Salt and Light #1

I have named this newsletter ‘Salt and Light’ inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. Both salt and light are change agents, salt adds flavour, and light dispels darkness. By sharing our light, and not hiding it under a bushel we bring something that the world needs, illumination. If we lose our saltiness, our world becomes stale. We need both. Salt and light. Light shines, salt preserves. It is my hope that this sparks a conversation among us, somewhere between the light of the world, and the salt of the earth.

Grounded from travel, and rooted in my hometown I have continued to be enthralled by the changing weather and nature’s response to the frost, snow and watery overflows. I have been watching the kingfisher live up to its name, catching fish in the River Teme, appearing when you least expect it, like a secret disclosure. A flash of blue to remind us that our capacity to be delighted can expand in any given moment. A frozen miniature waterfall where the robins keep guard shapeshifts and moves from rock to icicle overnight. As the snowdrops and daffodils start to appear, we can trust that despite the ticker tape of bad news, there is light ahead. ‘Act like you have the virus’ is one of the government slogans, perhaps a strapline encouraging positive health for body, mind and spirit would also harness healing and hope at this time. As we move through Lent this year we may not wish to ‘give up’ or restrict ourselves anymore than we feel we have been, and instead practice forty days of walking in the wilderness, in the beauty of creation.

These winter months, I have been fortunate to work for Artsuplift in conjunction with the NHS, and the organisation ‘Change, Grow, Live’ – writing songs with young adults struggling with mental health and in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Blues, indie, comedy and contemporary classical, together we have crafted and composed a collection of songs, born out of weekly song-writing lessons on Zoom since November last year. Working with Adrian Banks, a producer from Oxford in the final stages of the project each participant now has a fully produced song. I’m so proud of everyone who bravely stuck the course until the end, and moved beyond their comfort zones. Even Jenny, the project manager, was inspired to write a pop classic called ‘Zoom, zoom, zoom.’ I can’t get it out of my head!

Ahead of the course I read the book ‘Codependents Guide to the 12 steps‘ by Melodie Beattie, an excellent resource for anyone facing addiction, looking to gain more independence and freedom in their life. It’s not just a book for those suffering with alcohol addiction, but a general guide to self-awareness and personal empowerment.

If you would like to support Jenny Davis’ organisation, to continue projects of this kind, all donations are welcome!

Music news … my latest single ‘Anam Cara’ on vinyl is arriving on March 11th! There’s been a hold up at the production plant in Europe, so apologies for those who have been patiently waiting for their mail order! Feel free to go to my website and order a signed copy if you haven’t already. I’ll be sending out a surprise gift with each purchase. ‘Rings of Saturn’ is the B side, perfect soundtrack for star gazing, or fire dancing.

Every once in a while I receive an envelope through my door from a neighbour with a handwritten note ‘more contemplations!’ I love this word – the action of looking at something thoughtfully for a long time or deep, reflective thought. I was recently asked to compile some meditations for women in prison, and it led me to ponder the difference between prayer, and meditation. Ask and ye will receive, the next day this quote landed on my mat! I love this perspective, that meditation is prayer, that it’s a form of union with a presence greater than ourselves, rather than it being something new age or esoteric.

“Meditation is not a duty to be performed; it is not just a learning device whereby we get ideas; it is not a soothing routine whereby we put ourselves into an altered state of consciousness. Meditation is a way of meeting God. It is engaging someone who is present, indeed supremely present. It is the realisation of this presence that is the main point of meditation.” 

— Beatrice Bruteau (Author of Radical Optimism)

Check out the app “One Minute Pause” – a simple way to reconnect with God in the midst of your day, based on teachings by author John Eldredge, ‘Get your life back: Every Day Practices for a World Gone Mad.’

During lockdown I’ve had the privilege of teaching Suki Marie at her home in Herefordshire. When her parents were told by the Down’s syndrome Association that she would not be able to sing in key, it was a revelation to learn Suki has near perfect pitch. Combined with her repertoire of more than 200 songs on the piano, from Jake Bugg to Serge Gainsbourg, David Bowie to Marianne Faithful, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Suki, now aged 18, is being recognised worldwide for her musical talent. Born in Hollywood, she is a dual citizen of the USA and Italy, living with indie-rock parents in rural England. Suki, with her remarkable good looks, is a part time model, and also plays the ukulele. She was 3 when she went to a Rolling Stones concert in Paris, and Keith Richards accidently blew pot smoke into her face. She’s always believed that this puff of smoke gave her the muse!

Photo by Richard Shakespeare.

Talking of which, Laura Marling’s new podcast ‘Reversal of the Muse’ is well worth a listen. My most played music this year is her award winning album, ‘Song for our Daughter.’ My friend introduced me to her interview, with Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris. I love the respect the singers show one another as independent but collective artists, all while exploring the creative power of femininity. Check out Laura at the proms too, playing with a live orchestra. ‘Blow by Blow‘ I played on a loop for a whole day.

And not to forget … Happy St David’s Day! The Patron Saint of Wales, renowned for his miracle of rising up on a hill with a white dove on his shoulder, David – Dewi Sant has not quite granted the Welsh a national holiday but has been name-dropped by Shakespeare, and said to have discovered Glastonbury Abbey with more than 50 churches and monasteries named after him in Wales. Anointed in Jerusalem and known for living a frugal life of asceticism, he was responsible for the colloquial term “Taffy”, derived from “Daffyd”, the name David in Welsh. I’m thinking of my Welsh friends and family today!

Finally, this lockdown I bought my first ever TV license (for my iPad). A favourite on screen moment was watching the 1948 film ‘Joan of Arc’, featuring Ingrid Bergman. As she rode through the French villages on horseback leading men into battle, to her ultimate fate, to be burnt at the stake, she is asked by a fellow soldier, “How are you feeling Joan, do you feel heavy in that armour?’ – ’No, I feel light, very light … very light-hearted in fact’!

That’s all folks, mind how you go!

New music coming very soon ….

With love,