December 25, 2008


Ghost of a Garden



The garden at midnight,
in the season of this writing,
has been found as a gossamer thing
just as the waning moon
cleared the eastern mountain
to plow through the stars.

Taking away the material
substance of the garden
and leaving it an ethereal thing.
The real garden gone –
only the soul of the garden real.

The garden at midnight
brought to memory a visitor
who once came to the garden altar
and knelt and prayed there.

She exclaimed . . .

“When the Mission’s last picture is painted,
when all now living have passed
from work to reward,
when the garden altar and walls
have crumbled
and cockleburs grow on the ruin –
let us ask God
to let us come back some Christmas
to the ghost of this garden
for a glorious midnight Mass.”

On that recent midnight,
there was only a ghost of the garden.
And in the ghost garden midnight Mass
at the garden altar
at some point in eternity,
it seemed as rational as immortal life.

Perhaps it is childish
to dwell on that Mass,
even in fancy,
but it is a sweet and lovely vision.
A bit of heaven once of earth,
come back to earth again.

All the acolytes
the Mission ever had,
all who were ever numbered
with the Mission
or the Greater Congregation.

All the children,
assembled with the angels
in the Mission garden.

All to whom faith was natural
and all to whom faith was a struggle,
no longer needing a creed
in the light of mutual knowing.

Every voice lifted in heavenly paeans.
The ghosts of all the candle flames
that ever graced the Mission altars,
the ghosts of all the incense ever offered.

Perhaps behind the garden altar,
where now stands a statue of Holy Mary,
she might really come and stand
with the ghosts of all the roses.

And she might actually hold in her arms
no less than the eternal Christmas Child.
While all the stars of the heavens
gathered of their will for her diadem,
pale in His blinding glory.

George W. Jones
From the book "Life's Journey".


Photo by Dan Hardison
Hickory Nut Gorge, Western North Carolina


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December 20, 2008


The Christ Child's Lullaby



My love my treasured one are you
My sweet and lovely son are you
You are my love my darling you
Unworthy I of you

Your mild and gentle eyes proclaim
The loving heart with which you came
A tender helpless tiny babe
With boundless gifts of grace

King of kings most holy one
God a son eternal one
You are my God and helpless son
My ruler of mankind

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

— Traditional lyrics from the Hebrides Islands,
Scotland, as sung by Sheena Wellington


Image by Dan Hardison
Digitally Enhanced Photograph
(Used for my 2008 Christmas card)


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December 12, 2008


The Parthenon Nativity Scene




There are always wonderful memories of Christmases past even though time has rendered the details a little less clear. Some are traditions that were celebrated at Christmas year after year. There are many from Middle Tennessee that will recall visiting the Nativity Scene at the Parthenon in Centennial Park in Nashville.

The Nativity Scene at the Parthenon was first installed for Christmas 1954. Donated by Fred Harvey of Harvey's Department Store in Nashville, it was 280 feet long, 75 feet deep and filled with colorful lights. The scene could be viewed by driving around the Parthenon along the park road. The Nativity Scene was a regular feature every Christmas through 1967 when age and disrepair forced the Christmas tradition to end.

The Parthenon – a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece – was built as the Fine Arts Building for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897. The exposition celebrated 100 years of Tennessee's statehood. Centennial Park with the Parthenon as its centerpiece was created in 1902 from the 200 acres that served as the Centennial grounds. On December 31, 2001, a celebration was held to mark the completion of the Parthenon's seven-year restoration.

It has been many years since the Nativity scene at the Parthenon was a welcomed visit, but it will remain a memory to be cherished.

— Dan Hardison


Image: 8 3/4" panoramic postcard of the Nativity scene at the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee, c. 1950s.


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December 1, 2008


Exhibition: "Light of the World"




"One thought again, as so often in the deep moments of life, how ritual of our faith fulfilled that joyous command: Let there be light!"
— From a letter, author unknown.

Light plays a significant role in our spiritual lives, but especially so during the Christmas season. Lighting the candles of the Advent Wreath leads the way to Christmas Day and the birth of the "Light of the World."

The above image is included in the online exhibition "Light of the World" for The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA). Visit www.ecva.org to view the exhibition.

— Dan Hardison


Image "Let There Be Light"
Digitally Enhanced Photograph
By Dan Hardison

November 22, 2008


The Garden Gate



Within the garden
all is in order
everything in its place
everything as it should be.

Beyond the garden gate
it is open and free
with endless possibilities.

In the garden
I am content
but beyond the garden gate
I am filled with wonder.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Maury County, Tennessee


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November 15, 2008


Going Back



It has been many years
since I called this place home
and even though
I have been back,
it seems so different now.

The streets I used to know,
the places I used to go
are all vague somehow.

Some things are familiar,
some have changed,
some are gone,
some are just forgotten.

There are people here
who may know my name,
but they belong
to some other time
that I just cannot remember.

Perhaps you cannot go back -
perhaps the people and places
should forever remain a memory.

But if you do go back,
you must accept that today
it will all be different somehow.

And the memories
will remain forever
in the past.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Parkway, Western North Carolina


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November 7, 2008


The Bright Road



This is the bright road to the mountain top
Beset with shadows and with paths astray,
By dangerous crag, by cliff's sudden drop
Into eternity. This is the way
That man might climb upon the verdant sod
And find among the peaks the peace of God.

On this long road man needs an iron-bound will,
A purpose clear that strengthens every hour,
A hand to help the weak o'er steepening hill
And heart to cheer the sad through darkening shower.
This is the bright road youth must climb with care
To gain the top and its good blessings share.

James Still
From the book "From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems".


Photo by Dan Hardison
Cades Cove, East Tennessee


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October 25, 2008


Book: Life’s Journey



From 1932 until his death in 1952, George W. Jones published The Booklet – a quarterly report of activities at Epiphany Mission in Sherwood, Tennessee. Life's Journey is a collection of essays and poems that appeared in issues of The Booklet.

