It’s Good to Be Back
Welcome, friends, to the triumphant return of Snakes & Ladders! I trust that once more you’ll hear from me weekly, now that I’ve had a bit of a break. Two quick introductory thoughts:
- Just so you know, this newsletter will always be free. I suppose it’s possible that at some point in the future I will contemplate a paid newsletter, but it won’t be this one.
- If you have family or friends or acquaintances you think might enjoy what I do here, would you please share it with them? Mostly I write here about what delights and encourages me, and in my not-particularly-humble opinion we could use more of that in the world. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
So with no further ado....
As described in a recent Laity Lodge newsletter, that’s a cardinal who has been spending a lot of his free time on the deck outside the dining room. I saw him several times when I was there recently for a retreat that warmed my heart and soothed my soul. When I saw him I said, “It’s a good place to be, isn’t it, buddy? A good place indeed.”
Further soothing: A Rainy Day at Laity Lodge.
That’s a bright new star of fingerstyle guitar, Yasmin Williams. You can listen to her fantastic new record Urban Driftwood on the streaming sites – or, far better, buy it from Bandcamp.
Indie artists make almost nothing from streaming, so when I can I like to support them by actually buying their records on Bandcamp (which on average sends more than 80% of the purchase price directly to the artist). I did the same for my super-talented new friend Jon Guerra also.
I wrote a post about why it’s so hard to read the Bible.
My friend Austin Kleon has been just killing it on his blog lately – one terrific post after another, but you can get a taste by reading about being ignorant but curious, the relationship between attention and love, and how sometimes we all suffer from the twisties.
Sarah Perry trained to be a vaccinator because…
I did this, as I say, because I wanted to be good. I am conscious that as a statement this is at best not very chic, and at worst vaultingly hubristic – but I am conscious, too, that here I am the rule, not the exception. Everywhere, it seems to me, efforts to be good have been visible – children chalking hopscotch on the pavements to coax troubled adults out to play; mosques and chapels distributing comfort and food – so that I come to believe we have a tendency to reach after goodness, as if we were all at sea and navigating, by whatever stars and instruments we favour, to a pilot light that’s shining in the dock.
Sometimes the art that means the most doesn’t soothe our souls, but touches them, feeds them – at the price of heartache: listen to the great Rhiannon Giddens sing “We Could Fly.”
Via my friend Richard Gibson, this wonderful little prose poem by Yehuda Amichai. It’s part of a poem called “Tourists”:
Once I was sitting on the steps near the gate at David’s Citadel and put down my two heavy baskets beside me. A group of tourists stood there around their guide, and I became their point of reference. “You see that man over there with the baskets? A little to the right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period. A little to the right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!” I said to myself: Redemption will come only when they are told, “Do you see that arch over there from the Roman period? It doesn’t matter, but near it, a little to the left and then down a bit, there’s a man who has just bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”