Tuesday, December 20, 2016

From Old Narnia to New Narnia

[technically prose;  a reflection on the passage of time and of all things as this year draws to a close]

     "So," said Peter, "Night falls on Narnia.  [Narnia is destroyed; comes to an end.]  What, Lucy!  You're not crying?  With Aslan ahead and all of us here?"
     "Don't try to stop me, Peter, " said Lucy.  "I am sure Aslan would not.  I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia.  Think of all that lies dead and frozen behind that door."
     "Yes, and I did hope,"  said Jill, "that it might go on forever.  I knew our world couldn't.  I did think Narnia might."...

     "Peter, " said Lucy, "where is this, do you suppose?"
     "I don't know," said the High King.  "It reminds me of somewhere, but I can't give it a name.  Could it be somewhere we once stayed for a holiday when we were very, very small?"
     "It would have to have been a jolly good holiday," said Eustace.  "I bet there isn't a country like this anywhere in our world.  Look at the colours.  You couldn't get a blue like the blue on those mountains in our world."...
    "If you ask me, " said Edmund, "It's like somewhere in the Narnian world.  Look  at those mountains ahead... Surely they're rather like the mountains we used to see from Narnia, the ones up Westward beyond the Waterfall?"
     "Yes, so they are, "  said Peter.  "Only these are bigger."
      [They compare some of the other Narnian mountains to what they are seeing.]
     "And yet they're not like," said Lucy.  "They're different.  They have more colours on them and they look further away than I remembered and they're more...more...oh, I don't know..."
     "More like the real thing," said the Lord Digory softly...
     "Kings and Queens, " [Farsight the Eagle] cried, "we have all been blind.  We are only beginning to see where we are.  from up there I have seen it all---Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea.  Narnia is not dead.  This is Narnia."....
     "The Eagle is right, " said the Lord Digory.  "Listen Peter.  When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of.  But that was not the real Narnia.  That had a beginning and an end.  It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here...  You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy.  All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia..."

     It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia, as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste...The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.  I can't describe it any better than that...
     It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling.... "I have come home at last!  This is my real country.  I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.  the reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this..."

     The light ahead was growing stronger.. And then she forgot everything else, because Aslan [the Great Lion] was coming, leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty...Then Aslan turned to them [after talking to other creatures] and said:
     "You do not yet look so happy as I meant you to be."
     Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan.  And you have sent us back into our own world so often.
    "No fear of that," said
Aslan.  "Have you not guessed?"
   Their hearts leaped, and a wild hope rose within them.
    [Aslan explains that they died in their own world.   That they and the  Pevensie parents have come out of the "Shadow-Lands" and will stay in the New Narnia forever.]

     And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them...now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which on one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

--C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.  (c) 1956

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Music Festival

Back performing at the Acker Music Festival in Northern Arizona, under the performing name "B.C.:  Before Copyrights."  Baroque music and ancient European folk carols.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Journey of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted,

Lying down in the
melting snow.

There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away,
  and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out,

   and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty

   and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to
travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was
all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating
the darkness,
three trees* on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away
in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves
over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for

pieces of silver**,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information,

  and so we continued
arriving at evening,

not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was

(you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down

This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt.

I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different;

   this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us,

   like Death, our death***.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old

With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

---T.S. Eliot, 1927  (c) by owner

* A foreshadowing of the three crosses, Jesus's and the two thieves
**Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver; the soldiers gambling for his cloak
**Christ came to suffer death for our sins.  Death was haunting even the birth.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Golden Morning [Sun]

(apropos for Thanksgiving, though originally German)

The golden morning,
Joy her adorning,
On us is gleaming,
Rays brightly beaming,
With her beloved heart-quickening light.
My head and members
Lay deep in their slumbers,
But now awaking,
All sleep from me shaking,
Gazing on heav’n, I rejoice at the sight.

Mine eye’s beholding
God’s work unfolding,
Made for His glory,
Telling the story
Of all His power so mighty and great

And where the Father
His faithful shall gather
In peace, whenever

Earth’s ties they shall sever,
Leaving this mortal and perishing state.

Come ye with singing,
Our Maker bringing
Each good and blessing
We are possessing:
All be to God as an offering brought,
The best oblation
Our heart’s adoration.
Songs meet and thankful
Are incense and cattle
With which His pleasure most fitly is sought.

Evening and morning,
Sunset and dawning,
Wealth, peace, and gladness,
Comfort in sadness:
These are Thy works; all the glory be Thine!
Times without number,
Awake or in slumber,
Thine eye observes us,
From danger preserves us,
Causing Thy mercy upon us to shine.

Though all decayeth,
God ever stayeth,
Nor doth He waver,
He changeth never,
His Word and will have unchangeable ground.
His grace and favor
Are steadfast forever,
In our hearts healing 

Death’s pangs that we’re feeling,
Keeping us now and eternally sound.

Father, O hear me,
Pardon and spare me;
Calm all my terrors,
Blot out mine errors
That by Thine eyes they may no more be scanned.

Order my goings,
Direct all my doings;
As it may please Thee,
Retain or release me;
All I commit to Thy fatherly hand.

The good and healthful,
The harmful, unhelpful,
Thou my Physician,
Who know’st my condition,

Hast ne’er more chastened than any should be.
Griefs, though heart-rending,
All have their ending;

Though seas be roaring
And winds outpouring,

Thereafter shines the dear sun’s bless├Ęd face.

Fullness of pleasure
And glorious leisure
Then will be given
To me there in heaven,
Where all my thoughts are directing their gaze.

--Paul Gerhardt, 1666.  Translation, composite.  (adapted)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Poem in October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven*
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heronPriested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumnAnd walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and seaWhere a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven* stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.                         