After the death of his mother in 1939, family and friends tried to encourage him to come home to Georgia to live. “Are not ten years of service in Sherwood and three thousand Masses at those altars enough? Why not come home to your people and the soil you love and grow roses and write story books?” His response was simple, “Lonely without mother! Home to brethren! They so little understand. These Sherwood people, ...these souls growing in God’s Sherwood garden – these are the priest’s mother and his brethren.”

It was through The Booklet that George W. Jones would write about daily life in this small remote area of the Cumberland Mountains, the hardships of living through the Great Depression and World War II, and include his inspirational and spiritual writings. Through his writing, he not only touched the lives of the people at the Mission and in the valley, but also the host of people that comprised the "Greater Congregation" – friends and supporters of the Mission all across the country.

"His were the hands and his was the labor that God used to build Epiphany Mission. His invisible memorial remains in the lives and the hearts of the people of Sherwood." – The Rev. Joseph S. Huske

Life's Journey (Lulu.com, Hardcover, 278 pages) also includes black and white photographs that appeared in issues of The Booklet, and an essay on George W. Jones. All proceeds from the sale of Life's Journey go to Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church.

For more information on Life's Journey and view a preview of the book, visit www.epiphanymission.org/lifes_journey.htm.

October 18, 2008


The Cathedral



The love of God
constrains His child
to conceive that the mountains
have walled Sherwood
into a vast cathedral
with the arch of the firmament
its dome.

The mountain
squarely west
becomes the high altar
of the cathedral.

The trees
holding half their leaves
are bright red gold,
the corn is ruddy gold,
and the warm light
filtered through autumn haze
is pale glowing gold.

Fallen leaves
carpeting the temple
and raked into a hundred mounds
by a hundred thurifers
make incense.

And the smoke rises thick
before the mighty altar
and dims the great cathedral
as it climbs, spirals, weaves
upward and upward
into the celestial dome.

The earth smells of ripeness –
ripe harvest,
ripe apples,
ripe fodder –
spicy and sweet.

The last warmth
of the aging year
is tenderly caressing.

The day is breathless.
There is neither speech
nor language
but nature is very clear,
“Be still. Know God
in the work of His hands.”

The sinking sun all day long
veiled by golden haze
at last becomes visible,
then portentous,
as the huge disk
above the mountain altar
sinks lower, lower
to the altar throne
and into the far-flung monstrance
of golden sunset clouds.

All the daylong
the heavenly dome
and all its roof
has declared His glory.

And then day is done
and the shadows of the evening
as the vanguards of night
steal across the sky.

The sun,
through the haze of incense
the color of blood,
even His precious blood,
is the symbol of the Host
in benediction.

The gates of heaven
seem open very wide
to man below.

O Jesus,
now the day is done,
with Thy tenderest blessings
of calm and sweet repose,
put Thy weary people to bed
like little children all.

The great altar is dark
and it is night.

George W. Jones
From the book "Life's Journey".


Photo by Dan Hardison
Balsam, North Carolina


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October 11, 2008


Autumn



Splash of scarlet, splash of gold,
Mornings touched with autumn's cold,
Weary fields beneath the sun
Resting with their labor done.
Scythe and sickle put away.
Night is longer now than day.

Later now the sun to rise.
Gone are birds and butterflies.
Just a few brave blossoms stay,
Relicts of their kindred gay
Still with courage carrying on
'Till their strength is wholly gone.

Neither field nor forest taints
Nature's purpose with complaints.
Chilled by frost unto the heart
Silently the flowers depart.
Stand the trees, like warriors bold
Dressed in scarlet and in gold.

Nothing sad or tearful here
At the twilight of the year.
These October mornings glow
Just as if they seem to know
Past all doubt and questioning
Life is an eternal thing.

Edgar A. Guest
From the book "Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest", 1934


Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Parkway, Western North Carolina


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October 4, 2008


The Leaves Are Falling



The leaves are falling

as I walk a path
once tried and true.

The leaves are falling

where once the path
was bright and clear.

The leaves are falling

and I am unsure
about the path I follow.

The leaves are falling

and it is hard to see
from whence I came.


— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Bald River Falls, East Tennessee


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September 27, 2008


Saints Among Us



Is there anyone who dos not recognize the name St. Patrick? Even if they do not realize St. Patrick was actually a person and not just a day on the calendar with an Irish connection. Most people can tell you that the statue of a bearded man in a monk's robe surrounded by birds and small animals so often found in gardens is that of St. Francis. And then there is St. Nick. Whether one attends church or not, everyone is familiar with a few of the saints – at least by name even if they do not know anything about the actual person.

Around the year 100 A.D., Christians began honoring those who had lived exceptional lives in their devotion to God. There are now over 10,000 named saints. We honor many of these saints as namesakes of our churches, in celebration with feast days, and in commemoration on November 1, All Saints Day. But it is important to remember that these men and women were much like you and I.

During the building of a garden by the boys at their Mission Church, a concrete statue of Mary with the infant Lord was placed behind the outdoor altar. One youth in his exuberance painted the words "I love Jesus" on the back of the statue in green paint. In telling the story, the Rev. George W. Jones said, "Sometimes patience has been at the point to break, but there has been no thought of forbearance ceasing to be a virtue. Most saints were once imps."

Saints started out living ordinary lives with the struggles and pitfalls that plague us all, but went on to live extraordinary lives. They dedicated themselves to God, unselfishly working for the good of those around them. We are all capable of saintly lives by following the example they set through their lives and their teaching. Wendy Dackson reminds us that, "Saints are people who live in the love of God, people who let the light of God's Son shine through them. It doesn't matter if they are an Archbishop in England, a civil rights leader in the United States, or an elderly nun in India – or the woman from our church who brings flowers to our hospital room or meals to our homes. Or the man who works for a better education system or helps build low-income housing. All of them share a common vision of righteousness, mercy, and peace. The saints of God are among us. The saints of God are us."

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Glendale Springs, North Carolina


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September 20, 2008


The Teacher



Walk slowly, little one
and let me walk beside you,
as you see the wonders

you will see.

And I will try to see them
through your eyes . . .
eyes, still fresh

and beauty seeking;

eyes that do not hide
behind the dimming veil

of ugliness.

