Simple Gifts

If I had to pick one song that comes to mind while I’m walking in a forest or garden, it would be the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts”. The tune, written in the late 1800’s to celebrate the Shaker principles of simplicity and humility, has been used by other composers over the years. Many churches use the familiar melody for the hymn “I Danced in the Morning”. It remains one of my favorites.

©2013 Robert R. Maxwell

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I would frequently fall asleep with the TV on. This is when TV stations would actually sign off for the night; crazy concept, I know. The sign-off for West Virginia Public Television was American composer Aaron Copland’s piece titled “Appalachian Spring”. In 1944, Copland originally wrote the piece for Martha Graham’s ballet of the same name. The TV sign-off played the crescendo of the piece, which includes the melody of “Simple Gifts”, with video of various streams and waterfalls throughout West Virginia. Not only was it a reminder of the mountains I could see out my window every day, it was the perfect send off to bed.

©2013 Robert R. Maxwell

Walking through a forest or garden is one of the simplest gifts we receive. While I prefer to take a camera with me, just a quick walk through the woods can provide you with the clarity – simplicity – you need to clear your mind and fill your heart. As the Shakers would say, find ourselves in the place just right.

The photographs above were taken at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

– Joseph Brackett

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