October 2014 Features

Music Review: The Journey So Far

The Journey So Far: The Best of Loreena McKennitt is the title of the new compilation of music from the Canadian singer and songwriter. Her most popular song is “The Mummers’ Dance,” which is from her 1997 album, The Book of Secrets. The new Best of Loreena McKennitt CD includes that song plus 11 others, all drawn from seven studio albums that span a 30-year career.

McKennitt’s music has clearly been influenced by Celtic culture. The Journey So Far makes it clear that she has also been inspired by various cultures around the world, including those of Greece and China. Poets are also a source of inspiration for her—lyrics of two of the songs in this compilation are from works by the poet W. B. Yeats, and the lyrics of another are adapted from the words of the English poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson.

As one might expect from the collection’s title, McKennitt seems fascinated by journeys. She writes in the notes on the CD cover: “I hope this music inspires many of you on your own journeys and reflections to who knows where.”

There is a haunting, timeless quality to McKennitt’s music. It doesn’t seem to belong to a particular era. This grouping of 12 songs definitely has a spiritual quality; the CD begins with “The Mystic’s Dream” and ends with “Dante’s Prayer.”

In addition to the 12 Best of Loreena McKennitt songs, there is a second disc that includes nine more songs. Those additional songs were recorded live at a concert in Germany in July 2012. This bonus disc provides a hint as to what her concerts are like, for those of us who haven’t been to one.

If you’d like to become better acquainted with the music of Loreena McKennitt, The Journey So Far is an excellent place to start. More broadly, if you’re interested in music that will inspire your spiritual journey, this 2-CD set is worth checking out. 

Photo of the Month: Autumn Light

There’s something mysterious about the glow of a lamplight as dusk descends on an autumn day….

  National Zoo, Washington, DC, October 2004.   (Photograph by Michael Riddle.  )

National Zoo, Washington, DC, October 2004. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)

Book Review: Margaret Fuller

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, is one of those books that can truly be hard to put down. The author, Megan Marshall, was also a Pulitzer-Prize finalist for her previous book, The Peabody Sisters. Marshall’s biography of Margaret Fuller recounts the extraordinary tale of a woman who lived in the 19th century and who was way ahead of her time.

Margaret Fuller was born in 1810 in Massachusetts and was initially taught by her father, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She then attended various schools between the ages of 9 and 15. As a young adult, she was known as a superb conversationalist, and as someone who could hold her own in discussions of weighty topics. She was so adept at such discussions that she eventually held a number of series of Conversations in Boston that a group of women would pay to attend. There the women could discuss a range of topics such as Greek mythology and the roles of women.

Fuller is known nowadays to numerous people because of her connection to Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, to whom she was a friend and colleague. She was the first editor of The Dial, the journal of the Transcendental Club; both Emerson and Thoreau contributed works that were published in that journal.

During the course of her lifetime, Margaret Fuller was also an author and a journalist. Her best-known book is called Woman in the Nineteenth Century. In it, she put forth her view that there is not a wholly masculine man or a wholly feminine woman. Everyone is a combination of masculinity and femininity. She advocated that all kinds of occupations should be open to women, when very few were. The most famous line of hers from this book is “let them be sea-captains, if you will.” I think she would be delighted that as of this year, the U.S. Navy has its first female 4-star admiral!

With respect to journalism, Fuller worked for the New-York Tribune as a columnist. She wrote about social and cultural issues, and the paper sent her to Europe in 1846 as a foreign correspondent. She ended up being a war correspondent, reporting on attempts at revolution in Italy. She tried to return to the United States in 1850 after about four years abroad. She was attempting to get to the U.S. with her Italian husband and their son, who was about 2 years old, when tragically they all perished in a shipwreck just off Fire Island, New York.

This biography of Margaret Fuller is very well-documented with many quotations from source materials. Yet it manages to flow along like a novel. This was certainly a case in which the Pulitzer Prize was well-deserved.

5 Things to Enjoy about Fall

As the days get shorter and the nights get chillier, we realize that summer is definitely over and fall is fully here. Time to enjoy the particular delights of this season, including:

  McIntosh apple

1) Apples! Even though they’re available year-round, fresh fall apples are the best. Eaten right out of your hand or baked in a dessert, apples are among the wonders of autumn.

2) Halloween candy. It's fun to have a good reason to buy miniature candy bars and other tiny treats. With all of the changes in the world in recent decades, there is something reassuring about the endurance of the trick-or-treating tradition.

3) World Series. It is, after all, the Fall Classic. And it’s interesting that a sport that is so associated with summer reaches its pinnacle in the middle of fall!

4) Chrysanthemums. These humble flowers—often simply called “mums”—brighten things up during the fall months, with their vivid hues such as yellow and purple and red. When other flowers are long gone or fading fast, mums liven up the autumn landscape.

5) Pumpkins. We may at times take for granted these orange orbs which are ubiquitous in October, but it’s more enjoyable to appreciate them. Whether sitting on a porch or baked into a pie, pumpkins are a perennial part of the fun of fall.

Word of the Month: Reliability

When we think of reliability, we tend to think about objects: cars, phones, appliances, and so on. We want such objects to be reliable, and when we’re shopping for new ones, reliability can be a top consideration. But reliability is also important when it comes to people. When we’re reliable, it means that we do our best to keep our commitments to others—and we promptly let those other people know if we’re not going to be able to keep a commitment.

Reliability also is related to sticking with someone through thick and thin. According to the Roman philosopher Cicero, “The shifts of fortune test the reliability of friends.” Friendships may eventually end for various reasons, but while the friendship is ongoing, we are there for a friend in good times and bad, if we’re reliable.

Sometimes it seems that reliability is looked at as boring. Being reliable doesn’t mean we’re always in the same place doing the same thing. We can move or change jobs or try new activities and still be reliable. The essence of reliability is that we can be counted on, that our word means something. It comes down to being dependable and keeping our promises as much as possible, both of which benefit our friendships and other relationships.

See October 2014 article

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