Tell me what you see

when birds fly by . . .
when buds of green appear
on April's trees.

Tell me about the ripples

on the pond,
and the colors
of the flowers.

There is so much
I need to know;
so much I have forgotten.
I remember only

how to look.

I do not remember

how to see.

So let me walk along with you
and share the world you know.

I will be the learner.
You will be the teacher.


Jim Metcalf
From his book “In Some Quiet Place”.


Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina


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September 13, 2008


In Moonlight



The day is done
and darkness fills the sky.
All the beauty that was the day
is covered now in night.

When the moon is bright
and shadows of the day appear
we choose what to remember
of the day that was.

To glory in the achievements,

to learn from the failures,

to cherish the joys,

to embrace the sorrows,

to dream of what could be,

to long for yet another day.


— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina


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September 6, 2008


Movie: Wit

There is a verse in a song written by Bill Danoff that reads, “Dream of a time when the tides ebbing now rise again. / Then you will know that to die is not really to end. / Living and dieing are both your most intimate friends.” In the movie Wit, the central character is faced with a life threatening illness and is forced to not only think about her own death, but also to reassess her life. Based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson, Wit is the 2001 Emmy winning HBO movie directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson.

Emma Thompson is outstanding in her portrayal of English Professor Vivian Bearing, a renowned scholar of metaphysical poet John Donne. The rigid and demanding teacher is suddenly faced with stage four ovarian cancer. Realizing that there is no stage five, she enters an aggressive experimental chemotherapy program at a research hospital where she learns, “Once I did the teaching, now I am taught.” There are only a handful of characters in the movie, but they are all wonderful in bringing different aspects of human character into contact with Bearing. Bearing now draws parallels between her life and Donne’s complex and often difficult poetry.

The perspective Mike Nichols used to film the movie was described by Margaret Edson as a way to capture the feel of an actor on a stage interacting with the audience. Much of the screen time has Bearing talking directly to the camera – as if in conversation with the audience. There are several flashback scenes where Bearing is reflecting on different aspects of her life with the image of Bearing of the present alternating with Bearing of the past. In a scene where she is explaining how she first took an interest in words, we see her with her father as a child. As the scene unfolds, the child’s image is replaced with the adult image – a wonderful portrayal of Bearing’s reflection on her life.

Wit deals with life and death issues, but it deals with many other issues as well – quality of life, respect, human dignity. Yes, it is a movie about redemption, but it is also about being true to oneself. There is a gripping scene at the end of the movie where Professor Bearing is visited by her mentor that becomes the turning point in her life as it now comes to an end.

At a conference where Margaret Edson was a keynote speaker, she gave a wonderful, entertaining, and thought provoking talk. During her talk, she spoke about the play and the movie, but she also spoke about spirituality and the relationship of body and soul. Are the body and soul two separate entities, or are they one? Wit presents hard lessons and choices about life without presenting direct answers, giving the viewer plenty to think about long after the movie has ended. Issues that we all must confront.

— Dan Hardison


Note: Wit is available on DVD. There is also a book by Margaret Edson of the screenplay for Wit.

August 29, 2008


Life’s Journey



I

There is a One-way Lane,
sometimes called Straight and Narrow,
reaching from In the Beginning
to the Eternal Throne of God.
It passes through the Garden of Eden
and the Present and the Future
into Ever Shall Be.

It is the River of Life;
it is the King’s Highway.
It is traveled by every human soul
and each soul in passing
pollutes or sweetens the waters;
each soul mars or mends the road.

In our time the channel is clearer,
the highway smoother
because of the saints
who have gone ahead.

We travel under our own power,
but our power was determined
by the influence of all those
who have traveled before us
and shaped our destiny.

We light the way with our own torch,
but our torch was lit
from the light of the past.
And the traffic moves one way only,
we can never go back
to recover losses or to mend.

II

“Away down the river,
a hundred miles or more,
other little children
will bring my boats ashore.” *

Not just your own children
who are the fruit of your body,
but each child that you touch
because the touching
makes it the fruit of your soul.

Not just children in infancy and youth,
but any child of God’s.
Not just the boats you launch,
but the boats you trim, or do not trim.
And by thought and word and deed
you rock the boats or ballast them.

The boats you have launched,
the boats you have made
with ballast and trim
may be small craft,
but like the boats of Christian seamen
in any age of simpler faith
their sails bear the cross of Christ,
their cargoes have had the blessing of God,
and you may reasonably hope
that they will weather the storms to be
and make havening harbor
on the shores of the Kingdom of Heaven.

George W. Jones
From his book "Life's Journey".


Photo by Dan Hardison
Asheville, North Carolina


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* Robert Louis Stevenson from “Where Go the Boats?”

August 23, 2008


The Heritage



No matter what my birth may be,

No matter where my lot is cast,

I am the heir in equity

Of all the precious Past.

The art, the science, and the lore

Of all the ages long since dust,

The wisdom of the world in store,

Are mine, all mine in trust.

The beauty of the living earth,

The power of the golden sun,

The Present, whatsoe'er my birth,

I share with everyone.

As much as any man am I

The owner of the working day;

Mine are the minutes as they fly

To save or throw away.

And mine the Future to bequeath

Unto the generations new;

I help to shape it with my breath,

Mine as I think or do.

Present and Past my heritage,

The Future laid in my control;

No matter what my name or age,

I am a Master-soul!


Abbie Farwell Brown
From the anthology "High Tide: Songs of Joy and Vision from the Present-Day Poets of America and Great Britain", 1916.


Photo by Dan Hardison
Historic St. John's Church
Maury County, Tennessee


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August 15, 2008


Ruins



By a river
as it runs to the sea
is a place of quiet and beauty.

At this place
a town was born
of homes and importance.

And in this town
a church was built
a symbol of faith and hope.

But times changed,
the outlook dimmed,
and all was left abandoned.

Ruins of a church
are all that remain
where faith and hope

once was found.


— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Brunswick Town, North Carolina


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August 2, 2008


The Art of Handmade



When you think of art, what comes to mind - paintings or sculpture perhaps? What about stained-glass windows, a wood carved animal, a hand-sewn quilt, needlepoint cushions, or a handcrafted table, can these items not be considered art also?

art: The products of human creativity

Regardless what a person may think about art, most people do enjoy that which is handmade. And if someone we know created the item, it will have special meaning. This can be true with a quilt sewn by your grandmother, a table crafted by your father, or needlepoint kneelers created by members of a parish.

handmade: Made by hand or a hand process

Many collectors of art and especially crafts, collect these works because they enjoy being surrounded by things that are not only beautiful, but have also been created by hand. Hand crafted items by people who care about the quality of what they make and who love creating it.

artist: A person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination

Whether a person creates objects for a living or just as a hobby, they do so because they love the process of creating, of making something by hand. This process of craftsmanship has been described by Nancy E. Green as "with an eye to both beauty and utility, not just art for art's sake, but art for the soul's sake." So, whether it is a painting above an altar or a handmade coffee mug, it is the fact that it was created with "heart and hand" that makes it special.

love: Have a great affection or liking for

When we surround ourselves with these handmade items, everyday tasks take on more meaning. Even a sip of coffee from a handmade mug seems different. As clay artist Dina Wilde Ramsing has said, "There is a very intimate relationship between the maker and user. God bless the people who appreciate that."

— Dan Hardison


Shelf Clock by Dan Hardison
7 1/4" W x 8 3/4" H x 3 1/4" D
Cherry with a color woodblock print face


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July 26, 2008


Seasons of Life



Death draws near to the season
as another cycle of the fruits
of the earth is passing.

Old age is upon the year . . .

Spring time is birth time,

the time of quickening –

summer is the time of growth,

of fullness –

autumn sees maturity,

ripeness, and passing –

and winter is death.

In the Mission’s valley
summer imperceptibly wanes.
The vanguards of autumn grow bolder
and Indian summer is upon the valley.

Hoarding the passing loveliness

of a season ending

and embracing the pleasant promises

of a season to come

is Indian summer.

The skies are the bluest
of the twelve months.
The early morns the fairest.
The perfumes of ripeness and harvest
are pleasant to smell.

The last days of a fruitful year
that is at the point to die,
are touched with a sweet sadness,
but they are lovely, lovely.

In the Mission’s valley
are those of venerable age
known as Granny,

or Aunt Bess,
or Uncle Tom,
or the old man,
or the old lady.

Their Indian summer is far spent.
Winter’s snow crowns their brows.
Growth is over, maturity finished,
ripeness has grown too mellow,
passing is at hand.

And yet these precious ones
are beautiful as never
in the springtime of life
or in the summer of life’s fullness.

Theirs the refined loveliness

of a season ending,

blessed with the holy promises

of the fuller life to come.

The last roses of summer

are the fairest –

the mellow smiles of God’s children
near long life’s end

are the sweetest.

George W. Jones
From the forthcoming book "Life's Journey".


Photos by Dan Hardison
Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee


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July 18, 2008


Then You'll Know What I know



Photographer Anne Wetzel has said she is frequently asked by people “how do I see what I see” and “how do I know what to look for?” Her answer is simple, “I just do”.

We all know that an artist sees the world around us in a slightly different way, something Leonardo da Vinci described as "knowing how" to see. But how do you teach or even explain this way of seeing to others? This is something all art instructors must try to convey to their students.

One can possess great technical skills to create art, but still fail to capture a scene or a thought. The artist must learn to go beyond the technical aspect of creating art and develop a “feel” for creating art. The same can be said for music. There is more to being a musician or singer than just playing the notes or singing the words – one must also know how to bring “feeling” to the music.

There are many things in life that we must learn to do, but being able to perform the technical aspect of the task does not guarantee that we will be good at it or even enjoy doing it. Many people enjoy fishing because they find it relaxing. However, if you have ever tried casting, you know that it is not a simple task. It is one that requires practice to develop a “feel” for it. And if you learned to drive a manual shift car, you know that it is more than just a matter of knowing how, but also developing a “feel” for shifting the gears.

So, what is this “feel” for doing something? It is the mental state at which a person no longer consciously thinks about a task, but merely does it. Moreover, is this not true about everything we do as we go about our daily lives? What often seems a difficult task can be accomplished with a bit of practice and patience – and developing a “feel” for it. Our lives today have become so hectic, are we losing our ability for concentration, for contemplation, for developing a “feel” for how things are done?

When Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean wrote of his experience trying to learn to use a scythe – the age-old tool with a long handle and a curved blade for cutting grass and grain by hand – he captured his father’s instructions with these words:

O this is not a thing to learn inside a day
Stand closely by me and I’ll try to show the way
You've got to hold it right
feel the distance to the ground
Move with a touch so light
until it's rhythm you have found
Then you’ll know what I know

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Airlie Gardens
Wilmington, North Carolina


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July 12, 2008


In Assisi



These are the airs wherein he stood
And spoke the unrecorded words
That brought them fearless from the wood,
The timid hare, the settling birds,

That gathered round him in the sun,
Upon his shoulder, at his feet,
In easy friendliness with one
Whose language was their own and sweet

With syllables to quiet fear
And win the wild heart to his own . . .
Let us be still and listen, here,
And learn if any word or tone

May linger in the folds of air
So to instruct the heart and tongue,
That going hence, we go to bear
Love's language as a song were sung.

David Morton
From his book "Angel of Earth and Sky".


Photo by Dan Hardison
St. James Parish
Wilmington, North Carolina


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July 5, 2008


Ghosts in the Mountains



Ghosts dwell in these mountains –
drifting from the valleys,
riding the ridges,
climbing the peaks.

Mysteriously appearing
they silently drift along
forever changing then
suddenly disappearing.

And when it seems these mountains
have made all about them clear
the ghosts return to shroud
the mountains in mystery again.

Some say it is just a mist,
a haze that covers these mountains.
But then . . .

Perhaps there is some great secret
that must be kept hidden –
something these mountains
do not want seen.

