I’ll fly away

“Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claw.”
Victor Hugo,

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(crows taking off from the field / Julie Cook / 2014)

Watching two crows waddle about on a cold January morning, on their never ending quest for something to eat, only to have them spooked by who knows what— I was reminded of a very old and very southern song—“I’ll Fly Away”

Having been raised in the Episcopal / Anglican Church, with it’s rich ancient sounds and music, songs such as I’ll Fly Away were never a part of my Church experience much less on my radar. . . However it is that part about being raised in the South which leads itself to my being very familiar with this “other” type of church music—music simply known as Gospel Music.

I am certainly no aficionado of music and truthfully I prefer, as well as love and adore, the more ancient hymns of an ancient church— but I would not be true to my southern raising if I totally eschewed the type of music which is rooted as deep as it can go into this very deep South I call home.

Music is as much a part of our lives here in the South as it is a part of our history—it is who we are as a people. So much so that it has transcended an entire Nation, offering the world a unique sound that is truly all our own.

Much of the Gospel music echoing out of this sun-baked ground, found only here in these Southern states, is steeped in the histories of a wide variety of people— all of whom made their way to this area very long ago by either choice or coercion.

Whether it is the traditional music of the “Negro Spirituals”, whose history is mingled with the blood, sweat and tears of the cotton fields of long gone plantations–songs of faith and strength created by those brought here against their own wishes in order to tend the land of others—– or be it those of the melodic tragic stories and tales as told by an accented clannish people who fled the famine of another country, traveling across a vast ocean, only to settle within the “highlands”, as it were, of Appalachia— culture and music are each wedded and woven just as intricately as the kudzu and red dirt which both run deep and wide here in the South.

The “hymn” I’ll Fly Away was written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929. Need we be reminded of what transpired in this Country in 1929? Our fate that year was sealed on Wall Street as it, along with almost everything around this Nation of ours, crashed. Who living at that time most likely didn’t wish to “fly away”–as things, as a whole, were tragically bad for this Nation. Lives were shattered and changed forever. Dreams vanished over night. Hope was a lost commodity on an entire generation of people—so perhaps it was the desire of flying away, leaving those burdens of a very heavy and weary life behind, which most likely appealed to the masses.

It is claimed that the song I’ll Fly Away is the most widely recorded Gospel song in history. It has been taken and amended by not only Gospel singers, but those who sing Country, Bluegrass, Rock-a-billy, Rock, Christian, Jazz, Pop and even Rap. Most interesting that one song has had the ability of transcending such a wide variety of genres. Perhaps that speaks to the staying power of the lyrics themselves. Depending on who is currently singing, some of the lyrics may be added, subtracted or amended, but over all it is the enduring freeing gist of the song which remains the same—that of leaving behind the trials of life. . .oh to be freed, free as the bird who has just been released from a cage, soaring heavenward, all to the waiting arms of a loving Father—oh by and by. . .by and by.

So on this new day to a new week, don’t be surprised if at some point you too may find yourself wishing to just leave it all behind—however, just remember, don’t fly too high.

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away

to wander far from home

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

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(photograph: Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook/ 2011)

Isn’t this a lovely place? A beautifully inviting home…neat,cheery, pretty, and very welcoming. Just looking at this courtyard home makes me want to call it my own. Never having seen it before nor having ever visited here before, something about this place immediately makes me feel “at home”.

The idea of home means many different things to many different people. It may be a certain place, a particular building or city— it may be the people associated with what forms the idea of home. I think we all have a deep perception of what forms the foundation, the concept, of home–as that is basically formed from childhood. Those early formative days were hopefully, for most, days of feelings of security and belonging. Sadly I do know that not all children experience that sense of security and belonging. However,despite the good or bad initial formative years, we all have some innate desire for, or longing for, regardless of childhood, …. Home.

Have you ever been at home and yet—feel that home is actually somewhere else? It’s as if some other place “out there” is calling out to you but you just don’t know where….have you ever traveled being so excited about the start of a new adventure and yet equally excited about finally returning to “home”?
Happy going and happy coming…and yet there still remains an underlying yearning….

I have always known that yearning. Maybe it goes back to the adoption…maybe not. How can a person have so much fulfillment and still think there is more you ask? When I was in High School I read the book Something More by Catherine Marshall.

I’ve written about Mrs. Marshall before. She became a rather famous Christian author during the 6o’s and 70’s. One of her early books Christy , a story based on her mother’s experience as a teacher in the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains, was the basis for the 1994 television show of the same name, staring Kelly Martin. The story of a young woman who leaves behind her comfortable life with her prestigious family in Asheville, North Carolina, during the early 20th century, in turn venturing into the foreboding Appalachian Mountains, as a young single teacher, wanting to work with some of this country’s most impoverished and superstitious people.

Those families who called the remote mountains home were predominantly settlers from Scotland having arrived in this country at varying times–some coming early during the times of the Revolutionary war in the late 18th century as others were products of the mass emigration days of the turn of the 20th century. The Appalachian Mountains were reminiscent to their ancestral homes in Scotland from whence these families originally hailed—allowing them to keep to the very private and traditional ways of life of extreme territorial family clans. The story of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s is but a small example of this bitter family clan history in this mountain region albeit, for them , based in Kentucky

Mrs. Marshall had been married to Peter Marshall, a well known and widely popular young charismatic Presbyterian minister who had served as Chaplin to the US Senate. Sadly Peter Marshall died from a heart attack at a very early age—leaving Mrs. Marshall, a young widow, to care for the couple’s young son. It was during this time when she wrote her first book, A Man Called Peter, a story based on her husband’s life and rising career through the ministry.

She eventually remarried, continued raising a growing family and continued writing. The first book I read of Mrs. Marshall’s, back in 1977, was her book Something More. Her books had a profound effect on me as a high school kid who was truly on a quest for that very thing…something more. It was however one of her later books, The Helper, that opened a new look into an area of Christianity, which even Christians find mysterious and are not fully confident to discuss —that being the role of The Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

To many Christians the Holy Spirit is an enigma. A member of the Trinity given to us, after the Resurrection, to remain as a sort of guide post, marking the way on a spiritual journey. A concept difficult to sometimes wrap our thoughts around. It is said that we are only able to pray because of the deep seeded piece of the Spirit that resides deep within our souls urging us, calling to us, willing us to communicate with our Father……..

So it has been during this life of mine that I have learned truly one thing…that being when the Holy Spirit touches your heart, you are never the same. You will always be restless. There will always be yearnings because a hole has been seared into the core of the heart. Life becomes a quest to quench that yearning. Sometimes the quest is intentional, sometimes it’s that emptiness that just seems to be driving us deeper into what appears to be the unknown–not understanding why we are feeling “empty” or lost, but just knowing something just isn’t quite right.

It is apparent to me that I need to delve further into the role the Spirit is playing in my life. But I am comforted by this particular verse…..

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15 NIV)

Here is to seeking and soothing the unknown yearnings of our deepest interior. Here is to finding our true “home”….