Tag Archives: birds

Holiday letter 2020

Dear friends and family and readers around the world,

So . . . we near the end of this year that has felt like an eternity suspended. Stop-time. Profound disruption and uncertainty.

But in these darkest days, promises of light have emerged. While we do not know the lasting-ness of the damage that Trump has done to our republic (the damage is known, but how long it will linger is an open question), we seem to have weathered the storm of the 2020 election. And a vaccine for this pernicious virus is now offering hope of a return to somewhat normal life earlier in 2021 than later.

The ache to be with has grown ever more present and powerful as the year has gone by. I posted a series of songs about touching back in April. Little did I imagine that so long would go by without the warmth of human flesh nearby in a hug or handshake. (And just after I wrote this, a friend stopped by with a yummy treat. She’s had the virus and is now safe to hug. So we did. In 30-degree weather on the porch. Bundled up and masked. And the embrace was deee-vine.).

I have worked from home for eight months now. My home offices, as they appeared in April:


So yes, daily life has felt suspended since March, but it’s also been sustained. Nelson has brought unending joy and comfort since joining me in late May. My weekly conclave with the Saturday Supper group (Karin, Jessica, Lou and Leah) has provided welcome connection, conversation, kvetching, and loads of laughter. (Little did I know how much running away and joining Circus Harmony would change my life.) The kitchen has become my sanctuary, and I now need an intervention and moratorium on cookbook purchases.

During the warm months, my garden and a new interest in birding helped while away the days. So much new music has passed through my eyes and into my fingers at the piano as I’ve worked on building my own knowledge of contemporary musical theatre. I took four graduate credits this summer at Shenandoah University, and rebooted my voice teaching. A brief summer holiday at a farm in southern Illinois was a balm for the soul.

A view from the southern Illinois retreat.

Creativity has not slackened this year, but it has changed focus somewhat. Circus Harmony’s Fluente in January featured a number of new charts from me. And then the virus led to a September show built around the idea of “the balancing act,” for which I wrote a half-dozen new charts as well.

As the world around us grapples with inequity, inequality, and division & hate & racism & fear & so many other destructive impulses, I am attempting to own my own privilege in the face of caste and race, and actually do something about it. The first steps are the least tangible, but they are happening.

Daily Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer have been a mainstay and daily fence-posts for spiritual grounding in 2020. With worship in person suspended, I bounce back and forth on YouTube and Vimeo and Facebook between the National Cathedral, St. Mary’s Bourne Street in London, Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, and local parishes.

My home altar for Holy Week.

I have finally this year dealt the last of my father’s detritus of papers and piles. I purged the basement of unneeded junk and so much choral music that I’m never going to conduct or teach again, so much has my profile changed.

And I’m preparing for my next act. As I write this weekend, I have fewer than 165 days left as Chair of the Department of Music at Webster University. I’m eager to strengthen my teaching, and up my service profile as professor, both inside the university and in engagement with a wider community. This next summer promises to be my first summer of no university teaching or administrative duties in more than 30 years!

I’ll post next week a year-in-review-in-pictures.

And I leave this letter with a text I penned last week, for this year’s Advent Carol:

In this time of profound uncertainty,
In these months of joyless despair,
We hope again and joyous see:
A Savior comes, our sorrows to bear.

Be well, my friends and readers. Light is coming.

18 December 2020
Saint Louis, Missouri

Sandy Creek Bridge

I went with a friend on Sunday evening to Sandy Creek Covered Bridge in Hillsboro, down in the county where my father was born.

Until about 1900, I would have paid 3¢ to walk across this bridge, and each head of cattle or sheep I drove across would have cost me 1½¢.