I just returned from another visit to Victoria’s blog, whereupon I was intrigued by this week’s Monday Morning Writing Prompt topic of Sacred Music. Last week was quite extraordinary for me, two funerals and a wedding. There was no shortage of Sacred Music to be heard and felt as a result. This particular writing prompt captured my imagination, as I have been surrounded by music all my life, and I easily resonate with its raw beauty and power to transport my mind to another plane.
The word sacred evokes the notion of reverence, devotion, or veneration with regard to a higher order of a religious or spiritual nature. For today’s prompt and reflection that follows, I selected two musical pieces that some may consider to be deeply religious in nature. I am not, however, a particularly religious person although I do consider myself spiritual. These musical pieces are excellent examples of what some call prayer, or others meditation; a conversation of a simple creature seeking and reaching out to some higher order power in a uniquely personal and private moment of serenity, tranquility, and beauty. Inspirational, ethereal, and sublime.
I cannot simply put the musical pieces up without a set-up; I am after all a musical geek. Both pieces are commonly known as the Ave Maria. First is my absolute favorite version, written by Charles Gounod in 1859 as a melody superimposed over J.S. Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major written in 1722. The lyric is the Hail Mary prayer in Latin.
Ave Maria – C. Gounod (1859) sung by Jessye Norman
The second selection, also a personal favorite, is commonly known as the Ave Maria, however it is actually Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen’s Third Song), written by Franz Schubert in 1825. The song was part of a seven song Opus, a German translation of Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake epic poem. The original lyrics of the song begin with Ellen praying to the Virgin Mary to protect her and her father from harm as they hid in exile in caves near Lake Katrine from their enemies.
Ellens dritter Gesang (Ave Maria) – F. Schubert (1825) sung by Barbara Bonney
I can be an incredibly long-winded person, almost never at a loss for words, but as I close my eyes to listen and reflect upon this sacred music, I am moved and filled with a simple thought:
Life is beautiful.
No work papers
No personal mail
No text messages
No signal to any device
No light in the wee hours of morn
No contact with the human world
No connection to things that oft govern my day
No shoes on my feet as I enter the solitary beach before the dawn
No plan in mind
Nothing. Nothing at all
Nothing and yet…
The senses awaken, one by one
The sound of the ocean as waves crash ashore
Violent and powerful, yet rhythmically relaxing
Reach my ears in a haunting, familiar, and primal sound
Soothing, as I drop ever slowly into restful relaxation
Breathing in step to the cadence of those tidal sounds
I can smell the salt air from the sea water’s presence
The mist from the surf hitting hard on the rocks
Floats into the air, gently tickling my skin
The sand at my feet at first coarse now gets finer
And wetter, yet firmer as I near waters edge
As the water rolls over my feet it feels cool
As it rolls out to sea, wet sand envelopes my feet
I can feel a light breeze in my face from the water
Cool and quite chilly, blowing my hair all about
I can see the waning moon in the easternmost sky
Cast its eerie glow over the rippling seas,
A dappled line in the water points uniquely to me
The sky changes hue as the sun nears the edge
All at once it is bright as it peeks over water
Completely transforming the night into day
In the water ahead playful dolphins diving for food
On the sand in the distance, gulls hopping about
Other birds soar above as they chirp with delight
So I sit on the sand as I am warmed by the sun
Enjoying the performance around me, brought exclusively here
And while I had thought I unplugged from it all
It occurred to me now that the less that I brought
Left me open to receive all the world had to give
Reconnected in ways I had never imagined
I am fortunate to live in an area that has hundreds of miles of dedicated walking trails and a marvelous lake and wildlife preserve a few miles from my home. I enjoy an early morning walk or run on these trails, and when I have extra time and the weather is nice, I make my way to the lake, camera in hand. I’ve been snapping photos of the lake for almost a decade now, and the fascination and beauty of the place never fades. If you have a few moments, join me and see why I consider this waking part of my day to be so special. I’ll try not to bore you too much with commentary – the images tend to speak well for themselves.
A Blue Heron searching about for breakfast.
Sunrise making its presence known.
A young buck and his companion enjoying a morning drink. Personally, I prefer a nice strong cup of coffee.
Sometimes, all you really need to do is look upward for inspiration…
A favorite spot for me to reflect, and to journal those random thoughts that occasionally make their way to this blog.
Last year’s grasses yielding to this year’s new growth.
Full sunlight bathing the lake’s easternmost end.
Here we have a family of Expatriate Canadian Geese who have declared their preference for permanent residency in Maryland.
This pesky Egret was dodging me for quite some time before finally staring me down, probably wondering what the heck I was doing poking around his environs.
It is said that some men spend their time sitting in Church and dream about fishing, while other men spend their time fishing and dream about God. I believe this shot helps me understand the spirit of that saying.
As I made my way home, walking through the trails and eventually emerging to the streets leading to my home, I couldn’t help but notice the frenzied pace of cars whirring past me as people scurry about in their daily lives, completely oblivious to all that beauty lying just beneath the veneer of a world they are unconsciously rushing through.