Ring out, wild bells

For Advent and Christmas this year, Candace and I again are reading aloud together through Malcolm Guite, Waiting on the Word, a collection of poems and essay reflections. On New Years Day, Malcolm Guite calls our attention to the “ring out, wild bells” section of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850; section CVI). Go to Malcolm’s blog where he reprints Tennyson’s lines and reads them aloud. There he also points to the appealing, yearning, meditative musical version by Alana Levandoski, embedded above.

Although I have been aware of this poetic passage since first watching How To Steal a Million and hearing Peter O’Toole call out the first line, this year the words seem particularly poignant and call me to renewed reflection. With hope diminished, Tennyson nevertheless “takes up in this poem the task of articulating what are those things to come, of which the bells speak, and centring them surely and clearly on our Advent hope in the coming of Christ; not just at Christmas but in and through all time and at the end” (Waiting on the Word, p. 131). Reminiscent of Ecclesiastes’ call for a time for every purpose under heaven, the ringing of the bells proclaims the onward pull of the future advent upon on all things — “ring in the Christ, that is to be.”

Malcolm again explains:

“The pealing of bells ringing in the new year brings us round again to Tennyson’s great poem In Memoriam. On 12 December, we listened with him for the ‘muffled peal’ of bells heard in grief, whose half-heard chime served only to remind him of his loss [section XXVIII]. But now, he strikes another note. In the art of English change ringing, we hear a wonderful interweaving of bells, each with its own tone and name, changing places in a complex dance, answering one another, constantly changing order to renew and transfigure a pattern” (p. 130).

Back in early December, I took my tattered old volume of Tennyson off the shelf and reposed for a while in the poem. (Cf. Wikipedia: Ring out, wild bells, In Memoriam.)

It is good to return to it now, and to contemplate on New Years Day how change-ringing is the way life unfolds. Coincidentally, I’ve also been reading that great Lord Peter Wimsey mystery which revolves upon change-ringing, and which (not coincidentally) takes place largely at Christmastide and New Years, Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Nine Tailors.

Thank you, Malcolm, for this reflection, and for the entire book.

Malcolm Guite, Waiting on the Word Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors

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Kindness and Hope

One of the pleasant surprises and joyous discoveries last month for us was the discovery, in a used-bookstore in Scotland, of the kind and hopeful book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy (Amazon). We promptly purchased a copy for each of our daughters. Now it is my great delight to see that an animated version will appear on Apple TV+ this holiday. From the trailer above, the animation and script appear to be well-suited to the aesthetic and content of the book. Can’t wait!


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Twitter note

Over Thanksgiving break, I decided to quit Twitter. I don’t want to follow the Musk melodrama, nor become invested in the platform given its current instability, nor subject myself to the disruption of threads of people I follow due to the restoration of previously-suspended accounts. So if you’re accustomed to following me there, my account no longer exists. I am not implying that others should make the same choice, and I would not rule out returning in a future year with a brand new account. Rather, I will be fasting from social media for the coming year in search of less cognitive fragmentation and greater mental focus. Already I’ve finished reading one book — Benedict’s The Infancy Narratives — in spare moments that might have been spent twitter scrolling. We’ll see how it goes, but I feel good.

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Winter’s Moon

From Loreena McKennitt’s forthcoming new live album Under A Winter’s Moon.

Loreena has released a single of the oldest-known Canadian Christmas hymn, “Huron Carol.” It’s the first time she has ever recorded the song, written in 1642 by a Jesuit missionary living among the Huron people. Also known as “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” the original lyrics were in the native Huron-Wendat indigenous language. The single is available for download on streaming platforms, and sheet music is available from the Loreena McKennitt Shop.

Under a Winter’s Moon was recorded during Loreena’s December 2021 concerts in a historic church sanctuary in her home base of Stratford, Ontario. The seasonal concerts were an intimate and moving miscellany of music and spoken word and were recorded live. They’ll be released as her 16th album on November 18th…

The above info is from the caption at youTube and her website.

Bruce Cockburn’s version of The Huron Carol is also one of our favorites. I am moved every time I hear Cockburn sing the verses in Huron instead of the usual French and English. Cockburn remarks that it’s about “the birth of Christ as a liberation from the thrall of evil.” Along with “Joy to the World,” this is my favorite Christmas carol (quoted here). I’ve included this album on my list of favorite Christmas recordings.

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Firbush November 2022

I’m so pleased that we’ll be able to participate in the upcoming Firbush retreat November 9-11. Thanks to Bob Walker, I’ve been invited to present about the new T. F. Torrance Science and Religion Collection (description here).

My presentation will be 45 minutes. Here’s a video advance version

I was pretty happy with an earlier draft, but when recorded it came in at “only” 1 hour and 39 minutes. 😂🧐🤓 So I chopped it in half, but now I’ve added another 10 minutes of new material. Will need to chop some more by next week. Anyway, this video is password protected; write me if you want to watch it.

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Thinking Visually

IEEE VIS, the premier international conference on visualization and visual analytics, is bringing 1100 people to Oklahoma City this week either in-person or virtually. OU Professor David Ebert is one of the organizers of the conference. David is Gallogly Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Science (CS); Associate Vice President of Research and Partnerships; and Director, Data Institute for Societal Challenges (DISC).

An OU Open House on Thursday showcased data science activities and research from DISC and other centers on campus including the History of Science Collections.

I thank David for inviting me to present the capstone, which I’ve entitled: “Galileo’s Telescopic Discoveries: Thinking Visually in the History of Science.” Here’s the program and the capstone description from the conference website.

Related links:

  • Script (PDF)
  • “Galileo’s World” Exhibition Catalog. Look particularly at the gallery for “Galileo and Perspective Drawing.”
  • Visual Thinking and the History of the Earth: One, Two. Didactic images of the Earth are part of the story of how the history of the Earth came to be reconstructed.
  • Visual Thinking and Charles Darwin: “Darwin at the Library” Exhibition Catalog. The breadth of Darwin’s works is remarkable. What stands out from a survey of his books is a masterful use of a remarkably wide range of visual illustrations.
  • Visitors to the open house also got to see the story of Mary Anning, who discovered the fossils that make up the Jurassic age: handout.
  • Many handouts at the open house may be downloaded from Lynx Open Ed.

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OU History of Geology Collecting Initiative

“Preserving Papers of People, Places, and Things: The OU History of Geology Collecting Initiative,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver on Oct 9, 2022.

OU History of Geology Collecting Initiative.

Links from the last slide:

What a privilege it was to gather with like-minded historians and geologists for the GSA annual conference this year. As always, our many conversations between the sessions were the highlight of the event. The History of Geology Division hosted a day of sessions on Sunday. The Geoheritage group, which overlaps significantly with the History of Geology Division, held a full day of sessions on Monday. On Tuesday there was a History of Geology luncheon, and excellent sessions on science communication, science journalism (with Peter Brannen; The Atlantic, Amazon), and film-making (Unconformity, with producer Jonathan DiMaio; movie website, IMDB). If you are one of the students I interacted with, know that I enjoyed our conversations immensely.

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Kirksville Stories

Kirksville TravelStorys Kirksville TravelStorys map

During a visit home to Kirksville over Labor Day weekend, Dad and I drove around town on a history tour. We used the Travel Storys app, which uses GPS to automatically launch an audio description of interesting sites as we drew near. Using our car rather than proceeding on foot, in two leisurely morning drives consisting of about an hour each, we were able to visit all of the sites marked with a green bubble on the map.

What a joy and delight it was to experience some of the stories of Kirksville! We are thankful to Mayor Zac Burden and the City Council for making this history tour available. The mayor narrates the tour, and there is no better voice we would rather hear guiding us around the sites… clear and distinct enunciation, yet with a contagious sense of appreciation for those whose stories have shaped us.

What I discovered from doing the tour is that it makes me wonder all the more about all the other stories Kirksville offers in the older homes and structures that were not included! Such a tour as this is an entry, a doorway, a starting point, not an endpoint. It changes the way one looks at old familiar places, or how one responds when certain names are mentioned. It is a guided introduction not only to the history of Kirksville, but also to beginning to think historically in general.

In other words, it’s not just for tourists! Even more so, it deepens a sense of civic identity for those who live in Kirksville, or grew up there, and causes us to look more attentively to appreciate similar stories as we encounter them among us, wherever we are.

Now hopefully Truman and ATSU will sponsor their own tours that coordinate with the Kirksville tour for a comprehensive and integrated picture of Kirksville’s past.

If I have another home than Kirksville, it would be Wyoming, and in the Travel Storys app I see a long list of tours for Wyoming. Not so much for Oklahoma. So a big thank you is in order for those responsible for creating this tour, who made it possible for residents and visitors to Kirksville to enjoy experiencing a historical dimension of the place we all hold dear.

To try out the tour, download the free TravelStorys [sic] app from the App Store or Google Play. Open the app and then search for “Kirksville” and download the free tour (about 60MB). I granted permission for the app to know my location only when I am using the app; this GPS location awareness is necessary for autoplay of location descriptions. Alternatively, one may browse any location manually, wherever one may be. Note: The platform includes some premium tours, but the app and the Kirksville tour are available at no charge.

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The Old Churchyard

Madderty Church, Scotland Madderty Church, Scotland

The Old Churchyard.

Over Labor Day weekend, Candace, Rachel and Hannah got a chance to learn several songs, among which was Old Churchyard, an Appalachian folk song. Here it is from the last practice session, Monday September 5, 2022 at Dad’s. There was no sheet music to go by, so they worked by listening to the recording by the Wailin’ Jennys. They are holding their own individual notes and squiggles to guide them.

last frame

The last frame shows their surprise at how it is coming together (!). To my mind, this frame illustrates the true meaning of the song, that Jesus has conquered death for all of us and so the day will come when he will heal us completely.

The Old Churchyard (lyrics PDF)

Come, come with me to the old churchyard
I so well know those paths ‘neath the soft green sward
Friends slumber in there that we want to regard
We will trace out their names in the old churchyard

Mourn not for them for their trials are o’er
Why weep for those who will weep no more?
For sweet is their sleep, though cold and hard
Their pillows may be in the old churchyard

I know that it’s vain when our friends depart
To breathe kind words to a broken heart
And I know that the joy of life is marred
When we follow lost friends to the old churchyard

But were I at rest ‘neath yonder tree
Why would you weep, my friends, for me?
I’m so weary, so wayworn, why would you retard
The peace that I seek in the old churchyard?

Why weep for me, for I’m anxious to go
To that haven of rest where no tears ever flow?
And I fear not my fate when it’s time to depart
I will sail with the sun in the old churchyard

I rest in the hope that one bright day
Sunshine will burst through these prisons of clay
The trumpets will sound in the hills near and far
Will wake up the dead in the old churchyard

I rest in the hope that one bright day
Sunshine will burst through these prisons of clay
The trumpets will sound in the hills near and far
Will wake up the dead in the old churchyard

The trumpets will sound in the hills near and far
Will wake up the dead in the old churchyard

Highland Park Cemetery, Kirksville, MO

The next morning at Highland Park Cemetery, Dad and I visited Mother’s gravestone (photo by Laura). At some point in the future, I’m planning to go there myself so to speak.

Above is a photo of Madderty Church in Scotland, a half hour north of Dunblane, which Candace and I visited in 2018. A number of Magruders are buried at both locations (Dunblane and Madderty). The gravestone epigram is from Madderty (photo by Rachel earlier this year). Our relatives struggling over the centuries in Scotland probably never imagined that someday some American descendants might return to Scotland to visit their gravesites in gratitude for their lives (cf. Communion).

Another song they practiced is Bird Song, again from the Wailin’ Jennys.

Bird Song

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Reading with imagination

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