Joan Baez: The Last Leaf

https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joan_Baez_02.jpg

I cannot claim to have been a lifetime fan or follower of Joan Baez. Not in the way I kept up with Bob Dylan over the decades since I heard him first in 1969 when I was 13. There’s the issue for me. Dylan’s songs are best sung by Dylan. Why listen to others singing them? Baez sang a lot of Dylan. That was the casually uninformed view I picked up in my teenage years, and so Joan Baez’s music never was embedded in my formative experiences of musical discovery.

There was one exception though. I have possessed, in its original vinyl and cover, her album Come from the Shadows since the mid-70s. I don’t recall whether I was given it or sought it out. It made a profound impression. Certainly I recall it rarely strayed far from the turntable in my early student years 74 -77. Baez’s voice is unique and beautiful for sure, and listening to this album I appreciated it, but it was the social justice message of the songs which really hit me. “All the weary mothers of the earth” is a lyric which became one of my lifetime earworms, even during the two decades before Spotify and the vinyl revival, when the record player and vinyl albums languished in the loft.

Earlier this week I found myself reading Elizabeth Thomson’s paen to Joan Baez: Joan Baez The Last Leaf. It was the first full day of the presidency of Joe Biden. He, of course, is an exact contemporary of Baez, only a year or two younger than her.

So here I was reading a book written for Baez’s retirement from her professional career, not unreasonably at almost 80 years old, on the day Biden was entering the pinnacle and greatest challenge of his. Singer and politician are very different careers, as Bob Dylan’s story shows. So there might not generally be any cause for comment, except as this book sets out to make very clear, Baez, whilst a musician to her core, has always been more than that.

Not ever a holder of political office, she became both an active and an iconic leader nonetheless, in the groundswell for global social justice and human rights which began to rise in the 1960s.

More than a singer of protest songs, Baez both founded and funded charities and campaigns dedicated to a vision of a better social compact and world order, in particular based on principles of non- violence she had found in her family connection with the Quakers and her friendship with Martin Luther King. Without subordinating musical integrity to political messaging, Thomson argues, Baez placed her musical gifts , her celebrated fame as a performer, and her money in the service of the cause of global justice. Amnesty International’s growth in the US owes much to Joan Baez.

Notwithstanding Reagan/Thatcher and all that has followed of rampant neoliberal capitalism and the reactionary Right, reaching its noxious apogee, really a nadir, in Trump, the star of social justice has continued to rise. It is the true and only voice of the future, if human species self-destruction is to be averted. With the election of Biden and Harris this week that star shines again.

The poetic voice of social justice has been handed on rightly to the young generation, the likes of the astonishingly talented Amanda Gorman.

Admitting openly her unabashed admiration for Joan Baez as an artist and as a human being, Thomson wants to set on record the true wonder and power of Baez’s life work. Her book has done that for me. It has made me a little regretful that I forgot somehow to keep listening to Baez in the decades I deserted her work. Perhaps too it has been a wake-up call to me, and can be for all who hunger and thirst for justice, not to lose faith, especially now, that “we shall overcome”.

Check out the book Goodreads: Joan Baez: The Last Leaf https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55103476-joan-baez

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What will the world be like after coronavirus? Four possible futures

This piece by Simon Mair of the University of Surrey, linked below, was published in The Conversation at the end of March 2020, about 2 weeks after the first full stay at home restrictions started in the UK.

The image is one I have chosen which is by Edward Hicks (American, 1780–1849), entitled Peaceable Kingdom. (1834. Oil on canvas, 29.6 × 35.5 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.).

The painting is based on the biblical prophecy or vision, described in Isaiah Chapter 11, of a society in which people live in harmony with each other and creation, with an ethic of protection of life and avoiding harm.

The piece is even more useful now I believe as it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is not a short-term phenomenon from which we will be able to get back to normal after a few months of disruption. It has exposed huge weaknesses and deficiencies in our previous social, political, and economic lives which must change. The impact on health, well-being and the economy mean new imaginations of the future social contract and economic system are called for. Coupled with the urgent issues of climate change and the need to address inequalities of respect and opportunities highlighted by Black Lives Matter in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, as well as growing awareness of the inadequacy of our social security provisions in the UK, there is a growing urgent need for change.

https://theconversation.com/what-will-the-world-be-like-after-coronavirus-four-possible-futures-134085

October on the allotment

Runner beans today on Lorraine’s allotment

There are still lots of runner beans to be harvested from Lorraine’s allotment on this first day of October.

October sunshine on the sweetcorn

The maize was planted later this summer but fortunately it has managed to produce edible cobs before the end of the season. Two cobs provided us with lunch today!

Pandemic Park

On National Poetry Day 2020 I share this poem I wrote after a visit to Peckham Rye on 28th May. It was the Spring holiday week; towards the end of the initial wave of Covid-19 deaths and the full lockdown restrictions in England had been eased slightly.

Pandemic Park

In the park today

Children were running

Everywhere without a care

For their distance.

Coloured bicycles left by the paths

Pointed out

Even more fun elsewhere.

Parents were looking on

Benevolently

Indulging the spaces with chat

It was as if they had never emptied

And no-one was missing.

The Abbey Sutton Courtenay

https://www.theabbey.uk.com/the-abbeys-founders/

Wandering recently around the village of Sutton Courtenay, where our son and family live, I was intrigued by references to a place known as The Abbey. It turns out to be a centre of spirituality with a resident community. The building itself has a medieval foundation but has never been an actual abbey, rather a manor house.

Information about the founders of the centre at The Abbey, and its current mission, are found on its website as linked above. One of the founders was Anglican Bishop Stephen Verney whose writings influenced me in the early years of my ministry. I did not know, or had forgotten about, his role in this venture.

A varied circular walk from Hartley Wintney

The route on the map

https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/osmaps/route/5452858/1hr20-Dipley-Hazeley-Heath

Today Lorraine and I were looking for a 4/5 mile morning walk in green spaces where we could stride out and enjoy the surroundings without having to keep looking down to watch where our feet were being placed and within a 30 minute drive from home.

The answer was found in the Ordnance Survey app where walks have been uploaded by users. This circular walk from the town of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire fitted the bill pretty well. Including an extra quarter of a mile each way from the car park to the designated start point it came to at least 5 miles. We dawdled occasionally in places to take in the scenery and read information boards – read the map etc – so it took a full 2 hours.

The walk mostly met our criteria. The first third crosses Hazeley Heath which has a wide level central path perfect for a vigorous pace and freedom to take in the panoramic view. Later sections of the walk included unimpeded field crossings – though these would not have been so easy after wet weather. On occasions close attention needed paying to the map. There are several three-way junctions with paths converging at close angles. It was very helpful to have our exact location in the OS map app on my phone.

A less well-trodden section of the walk as it descends through woodland at the western end of the Hazeley Heath area.

Hazeley Heath is a nature reserve designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest run by the RSPB who are pursuing a current conservation program funded by the National Lottery.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/hazeley-heath/