Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


There are some days in which, odd fellow that I am, I feel as if I am quite asleep in this hasty world. I should like to write of the joy of the scent of rich earth and leafen mould, of the breath of late fall under an elm-tree, of the stirrings of a fiddle, of the dim swell at thought of long-borne history, and of unchanging things, of starlight, and of God, passing through progress and hastiness, undisturbed.


To-day, as it remains a holiday, I have been entertaining my five-year old, soon to be six, brother Joseph, who can be quite a handful. He is, of course, rarely satisfied with playing quietly in his room. Granted, one may sit him in front of television, but I dislike doing that. Lately he has become quite a Lord of the Rings fanatic: he's watched the first movie through and through, and we're up to A Knife in the Dark in the book, and rapidly moving forward. I suspect we shall reach Moria by Christmas. To-day we went and sat in the herb garden and (after examining my fine stock of kingsfoil, otherwise known as yarrow) read several chapters while enjoying the warm November sun and breeze. Joseph decided to doff his shoes and go unshod in hobbit style, much to my mother's chargrin. After reading for some time, I declared my intent to go inside and do a bit of studying and writing- nay, we were still quite in Middle Earth. Joseph decided we needed some short hobbit-style swords, so I trapsed down into the woods and chopped down and split in twain a yaupon tree to make a couple short swords. We wandered through the mines of Moria for a while, hewing cave trolls, until Joseph decided we should best make for Rivendell and hopefully find some lembas to eat on later.

He constantly asks questions pertaining to Middle Earth, and one may learn a great deal from the little fellow of the customs of hobbits and their mode of living, which, Joseph has declared, is superior to ours. He has said that when he grows up he will build a house with round doors and windows, in the ground. He also thinks our kingsfoil is the finest medicine in the world. He has decided to make a movie of the Fellowship of the Rings, in order to include the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil, as he thinks it awful they were left out. We are anxiously awaiting The Two Towers, and marking the days off on the calender. Two and half weeks...


To-day I went to a wonderful little valley north of Sandersville, MS {this is the precise location}, owned by the uncle of my friend Barry Bigham. Barry, several of the guys from church, our youth pastor, and myself, drove up there together. They camped, but as I have to travel a bit tommorow to my grandparents' house, I loaned out my equipment and drove back at dusk.

The land composises of about three hundred acres, mostly of steep slopes and ravines, and a couple flat hill tops, rather reminiscent of mesas. The ravines, which are terribly steep (probably the result of bad farming practises), are also heavily wooded in beech, elm, oak, sourwood, magnolia, and a few pines. The trees are at their height of fall colours now, so the slopes are filled with gold and reds, utterly lovely. Atop one of the hills- after climbing up the short, but steep, hillsides- is a nineteenth century "dogtrot" house, made of hand hewn logs, and filled with all sorts of cool stuff from hand-made furniture of the nineteenth century to a beer can left by a recent trespassing deer hunter. An early twentieth century billiard table sits on one side, though we were unable to play as most of the balls were missing. A really remarkable place, brimming with history, though rather decayed. Not far from it is an early twentieth century "peckerwood" saw mill, completely intact save the blades, which we saw in the old house. The log carriage can still be moved, and we slid it a short ways by means of manual turning. Also on the property is an old metal log carriage of the sort pulled by Holt tractors or mules, along with another old house, this one probably turn of the century, built in board and batten style.

