Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In praise of NPR - Part 1

Growing up near Lake Wobegon, I think it was inevitable that I became an avid fan of all public radio - NPR, MPR (now American Public Media), CBC, and BBC. One of my favorite things about my old early morning paper route was hearing Alistair Cooke's "Letter from America" at 6 am every day. Today, I download 10 weekly programs to my ipod and read Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" almost every day. (I should also put in a plug for our local station WCPN for all their excellent work as well.)

I've built up a list of topics and shows from NPR that I want to share on the blog, so I've decided to start another mini-series for the next few weeks - in addition to such other ongoing topics as Unorthodox Wisdom and the Church Tour. Today I simply want to direct my readers to the joy of a daily poem from Garrison Keillor available at the "Writer's Almanac" website. Reading it will never substitute for hearing his distinctive voice and cadence. After all, poetry should be listened just as psalms should be sung! But I encourage you to check it out regularly. Meanwhile I'll share the poem "Music" by Anne Porter from May 1, 2009, because it captures the spirit and power of music and the primal religion it represents.

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother's piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I've never understood
Why this is so

But there's an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secrret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

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