Yes . . .
ghosts dwell in these mountains.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Balsam, North Carolina


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June 29, 2008


The Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden
and Bottle Chapel



Bright colors, mythical animals, religious symbols, and a natural garden setting – words that could describe the artwork of visionary folk artist Minnie Evans. It can also describe the Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden and Bottle Chapel, a memorial installation at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Gatekeeper/Artist

Minnie Evans was a self-taught African-American artist known for her works depicting a world based on her dreams and visions. Born in 1892, her family moved to Wilmington from Pender County, North Carolina, during her early childhood. Evans left school after the sixth grade to work, married at the age of sixteen, and would raise three sons.

“My whole life has been dreams. Some times day visions,” Evans said, “They would take advantage of me. No one taught me to paint. It came to me.” It was on Good Friday 1935 that Evans said she heard God’s voice tell her to draw. She began creating drawings with wax crayons and colored pencils – later using oil painting as well. Her work was filled with vivid plants, animals, piercing eyes representing the all-seeing eye of God, angels and demons. A member of the AME Church, her work was filled with religious symbolism. Of her work she said, “This art that I have put out has come from the nations I suppose might have been destroyed before the flood... No one knows anything about them, but God has given it to me to bring them back into the world.”

For twenty-five years from 1949 to 1974, Evans worked as the gatekeeper at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington. This setting undoubtedly influenced the plants and flowers incorporated in her art. Sitting in her little wooden gatehouse collecting admissions, she would often work on her drawings during slow periods.

Evans never aspired to be an artist nor sell her artwork. It was not until 1960 that an out-of-state art scholar visiting the gardens discovered what Newsweek magazine would later describe as “breathtakingly gifted”. Her first art exhibit was held in 1961. Evans died in 1987 at the age of 95 and is today considered one of America’s most important visionary artists.

A Historic Garden

Airlie Gardens began as a private garden for a wealthy industrialist in 1901. German landscape architect Rudolf Topel was commissioned in 1906 to transform the stretch of land along salt marshes into a formal garden incorporating European and Southern garden styles with an emphasis on azaleas and camellias. The gardens were opened to the public in 1948, but remained in private ownership until its purchase by New Hanover County in 1999. Today Airlie Gardens consists of 67 acres of the original 155-acre estate. Among the time worn trees draped in Spanish moss you will find walking trails, themed gardens, 10 acres of freshwater lakes, and a 450 year-old live oak.

A Memorial

In August 2004, the Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden and Bottle Chapel was dedicated in honor of Minnie Evans. The centerpiece is a bottle house conceived and created by local artist Virginia Wright-Frierson. Primarily a painter and illustrator, Frierson was commissioned in 2000 to paint a large ceiling mural for Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, as a memorial for the tragic shooting that occurred there.

The bottle house was constructed as a 16-foot high roofless outdoor chapel built out of bottles of various sizes, shapes, and color. The bottles were arranged to create images and symbols found in the work of Minnie Evans.

Just inside the entrance to the sculpture garden, a bas-relief sculpture featuring Minnie Evans in the window of her gatehouse was created by Hiroshi Sueyoshi. Two angel sculptures by Dumay Gorham sits to either side of the Bottle Chapel. At the center of the Bottle Chapel is a copper tree by Karen Crouch filled with metal birds created by Michael Van Hout. Brooks Koff, assisted by local schoolchildren, created mosaic tiles used in the walls and walks surrounding the Bottle Chapel. There is also a fountain created by Sueyoshi featuring images from Minnie Evans’ paintings just outside the Bottle Chapel.

Minnie Evans never thought of her work as art, yet her work has been shown internationally including the Whitney Museum of American Art and is today in numerous collections including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Her life and work has also been captured in a book and a documentary film.

The Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden and Bottle Chapel pays tribute to a woman who merely followed the command given her – to draw. “I have dreams of the thing,” she said, “and I feel God gave me this mission to do this.”

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
The Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden and Bottle Chapel
Wilmington, North Carolina


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View artwork by Minnie Evans at Smithsonian American Art Museum
View artwork by Minnie Evans at North Carolina Museum of Art

June 20, 2008


A Thing of Beauty



I believe in beauty
for beauty's sake,
and that no matter
where it hides,

it is never wasted.

If, in some dark
and secret place it lies,
where eyes of man
will never see it,

it is no less lovely.

It needs neither praise
nor adoration
to justify its being.

It exists.
It need do no more

to serve its purpose.

I believe in beauty
as a noble end
within itself.
And I believe
that God does.

Were it made
for man alone
it would not adorn
the silent floors of oceans

where he will never walk.

Or be buried for eternity
beneath the sands

of barren deserts.

If a man should wander
from his charted way
and chance upon

a thing of beauty, hidden,

then it is he
who will be rewarded;
he who will be changed.

The thing of beauty
will remain the same.
As it was before he came,
so will it be

when he is gone.

Jim Metcalf
From his book “In Some Quiet Place”.


Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina


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June 14, 2008


The House is Still



There stands a house
abandoned and forgotten
lost somewhere in time.

But it was once new,
long ago,
the pride of a young couple.

Children came,
the family grew,
and time passed on.

The children left,
the couple grew old,
and the house grew silent.

First one and then the other
the couple passed on –
the house was left unwanted.

Where once was laughter and love
all are now gone
and the house is still.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Maury County, Tennessee


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June 7, 2008


Book: After the Fire

In the 1945 Oscar-winning movie, “The Lost Weekend”, Ray Milland gives a riveting portrayal of an alcoholic. The film, based on a book by Charles R. Jackson, is still regarded today for its portrayal of alcoholism and addiction. Although the movie includes a caring girlfriend and brother, it still centers on the alcoholic main character, his struggle with addiction, and his inevitable downfall. But what about those who struggle with a loved one’s addiction?

Best-selling mystery writer, J. A. (Judith) Jance, has brought us the book “After the Fire”. Unlike “The Lost Weekend”, Jance portrays her own personal struggle of being married to an alcoholic. “After the Fire” chronicles the author’s journey of living with an alcoholic, her own denial as his life spirals downward dragging her with him, her awakening, the divorce, his death, and her eventual triumph.

During her years of marriage, Jance composed poetry that captured her feelings and circumstances happening in her life. Written in secret and kept hidden, the poems were finally published as a chapbook in 1984. The following year would be the debut of her first novel that would begin a career as a popular mystery writer.