Down in the bottom of the valley is a little lake, shallow, but clear and spring-fed, with the hills rising up from beside it. Above it beavers have filled the valley with marshes and little ponds, and made it open, giving some lovely views one isn't used to in this state. Barry, Ryan Langely, and myself decided to hike from the campsite (the center of the linked map above) around the lake and back- a simple affair. We climbed to a fien view of the lake above some deeply gouged ravines, then dropped down to the head of the lake, where the outflow of the beaver ponds gushes in. We sighted a dam up through an alder thicket, and set off over it, myself in the lead. The beavers had done a horrible job of construction... The dam began to disengrate in midstream, and dry passage became quite impossible. Now, low fifty degree weather isn't cold, unless one is sopping wet. Cold, wet shoes are terribly uncomfortable as well. Reasoning quickly that the only pair of dry shoes I possessed where forty miles away, I pulled my socks and shoes off while perched on a dry spot on the dam, rolled up my pants legs, and plunged ahead: into knee deep watery muck. My feet are fairly tough, so the alder stobs and sharp winter stubs of cordgrass didn't hurt too bad. Durn pond seemed to drag on though, as I had to keep pulling my pants legs up. At last we made it to the other side, after fording a knee-deep channel the durn beavers forgot to fix. Barry was soaking, but fortunately had a change of clothes. Ryan came out alright, as his boots were waterproof. My feet were just a bit muddy (arriving home: "Ahh! Look at your feet!"), but it wore off after walking unshod up the slope to a road. It was great fun though.

I suppose the lads are shivering now at camp as I type away in a warm room (current temp is forty, supposed to drop to twenty-seven, horribly cold for us Mississippi boys). Well, I expect a dose of cold camping in a couple weeks- Barry and I are planning a four day backpacking trip up to the Appalachian Trail above Smokemont, NC. Should be good and cold, perhaps even some snow to help encourage the frostbite...


Should the wearing of kilts be accepted socially? Is not the wearing of a kilt a display of inordinate manliness and reverent Gaelicness? I would rather like to be able to wear a kilt- however, among my friends and family, I am alas the lone proponent of the idea. Why do such foolish cultural stigmas exist against so noble a garm? Why my friends?


Yesterday was another wet and rather warm sort of day, which has proved a common companion this year. The clouds drifted overand rained, and rained. As evening lowered the fogs rose- a healthy thick fog, all around here, especially thick along slopes and creek-bottoms. Rain is not that bad, not unless one is out in it with a heavy load of books (including an enormous but fascinating volume on the cacti of the United States- a very large book, even for botancal volumes...), trudging across a campus- without an umbrella, and only one's head keeping the rain off one's neck. Fortunately, it was not cold, or even cool, as it is to-day. To-day all is drying out, and the sun bright and unhendered. The wild-grapes on the privet and yaupon hedges are magnificent- helping to compensate for the fact that most of our trees and shrubs are evergreen, or persisten- the leaves staying green most of the winter and browning and falling in March as the new leaves come in.

Ere dusk light laid gloaming down
On grass-blade green-gelded:
Garm of light, lorn of the holding ground
For a fleet-still moment. Light
Reams and gleams over greenlawn
Light ends lofted flight in dusk-dawn

Hedge holds to light, to gleam and gold
Tassled in climbing shifting green
In bowered reverence old-
Old as dusk and holt-held light
Oak sings, on dusk-dawn wing
Birds soft rise, and evensong bring.


Been rather busy this weekend- enjoyed some Russian Orthodox art at the Lauren Rogers Museum Friday, then went down to Mobile to a Third Day concert {very good}. Saturday I awoke late {having not got in until earlier that morning}, didn't do much, and ate catfish that evening and later enjoyed bluegrass {wonderful advantages of living in the South}. One observes in a catfish house why precisely Mississippi ranks as the most obese state in the South. But man, it's good eatin'- and folks down here enjoy some good eatin'. And I might add that there is nothing wrong with good eatin', whatever these Yankee stoics tell us- though let us remember all things in moderation...

My little allegorical {and so far only truly allegorical} story, The Lantern Bearer, can now be read at Chasing Hats.


My review of Battlefield Band's newest release, Time and Tide, is up on Chasing Hats. Wonderful music, and I'm looking forward to more from the band.


