I am a sucker for the old Southern Harmony tunes – especially the ones in minor keys, which feel like Appalachia to me.
For the record, I am not from Appalachia nor have I never lived in Appalachia. But for some reason, that music – whether it’s these hymn tunes, or the bluegrass that sprung up from the same place – connects to something in me. I oddly feel the same way with music from the Jewish diaspora – another culture I have no direct connection to but whose music resonates in me. And it’s not just music to listen to; rather, I am more connected when I sing it, like it comes out of something deeper inside me when I sing.
Maybe it’s the minor keys. Maybe it’s the flow of melody. Maybe it’s the sense of awe, mystery, and wonder that shows up in the lyrics paired with these tunes…
I walk the unfrequented road with open eye and ear;
I watch afield the farmer load the bounty of the year.
I filch the fruit of no one’s toil — no trespasser am I —
and yet I reap from every soil and from the boundless sky.
I gather where I did not sow, and bend the mystic sheaf,
the amber air, the river’s flow, the rustle of the leaf.
A beauty springtime never knew haunts all the quiet ways,
and sweeter shines the landscape through its veil of autumn haze.
I face the hills, the streams, the wood, and feel with all akin;
my heart expands; their fortitude and peace and joy flow in.
These lyrics hold a mystery. Unlike yesterday’s, which felt like nothing moved, this has a bit of a storyline, a character examination, a connection between narrator, earth, and mystery.
This is a beauty – a perfect hymn for a stark post-Thanksgiving morning.