“After the Fire” was re-issued in 2004 with the addition of prose that gives insight into where she was and what was taking place at the time each poem was written – and why they were written. It is a very personal and candid description of a life spent under the weight of alcoholism, but also one person’s struggle to find themself.

In speaking about “After the Fire”, Jance has said, “My life is far richer because of this book. My hope is that others will find answers here as well – answers and their own share of strength and courage.”

An audio edition of “After the Fire” has now been released, that finds Jance telling her story with her own voice. Reading in a soft matter-of-fact voice, she brings added emotion and feeling to the already compelling prose and poetry.

I walk in fog
Its velvet touch caresses me
And hides the hurt.

Beyond the fog, the sun
Shines clear and bright.
I must keep moving,
I have earned the light.


(From Fog by J.A. Jance)

— Dan Hardison


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May 17, 2008


The Garden Lost



From another place in time
and a noble man of God
behind a house stately and proud
a garden can be found.

Beneath a canopy of trees,
through a maze of encircling shrubs,
walkways of brick are lined
with urns, planters, and pots.

A pond and a gazebo,
benches for rest and reflection,
all about are statues
with St. Francis keeping watch.

Much thought and work went into this space –
its design and intent is clear.
But flowers have long been absent here –
weeds and vines now occupy this place.

Walking through what was a garden
overgrown and all but forgotten –
one can imagine what once had been
and what could be again.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Mercer Hall - Columbia, Tennessee


Located in Columbia, Tennessee, Mercer Hall was the home of James Hervey Otey after he was named the first Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee in 1833. Bishop Otey began the garden behind Mercer Hall on a plot that was once the vegetable garden for President James K. Polk. Over the years, the garden was enhanced by later owners including the addition of the gazebo that originally sat on the grounds of the Columbia Female Institute, a girls preparatory school that was started by Bishop Otey. Mercer Hall is still a private residence today.

When I visited the garden in 2003, it had not been maintained for some time, but was still a magical place. Walking through the garden, I could imagine how it once had been and what it could be again.

— Dan Hardison


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May 10, 2008


A Garden's Grace



Large or small, gardens provide a place of beauty, meditation, and inspiration. For those who work in the garden – there is a closeness with God. As The Rev. George W. Jones said, “good gardeners and good Christians have much in common – great faith in God.”

“Though garden design ranks with the finest of arts, a garden is among the most ephemeral of art forms,” Rick Darke, horticulturist, author and photographer, has written. “The garden is a unique conjunction of art, living elements, and human events that take place in its embrace, and it has a unique ability to heal, enlighten, and inspire.”

Planting a garden has been compared to painting a landscape with living things. Just as an artistic touch can be found in the design of the garden, the work of artists can be found within the garden in the form of sculpture, fountains, hand-wrought gates, mosaics, and even in the brickwork of walkways and walls. But the greatest work of art found in the garden is God’s own handiwork – flowers.

In what seems to be a never-ending variety of shapes, sizes, and color, flowers bring unending beauty to the garden. But the role of flowers does not end within the garden, flowers are used to adorn the inside of our homes, churches, and even places of business to enhance not only the beauty of the space, but also to provide an uplifting experience to all who enter. As Sharon Sheridan pointed out in a story for Episcopal Life, flower arranging is an art in itself.

Gardens can be any of a variety of styles – from gardens specializing in roses or orchids, to an English garden of shrubs, to the simplicity of a Japanese garden, to a woodland garden. Nor is space a problem. A container garden on a porch or patio can still provide a sense of contentment and enjoyment.
Long have gardens been used to bring peace, enjoyment, and wonder to those who enter. “These are indeed some of the fruits of time spent in a Quiet Garden, contemplating the beauty of the world around,” writes Jackie Locke, Administrative Director of the Quiet Garden Movement, “be it in a small backyard, a prairie, a vast forest, or a church memorial garden. It is an opportunity to be attentive, to hear God speaking and to respond, to leave refreshed and ready to engage with the world again.”

— Dan Hardison



Photo by Dan Hardison
Cheekwood Botanical Garden - Nashville, Tennessee



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May 3, 2008


The Gentle Gardener



I'd like to leave but daffodils

to mark my little way,

To leave but tulips red and white

behind me as I stray;

I'd like to pass away from earth

and feel I'd left behind

But roses and forget-me-nots

for all who come to find.

I'd like to sow the barren spots

with all the flowers of earth,

To leave a path where those who come

should find but gentle mirth;

And when at last I'm called upon

to join the heavenly throng

I'd like to feel along my way

I'd left no sign of wrong.

And yet the cares are many

and the hours of toil are few;

There is not time enough on earth

for all I'd like to do;

But, having lived and having toiled,

I'd like the world to find

Some little touch of beauty

that my soul had left behind.

Edgar A. Guest
From the book "Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest", 1934


Photo by Dan Hardison
Biltmore House Gardens, Asheville, North Carolina


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April 25, 2008


The Gardener



Lord,

You made me a gardener
in your Sherwood garden.
I’ve toiled through the seasons
and the years.

Many souls
that had their roots in cinders
now grow in soil
that fertile richness bears.

But Lord,
some of my plants
that should be a rose or violet
persist in growing up
obnoxious weeds.

Lord, I pray,
make all plants in my garden
grow to Thy glory
and to fulfill Thy needs.

My son,

Since the day

of good earth’s creation,

Mine it has been

to sow some good seeds of grain;

Mine the wisdom

to send the proper seasons;

Mine to send

the sunshine and the rain.

Throughout the ages

I’ve yearned for each plant

to reach perfection,

to provide the means

to every end I go.

But I have never forced

a single plant

to please me.

I’ve never even forced

a single plant

to grow.

George W. Jones
From the forthcoming book "Life's Journey"


Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina


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April 19, 2008


The Mission Garden



In the mountains of Tennessee, in a valley just twelve miles from the University of the South at Sewanee, sits Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church. And just outside its doors is the Mission Garden. Though it was for all to enjoy, this garden was different than most, it was built and maintained by the young boys and girls of the Mission.