---Dylan Thomas, 1944 (Welsh)   

*A person alive 30 years, that far along his journey to heaven.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rio Grande (Albuquerque) Botanical Garden

Black-Eyed Susans

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea)

Yellow Coneflowers

Queen Anne's Lace (Wild Carrot)
Notice tiny red flower in center cluster

Yellow Columbine

"The wilderness and parched land will be glad;
And the desert-plain will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus it will bloom profusely
And rejoice greatly and shout for joy
[because of Messiah]."  Isaiah 35: 1-2a

Black-Eyed Susans redux
(personal faves)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

God Bless Our Native Land

God bless our native land;
Firm may she ever stand
Through storm and night:
When the wild tempests rave,
Ruler of wind and wave,
Do Thou our country save

By thy great might.

For her our prayers shall rise
To God, above the skies;
On Him we wait.

Thou who art ever nigh,
Guarding with watchful eye,

To Thee aloud we cry,
God save the state!

And not to us alone, 
But be Thy mercies known
From shore to shore.




  Lord, make the nations see
That men should brothers be
And form one family
The wide world o'er.

Verses 1-2, Siegfried A. Mahlmann, 1815;
Verse 3, William E. Hickson, 1835

(sung to the tune "America")

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Picture This

This month, I am posting sketches, rather than a poem.  This was from a era in my life when I first pushed myself to become an amateur naturalist.  (Before, I'd just sort of roamed, mostly in New Mexico where I was raised, without really knowing what I was looking at.)  This, along with star-gazing, is one hobby I've definitely kept alive.

This was also when I was most prolific in writing my own poetry, which dwindled after that, then practically dried up (except for writing a few songs to existing hymn meters and the poem I wrote last October... see the sidebar).

I observed many of these where I was attending college, in south central Kansas.  (NOT in a botany, biology or other science field, though.  Just my new hobby then.)  Others were sketched out of books, due to personal interest.  A few years later, when I was stationed in coastal Georgia with the Army, I saw others of these up close and personal!   Some years later, when I returned to the West, I saw yet a few more up close and personal.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mountain Music

   [with photos from a recent western trip]

Grand Teton National Park*, Wyoming

I will lift up my eyes unto the hills
From whence comes my help.
My help comes from Yahweh
Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121: 1-2)

Chapel of the Transfiguration (Episcopal)
Grand Teton National Park*
Great is Yahweh
And greatly to be praised
In the city of our God,
The mountain of His holiness.  (Psalm 48:1)

In whose Hand are the depths of the earth;
And the heights of the hills are His, also. (Psalm 95:4)

Thermal Pool.
Yellowstone National Park*, Wyoming

Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the hills shout together with joy.  (Psalm 98:8) 

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone N.P.*

[Jesus tells us]:
'"You are the light of the world.
A city which has been set upon a hill
cannot be hidden."  (Matthew 5:14)

Wasatch Mountains, as viewed from Bryce Canyon National Park*, Utah

All the things which happened upon mountains:  Moses was given the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai; Satan took Jesus to a really high mountain to show Him the kingdoms of the world and tempt Him with power;  being more isolated in Jesus's day, He often went there alone (or with a small group of three) to pray; He was "transfigured" (changed, shining bright with glory) on a mountain; the Sermon on the Mount was given in a natural mountain amphitheater; the night before His death, after celebrating Passover and the First Communion, Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives; the place where Jesus died is called Mount Calvary; forty days after He rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven from a mountain.  Mountains join all creation (Revelation 5:13) in praising God.  Remembering Israel's flight from Egypt and entry into the Promise Land, the psalmist wrote:

The mountains skipped as rams,
The little hills as lambs.
What happened, O Sea, that you fled,
O Jordan, that you turned back?
You mountains skipped as rams,
You little hills as lambs. (Psalm 114: 4-6)

Wasatch Mountains, Utah,
with Grand Escalante National Monument* in front

I will lift up my eyes unto the hills
From whence comes my help.
My help comes from Yahweh
Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121: 1-2)

    ---translations by C. Marie Byars

*This is the 100th birthday of America's National Park Service!  (A few individual parks were established even before this.)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Salve Feste Dies

("Hail Thee, Festival Day", select Easter verses)

Refrain: Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
day wherein Christ arose,
breaking the kingdom of death.

 Lo, the fair beauty of earth,
From the death of the winter arising,
Every good gift of the year
Now with its Master returns. Refrain

He who was nailed to the Cross
 Is God and the Ruler of all things;
 All things created on earth
 Worship the Maker of all. Refrain

God of all pity and power,
Let Your word assure those who doubt;
Light on the third day returns:
Rise, Son of God, from the tomb! Refrain

Rise now, O Lord, from the grave
And cast off the shroud that enwrapped You;
You are all that we need:
Nothing without You exists. Refrain

They mourned as they laid You to rest,
O, Author of life and creation;
Treading the pathway of death
You give life to us creationsRefrain

Show us Your Face once more,
That we may enjoy Your brightness;
Give us the light of day,
Darkened on earth at thy Death. * Refrain

 Jesus has harrowed hell;
 He has led captivity captive;
 Darkness and chaos and death
 Flee from the Face of the Light. Refrain

*The Sun was darkened ("obscured") from the "sixth to the ninth hours" (~ noon to ~ 3 PM) on the Friday Jesus was crucified.
--Venantius Fortunatus (530-609);
trans.  Fr. Maurice Frederick Bell (Anglican), 1906, adapted cmb

Monday, February 1, 2016

Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley

(for the coming of Lent):

Jesus walked this lonesome valley;
He had to walk it by Himself.
Nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk, walk it by Himself.

                --African American spiritual

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Sierra Nevada Mountains

Welcome to 2016, with a look back at our trip in 2015!

General Sherman, giant sequoia, in Sequoia Nat'l Park

Yosemite National Park


Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite