Putting Down Roots

going home
January 14, 2011, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Tonight I went to the shape note sing at Holy Comforter Episcopal church where the ceiling is sky blue with silver stars painted on it. Shape note singing is old like your great-grandma’s quilt is old, old like the Appalachian Mountains are old. I don’t know too much of the history of it, only that it’s a way of writing music (with four shapes instead of the standard oval-shaped notes on sheet music) that was meant to make it easy to teach folks how to sing in church. It’s known for being loud and for harmonies that make your heart want to break into a million beautiful pieces.

Tonight, as the twenty of us sat in a square (tenors facing altos, trebles facing basses), calling out the page numbers to songs and trying our best to sing louder than our neighbors, I was struck by all the references to “home.” One song–I believe it was a mountain folk song before it got put to shapenote music a hundred or so years ago–has a chorous that goes something like “we’ll camp a while in the wilderness, then we’re going home.” (I looked it up, and here’s the first verse: “I’m wand’ring to and fro, in this wide world of woe, where streams of sorrow flow, and then I’m going home.” Cheery way of looking at the world, eh?)

Another song, which I can’t get out of my head, goes: “I’m a long time travelling here below, I’m a long time a’traveling away from home, I’m a long time travelling here below, and I don’t care to stay here long.”

I’ve been thinking about home these past few months. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to feel so comfortable and rooted here in Tallahassee, maybe it’s because I’m starting to wonder where my next home will be when I leave here in the summer, maybe it’s because it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to answer anyone when they ask where “home” is.

The bottom line, of these songs and the others like it, is that there’s another, and a better, home that we’re on our way to. We’re not there yet. Right now, we’re just camping out in the wilderness (next to, I can only assume, those streams of sorrow). But there’s somewhere good we’re heading to.


1 Comment so far
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“By the streams of Babylon,
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.

“If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

“Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.”

Comment by Alex L.

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