Begun in 1938 under the guidance of The Rev. George W. Jones, the garden was built over a number of years as a way to occupy idle time, to provide needed income, and to bring beauty and inspiration to the people of the valley. From the hauling of fertile soil by wheelbarrow, to the casting of blocks and bricks for the walls and walkways, the boys constructed the garden and then the youths became the gardeners who tended it day to day.

In the words of Father Jones, “In the garden spiritual and material needs are determined in all manner of people, heavy and gladsome hearts come and go. Marvelous indeed is the measure of parochial life that can transpire in a garden closely linked to an altar throne of God."

It would become a walled garden covering an area of 16,000 square feet in a Spanish Mission style. Within its ivy covered walls were pools with fish, fountains, bricked walkways, and an open-air chapel. The chapel was within a colonnade with a large statue of Mary holding the infant Lord behind the altar, and would become known as “Our Lady of the Hills” chapel.

In the garden, there were a variety of flowers, shrubs, and even vegetables. Flowers from the garden were used to adorn the church and its altars, and to provide beauty and comfort to the sick, the bereaved, and the aged. It is said that, “a lady each morning took to the hungry children a basket of fruit and a basket of flowers. By demand, the supply of flowers was the first exhausted.”

Work in the garden was balanced with play and there would be time for horseshoes, baseball, and good-natured fun. As Father Jones recalled, “The wheelbarrows have all but never stopped rolling. They must have rolled as far as around the world and moved incalculable tonnage. And if they are ever unemployed in work, they become the pleasure cars of small boys who never ever tire of riding each other over the garden walks and often all over the town. That is a nuisance! But both nuisance and extravagance are well endured because the keen delight ... is harmless and wholesome and long since has equaled in value the wheelbarrows' weight in gold.”

During World War II, many of the boys who had been the builders of the garden left to serve our country, but they never forgot the memories and lessons learned in the Mission Garden. The young soldiers would correspond with Father Jones, reminiscing and longing for the Mission and its garden. As one young soldier wrote, “When I think of home I always think of the garden. That place means lots to me although I did not know it when I worked there. If I were an artist I could draw it perfectly from memory to every last brick and flower pot.”

People from across the country would visit the mission church and its garden. But after struggling through the Depression and World War II, the area fell victim to a lack of employment and most of the people would gradually leave the valley in search of work. As the population dwindled, so did the membership of the church. The Mission Garden could not be maintained and most of it has been lost. But Epiphany Mission is still active today and “Our Lady of the Hills” chapel still stands – a testament to its past.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
The Garden at Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church
Sherwood, Tennessee


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April 13, 2008


Spring Shower



And the rain came . . .
a gentle spring shower
washing away pollen and dust,
and soaking the earth.

And when the rain stops . . .
there is a brief period
when all about is still
save for the drip, drip, drip
of water through the trees.

And for a few moments . . .
even the air is cleansed –
bringing a freshness and
the scent of renewal.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina


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April 4, 2008


I Did Not Know



I did not know –

And it was but a few short days ago –

How near to spring it was; the world lay still

In all the bitter cold of winter chill;

Yet even then the May-buds with the glow

Of burning lips pressed to the melting snow

Had kissed themselves a window to the sky, –

And spring was nigh.

I did not know –

Ah, was it such a little while ago! –

Within my heart how near it was to spring;

I did not guess the blessed blossoming,

Until this gladsome morn I woke, and lo!

Sweet with new fragrance does the whole world grow

From that so fair and snow-sprung flower dear, –

And spring is here!

Abbie Farwell Brown
From New England Magazine, April 1898.


Photo by Dan Hardison
Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina


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March 30, 2008


A Time of Reflection



The sun is setting
beyond the distant mountain.

Slowly changing the sky
to a fiery orange,
to a majestic purple,
to an azure blue,
and finally to black.

It is a time of reflection
of what the day has been,
of what has gone before.

A time to look ahead
to what tomorrow
could bring.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina


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March 20, 2008


Promise of the Garden



The garden has been a dormant thing
through weary winter, dull and drab,
and full of shrouds of burlap and straw
entombing plants against the frost.

Now in mid Lent, the Garden is gaunt.
It appears as though it had kept a strict fast,
as though its beauty is heavily veiled
for Passion Tide.

Today the soil is cold,
the wind sharp, the sun pale,
and yet one cannot enter the garden
and fail to feel a push
and a throb in the soil –
pregnant with promise of spring.

When Easter comes to the Garden,
a thousand entombed plants
will be bursting forward and upward
into resurrection.

George W. Jones
From the forthcoming book "Life's Journey"


Photo by Dan Hardison
Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia


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March 14, 2008


Markers



Mementos, souvenirs, keepsakes, whatever name you may use, they are objects which we keep as reminders of a place, person, or time that holds special meaning in our lives. It could be a photo of family or friends, a postcard of a visited place, a shell found on a shore, a rock picked up on a mountain trail. What they all share is a link to a point in our lives and our memories – a marker.

Visual artists sometimes invoke these markers by changing their style, creating a series of work with a common theme, or maybe just one work of art that holds a special meaning – a representation of a place or event in their lives. Looking back over the progression of a body of work, we can often follow the changes in an artist's life, as well as his work. Perhaps artists, because of their creative ability, are more conscious of markers, but we all have them.

A potter once told me that you should always keep the first piece you make. Because no matter how far you journey or how much your work changes, it will always remind you of where you began. On a shelf in my home is a vase, wheel thrown by this man who was a friend and would later die from AIDS. Art has a way of reaching out to us and touching us – sometimes in unexpected ways.

As we grow older, we find we have a greater need for markers. They can outline the journey we have taken in life – the paths we have chosen. When recording artist Jeff Johnson was struggling with the grief following the death of a close friend he wrote, "I'm not sure why it had to be this way, but I trust the process as my friend did too, and I'm grateful for the 'markers.'"

— Dan Hardison



Image: untitled (Milk Can), 1975
pencil, 6 1/4" x 5 1/4"
By Dan Hardison
Note: This was my first drawing.



