Light Rafts for Flagging Spirits | Vol 8
Stardust, the Northern Lights, Lynchian weather reports, Odin's raven, a sound story about sacraments of interruption and the lights of home, and much more in this week's dispatch for the locked-down.
1. Sacraments of Interruption: The Lights of Home
This week, the governor of California, where I live, issued a strict, statewide stay-at-home order—the strongest such COVID-19 restriction since the ordeal began in March—applied by region (i.e. Southern California) as soon as intensive care capacity at the region’s hospitals fall below 15 percent. We are not at that level yet, but we are expected to be soon. Twenty-thousand Californians have died from the virus in the last eight months, so staying put feels like the very least we can do. Frankly, because my husband and I both are immunocompromised and have chosen to be extremely vigilant about minimizing our risk of exposure, this changes practically nothing for us except, perhaps, for the urgency of our prayers for the arrival of a vaccine. Still, this new order, which goes into effect on Saturday, along with a glimmer of light on the horizon, however distant, that there will be an “after” after this, has me meditating again on the meaning of home: where it is, who it is, what it feels like, how you sometimes don’t know where it is until you’ve left or are lost.
Such reflection reminded me of a story I tell in the memoir-of-a-kind I wrote a while back, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. After rereading it a few times this week, I decided to play with it a bit and make it into a sound recording: A wee gift from me to you. I hope you enjoy it.
Stay home. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Check on your neighbors, friends, family. And please be kind to everyone, especially when interruptions come, and they surely will.
2. David Lynch’s Weather Report (and Number of the Day) | LA
I’ve had a few daily rituals during these many months of COVID and tuning in to David Lynch’s daily weather report and “number of the day” broadcast from his home and office in the Hollywood Hills, are one of them. They’re weird and wonderful, much like the man himself—he remains one of the most memorable interviews of my career. “Nudes and factories … in Poland.” Don’t miss the link below the videos where you can read it for yourself.
3. Advent-ing with the poet Malcolm Guite | Cambridge, England
This year, as in several past, I have turned to the English poet, professor, and Anglican priest Malcolm Guite’s Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany as part of my practice for moving through the season of Advent, which is my favorite, especially as we look for the light that we have faith is coming soon.
Today’s poem is “Annunciation” by the American poet Scott Cairns:
Deep within the clay, and O my people
very deep within the wholly earthen
compound of our kind arrives of one clear,
star-illumined evening a spark igniting
once again the tinder of our lately
banked noetic fire. She burns but she
is not consumed. The dew lights gently,
suffusing the pure fleece. The wall comes down.
And—do you feel the pulse?—we all become
the kindled kindred of a King whose birth
thereafter bears to all a bright nativity.
‘She burns but she is not consumed.’
Part of my regular if not daily routine in lockdown has been to check in with Guite via his blog and lively YouTube channel where we can usually find him at home in his cluttered library, often smoking a pipe, and almost always reciting or reading poetry and prose from some of his favorite writers—C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, etc.
Earlier this week, Professor Guite posted a particularly charming video telling the story of the pipe he’d chosen to smoke that day and reciting a poem by Edmund Waller of which his late mother was so fond. I just happened to watch it on Thursday, which would have been my late mother’s 88th birthday, and found it especially poignant.
If you are not familiar with Guite and his prolific work, he is an absolute gift, and these videos he’s been posting from his home library are at turns delightful, winsome, fascinating, and educational. Have a poke about on his YouTube channel.
A Poem, a Pipe, a Poignant Memory
4. Mornings and Evenings with John Patrick Shanley | New York City
Another of my daily ritual/delights, are these usually twice-daily video messages from playwright John Patrick Shanley—another among the most meaningful interviews of my career so far. He posts these on his Twitter feed @JohnJpshanley and they are wonderful and wonder-filled in their simplicity. I love them. Hope you do, too. (And please don’t miss the link underneath the Twitter posts for a link to read Shanley’s profile from The God Factor.)
5. SigurRos finally releases their orchestral Odin's Raven Magic
This was an unexpected treat! Fans of Iceland’s Sigur Ros, who haven’t released new music since Kveikur in 2013, have long heard the band might release a recording of the orchestral music they composed to accompany an epic poem from Norse mythology.
Odin’s Raven Magic is an elaborate collaboration with the revered Icelandic musician Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (and an ordained ‘chief goði’ of the pagan Norse religion Ásatrúarfélagið) and respected fisherman and chanter Steindór Andersen. However, despite those legendary guests, the record’s most distinct feature is a five-octave marimba built from pieces of stone (!) by Icelandic sculptor and artist Páll Guðmundsson. The instrument is featured prominently throughout the album, giving it crustaceous tones and textures that literally come from the ground.
The recording below was made during a performance in Paris, sometime in the early oughts. Great Odin’s beard, is it bizarre and enchanting! Turn down the lights, spark a few forest-scented candles, pull on a wooly sweater, pour some seasonal grog, and settle in for a sonic adventure.
6. Circle Back: In Case You Missed Them
This stellar profile of Stephen Colbert about love, loss, grief, and hope from Joe Hagan (with amazing photos by Annie Leibovitz) in Vanity Fair
This memorable “Poems of Gratitude” project that ran last week in the New York Times where the paper asked poets laureate from all 50 states (or as many as have them, which is almost all) to submit a 100-word-or-less poem on the theme of gratitude. Some of them are remarkable. I particularly loved this one by Diane Raptosh, former writer-in-residence of Idaho
This essay with the fantastic title, “How to Cook a Wolf under Lockdown,” by Laurel Berger in the Hedgehog Review ( a publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture) that considers, in unexpected ways, how the pandemic might affect the way we cook, among other things.
These fascinating conversations from the Artist Care and Feeding Podcast this week with the refreshingly ribald actor/singer/performer Ben Davis and the wildly inspirational (and hilarious) dancer/puppeteer/producer Rob Laqui.
7. Speaking of Stardust (thanks, David), here’s the great Nat King Cole
8. Northern Lights: Live from Lapland
I’ve been obsessed with the Northern Lights since I witnessed them 40 years ago, camping with my family on a fjord in Maine. I’ve been looking for them ever since. Here’s a live-feed from Lapland, in the northernmost part of Finland, where you might get lucky and spot them from the comfort of your living room.
9. At home with Jonna Jinton in her “home under the Northern Lights’
More on this one later, suffice to say I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole a few nights ago and surfaced in Swedish artist/blogger/singer Jonna Jinton’s front yard in the hinterlands, where she lives a back-to-the-land-but-digitally-savvy life that is, at least for me, endlessly compelling. And sometimes, it all happens under the Aurora Borealis. It’s kind of like if a wood sprite had a live cam (and great lighting and high-speed internet).