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Posts Tagged ‘Southern Appalachians’

“Like you and like I.”  True confession time: tell me there hasn’t been at least one time during the week leading up to Christmas that you could have reasonably been accused of being ornery.  Maybe in the last 24 hours even.  Heck, in the last thirty minutes.  Stuck in traffic on Hanes Mall Blvd. – Oh no, I didn’t lean on my horn.  Spouse asking for the fifth time where the wrapping paper is . . . or telling for the fifth time (these are all purely hypothetical situations, of course).  No time to relax, take a walk, look at the hundred photos you just took, write a line.  Makes me darn ornery!

“I wonder as I wander . . .”  So haunting, so probing, so true – this Southern Appalachian carol has always been one of my favorites.  When Linda sings it at church I can feel the bitter wind of Mt. Pisgah through her threadbare shawl.  The questions it raises – “If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing” – seem to pierce my heart.  What do I want?  Where can I find hope?  Or meaning?  An ornery cuss like me?

Ornery – as in grumpy, disagreeable, cantankerous?  Actually the word comes from Appalachian dialect as a contraction of “ordinary.”  Commonplace.  Garden variety.  In other words, you and me. If we’re a little cantankerous at times, well, ordinary people are like that.  The same way we are also sometimes patient with grandkids.  Forgiving of spouses.  Open to sharing our homes, our space, our selves.  Christmas has arrived “in a cow’s stall, with wise men and shepherds and farmers and all.”  Or in the case of Bon Aire Rd., Elkin, with retired chemists and teachers, psychologists and technical writers, bakers and public administrators, artists and doctors (and five dogs, all under one roof). I guess Jesus enjoys hanging out with the ornery.

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The story goes that “I Wonder as I Wander” was collected by John Jacob Niles in Murphy, NC in July 1933 from a young traveling evangelist Annie Morgan.  For all who may feel Christmas as a harsh mountain winter, I offer this poem as an invitation to awaken to a song of love, assurance, and hope.

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Pisgah Stranger
(Awaken to a Song)

A stranger here, I sleep
Beneath the slash of stars,
The Pisgah forest deep
And friendless.
I close myself to love,
My heart requires the dark;
Can night within this cove
Be endless?

Come, you’ve slept too long
And love grows dim.
Awaken to a song –
Can it be Him?

Is it madness or a dream
That seems to whisper here?
The murmur of a stream
Or singing?
It chants, this still small voice,
I’ve nothing now to fear
For tidings of great joy
It’s bringing.

Come, you’ve slept too long
And love grows dim.
Awaken to a song
And welcome Him!

And now the music swells
As every fir and spruce
Unloose their boughs to tell
The story:
May all God’s creatures wake,
Hearts quickened by the truth,
Invited to partake
Of mercy.

Come, we’ve slept so long
That love grows dim.
Awaken that our song
May worship Him.

Come sing it with the wind
And all the Pisgah throng:
The Child reclines within
The manger!
With owl and bear and deer
My soul’s reborn in song
For none of us is here
A stranger.

Come, you’ve slept too long;
If love grows dim
Awaken to a song
For it is Him!

Waken . . . welcome . . . worship . . .
It is Him!
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.

Bill Griffin (c) 2011

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