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March 7, 2008


Yesterdays



Gone! and they return no more,

But they leave a light in the heart;

The murmur of waves that kiss a shore

Will never, I know, depart.

Gone! yet with us still they stay,

And their memories throb through life;

The music that hushes or stirs to-day,

Is toned by their calm or strife.

Gone! and yet they never go!

We kneel at the shrine of time:

‘Tis a mystery no man may know,

Nor tell in a poet’s rhyme.

Abram J. Ryan
From his book "Poems: Patriotic, Religious, Miscellaneous"


Photo by Dan Hardison
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina


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March 1, 2008


Times Past



for Joyce

The two had gathered for lunch
but also for remembering –

simpler times,
childhood times,

times they had spent together.

They talked of days
when money was scarce

but friendship plentiful,

when entertainment came

from the imagination.

It was a childhood
of innocence and delights –
a time before either of them knew

of the responsibilities,
the pain, the joys,

that comes with adulthood.

But this was a time of reflection –
a time to look back,

to reminisce,

before they must depart
and the reality of now

returns.

— Dan Hardison


Photo by Dan Hardison
Mount Meigs, Alabama


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February 22, 2008


Dan Fogelberg: A Remembrance



During the 1970’s there was a small music club in Nashville, Tennessee, called the Exit/In that was “the place” for listening to live music. On one particular evening after dinner with a friend, we walked across the street to the alley entrance (hence its name) of the Exit/In. At the door, we asked who would be playing that night – it was Dan Fogelberg.

At the time, I had not heard of Dan Fogelberg. We were told at the door that he was a folk singer/songwriter who played guitar and piano, and would be performing solo. That was good enough for me. The Exit/In had a separate bar and a “listening room” with tables that provided a small, intimate setting for listening to live music. We sat within a few feet of the small, low stage, and Dan Fogelberg. The performance that night was incredible and I was a new fan.

Fogelberg was living in Nashville at the time doing session work and trying to get his musical career off the ground. He had just released his first album “Home Free”. That first album was not a great commercial success, but it got enough attention to have Joe Walsh produce his second album. That album, “Souvenirs”, along with the single “Part of the Plan”, took off and a star was born.

Fogelberg’s career went through a succession of 15 studio albums – most going gold or platinum. His most successful song was the 1979 love song “Longer.” However, it would be the following double-album that would take him to the peak of his career. “The Innocent Age” was a very personal album that produced what would become his most memorable songs: “Leader of the Band,” a tribute to his bandleader father, and “Same Old Lang Syne,” a song about an actual chance meeting with an old love at Christmastime.

His music was usually defined as soft rock, but he also recorded country, bluegrass, and jazz. His songwriting was often personal, reflecting on emotional issues. He was also known for his live performances and through the years I was also able to see him perform at the Opry House in Nashville, a coliseum show at Auburn University in Alabama, and at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, North Carolina. These later performances were far different from that early setting at the Exit/In.

Fogelberg’s last studio album was “Full Circle” released in 2003. It was a fitting album because it was not only one of his best, but was also a return to the music he was recording early in his career encompassing the same heart felt sound and poignant writing. As he was preparing for a tour in 2004, he received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. With his musical career on hold, he battled the cancer, but on December 16th, 2007, Dan Fogelberg died. He was 56.

Fogelberg was part of a musical era that brought the songwriter to the forefront with the likes of James Taylor, Carole King, and Jackson Browne. His music found a home along with the folk/country-rock sounds of The Eagles, and Crosby Stills and Nash. With his soft contemplative songs, it seems almost ironic that one of his best friends was Jimmy Buffett. Of his own work Fogelberg said, “You’ve got to just follow your heart and do your best work… There is no doubt in my mind or heart that everything I’ve done is exactly what I intended to do.”

And now, he is gone. In his passing, he has left us with thirty-plus years of wonderful music – and memories.


And down in the canyon
The smoke starts to rise.
It rides on the wind
Till it reaches your eyes.
When faced with the past
The strongest man cries...cries.

And here is a sunrise
To set on your sill.
The ghosts of the dawn
Moving near.
They pass through your sorrow
And leave you quite still...
Sitting among souvenirs.


(Dan Fogelberg, from Souvenirs)


— Dan Hardison


Web site for Dan Fogelberg


Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina


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February 15, 2008


A Better Understanding



If we truly enjoy something, would it not be normal instinct to want to learn more about it? Would it not be true that the more we learn and understand about a subject, the more fully we can appreciate it? Would this not be true in the arts as well?

I had a friend who loved opera. He actually took voice lessons not because he wanted to be a singer, but to have a better understanding of the music and the dedication and talent required to produce it.

I myself learned to read music and to play the guitar because of my love for the instrument and music in general. Although I no longer play today, does not this knowledge contribute to my appreciation of music and in particular my preference for guitar music?

There is the old cliché of someone viewing an abstract painting and commenting, “Oh, I could do that”. So why not? The truth is that even though something may appear simple, it is usually much harder to achieve. But if it is something we really enjoy, why not try our hand at it. The worst that could happen is that in the end, we would have a better appreciation of the artistic effort.

Many times, it is this quest for learning, for understanding, that increases the enjoyment of the art. After attending an exhibition of white-line woodblock prints many years ago, I became fascinated with the medium. Later, I attempted to teach myself the technique. After much reading and observation of other artists’ work; after the trial and error of trying to perfect the craftsmanship of carving the block and developing the technique of printing the individual colors; after many failures and many hours of frustration – success. But whether or not I ever create another white-line woodblock print, I now have an even greater understanding and appreciation of the process – as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Poet Luci Shaw has said, “Everybody's born with the ability to create in one form or the other… If we could just reawaken that freedom to express ourselves in those creative ways, a lot of healing would come, because it's making us whole people again. It's not just this practical, left-brained, functional person, who's able to make a living and keep body and soul together. If we only had a functional world that would be enough; but God, in his grace, has given us this wonderful extra, beauty, which shouldn't just be an extra, it should be integral to our psyche.”

— Dan Hardison


Image "River Tug"
white-line woodblock print, 11" x 8 1/4"
By Dan Hardison


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