearly 200 years old now, is alive and still kicking in the snow.
Word to the wise~
Obnubilate~ Obscure, Becloud
Why such a grand sounding word as Obnubilate has been lost in everyday speech is quite beyond the comprehension of this humble writer, it's only a mere 438 years old! Yet I know you will help me to give obnubilate a second life for which it most assuredly deserves. Why even as I write it here, spelled correctly, I see that word press underlines it in red, those to me are some of the best words, ones for which even a computer fails to appreciate or even recognize.
Farewell for now~
As always I love to hear from you! Please share your own favorite winter soundtrack, poem, forgotten word, or your 2021 resolutions if so inclined. While you make your new years wishes with hearts full of child-like wonder, remember it is no wishful thinking to make those wishes come true. I will be waiting for you here as always in The Craneskin Bag, with wizardry and rhymes and a sparkling wink of knowing that we share something special in common.
Tall and thin,
Through thick and thin once again,
New Moon, January 13th, 2021