{Thoughts While Climbing A Tree}

A tree is poetical. GK Chesterton, I believe it was, spoke of the intense poetry of “common” things- and while perhaps it is unfair to group things in estimation of their poetic quality, I must say that a tree is sheer poetry: beauty and wonder thrown skyward in the subtlest expression of fixed-form life on earth. But it is more than merely poetical- there is far more to see in a tree, to hear, than its poetry- though, perhaps, the poetry is made also through the truth revealed in a tree.

But I should not say a tree when I have a particular one in mind. It is the loveliest tree that I have seen in many a long day. An elm, it stands not far-off from my house, at the edge of a rolling field- the grasses lap right to its feet. I found it to-day, and climbed upon to a low-lying limb. So it is this particular tree I have in mind when I speak.

I speak- my words are fragments, broken pieces, scattered and gathered and reamed to form the elements of a spoken language. But I also possess an unspoken langauge, the yearnings and speakings of my soul- those I cannot express fully through my spoken language, through the words of my thought. And there is Word that exceeds all my words, my cobbled attempts at thought and expression. A tree is an expression of this Word, and in a tree we see a glimpse of this Word. It is Word incarnate and revealed: for Christ is the Word, and by His Word all that is, is. “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” {Hebrews 1:3}

Now might I described a tree with my broken words? I might ply numerous words. Continuity is a good one. A tree is continuous, from its deep delving roots up through its great gray, strong bore, from which it throws out its branches, swelling down in great sweeps and arches, then its limbs and twigs, lithe and slender, some strong and sinuous, others threaded out and light on the wind, and to the leaves, shimmering green and gold leaves hanging down and catching the quaverings of the wind’s breath, and grasping and gelding the light. It has no breaks, it all flows from root to leaf. For its existence is rooted, exists, in Word- His mighty Word that holds all- from tree to bower to blade of grass to us. And the life that a tree has comes from God, “who gives life to everything”. It drinks deep with its roots, and its leaves quake and tremble in the wind, and soak in the sunlight- a living poem. The light that showers over a tree and that is gathered into its leaves comes from God, who is “the Father of heavenly lights”. Being, life, light, all cry out speaking of Him, for from Him and through Him they are. By Him are we sustained also: “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” {Isaiah 50:4} Ah, soul rejoice in Him- He brings fullness, for only He is perfect. My word can not keep anything in existence- only His. My tongue is sorely limited in its capacity and span- but the Word, He encompases the universe, from the furthest star to the gold-green leaves on an elm tree.

Here is a Gaelic Psalm from the Scottish Highlands, found it at this site. Sung to a ballad metre, these are wonderfuly moving Psalms, and still survive- albiet tenuosly- among the small Gaelic-speaking Presbyterian congregations of the Highlands, especially in the Herbrides. I purchased a recording of six Psalms- three sung by individuals, the other three in congregations- from Greentrax in Scotland {who also have some the finest Scottish traditional and not-so-traditional music around}. I enjoy playing the cd while in morning and evening devotions and meditations, as it's provides a buffer to the outside world without being distracting. I cannot really distinguish what is being said, for even if my Gaelic was good, the precentor and the congregation meld their voices into a slowly rhythmic stream. I hope to make it over to the Isles one day and attend a Gaelic service myself before the tradition fades forever. Though, perhaps, Gaelic will survive- I certainly hope so.

'S e Dia as tèarmann dhuinn gu beachd,
ar spionnadh e 's ar treis:
An aimsir carraid agus teinn,
ar cobhair e ro-dheas.

Mar sin ged ghluast’ an talamh trom,
chan adhbhar eagail dhuinn:
Ged thilleadh fòs na slèibhtean mòr’
am buillsgean fairg’ is tuinn.

God is our refuge and our strength,
in straits a present aid:
Therefore, although the earth remove,
we will not be afraid:

Though hills amidst the seas be cast:
Though waters roaring make,
And troubled be; yea, though the hills
by swelling seas do shake.



Quaking, quailing shook from bower to earth-slaking
Quick-gold, yare-shimmered and shorn
Leaf-lapping on wind’s heavingbreath breaking
Here held, each leaf a cathedraled cloister borne
Garnished in praise, gelded in gold, light-sheening
Soft speaks: praises Him, all Sustainer
Word wrought, holds to being.

Sifting-gold lift praise! Sheening, richleaves fleeting
O praise Him, O blessed Son of God!

The inspiration for this poem came from the same spot as the one below {hence the similarities}. Hebrews chapter one speaks of Christ sustaining all that is, through His essence- everything was created through Him, and everything is sustained by Him. It is an incredible thing to dwell upon and contemplate.


I composed this little poem after seeing a particularly striking hickory tree in full fall colour to-day.


Gold- green garbed and garnished- quick-
Gold tor grafted thrown to sky-loft
Sheen of sallow-light and columned gleam
Bright-borne against dulling wood and paling sky:

Gray bore graved from streeling gabbing bower
From damp earth delved drinks deep-
Lifts gold, greengold grown from green glaiking,
Clouds over in light, and light cowls and covers.

Kens rain and rainment- kept clear, strathy of light spreading
Gold stays, stays for a day: Then anew, afresh, newly burnished
Ah! but He re-news, brings-
Life anew perfected- all stays greengold ever.


To-day my illness has been considerably better. I can't hear very well- I have had to ask many people to repeat themselves- it's rather like being in a cave, with the world outside. Sounds echo, and for some reason I hear low notes much more distinctly. I have had a few short bouts of dizziness, and I couldn't drive to-day- maybe tommorow. I was unable to go to church this morning, but did manage tonight. Our youth group gave a "presentation" of a little (actually, an hour long) musical we did for our church a few weeks back, and as I had a part (comic relief, actually) I felt obliged to go. It went well, though we missed a song and a scene... I sang through the first half, then went and sat down as I was feeling a bit weak-kneed.

To-day is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church- for more information on persecution of Christians and how you can help them, this website has a great deal of information. Please pray for the many Christians who face oppression and persecution every day- their faith is tried in ways we cannot imagine. It would be a terrible travesty if we in the comfortable West fail even to think of our suffering brothers and sisters- let us lift them up in prayer daily.


I had a most excruciating experience yesterday (and in the wee morning hours of today...). I drove down to the thriving metropolis of Estabuchie (which consists of a post office, gas station, and bridge on the lovely Leaf River) to listen to our church band. They had been invited to play in one of those inumerable genericish Baptist churches that dot the South, and being a devoted groupie, I made the long haul over the flat floodplains to the church. A handful of other members of our church showed up, and we sat about for some hours, while various "activities" of the sort that so plague evangelical churches were enacted. At nine the band fired up- but I had to leave not long afterwards. My right ear was pounding with pain and pressure (alliterative medical description!). It had been bothering me all day, but I had foolishly ignored it.

So I arrived home in awful pain and stumbled up to bed after taking some pain-killing medicine, which did absolutely nothing. Before long the left ear was throbbing, and I had the lovely feeling of two knives plunged into my ears. Worst pain I've ever felt. I prayed quite fervishly- as one does in such situations- and God gave granted me a respite at about one in the morning. It seems my eardrum burst, which, while sounding horrible, was actually quite a relief, as the pain soon subsided. Around three in the morning, my left eardrum apparently burst, but with a slight and messy complication: blood was spewing out of it. I was lying downstairs on the couch, and happened to glance at my pillow. It was covered in large dark stains- how odd I thought... Eventually the bleeding slacked up, though it's still seeping a bit this morning. At anyrate, when I woke this morning, there was no pain in either ear- praise God!- but my hearing was muffled. Which isn't all that bad. The doctor told me that my hearing should return to normal in two months or so, but I should avoid swimming in deep water for about a year. I suppose that means no thrusting the side of my head under a waterfall...

So I'm much better this afternoon, though I look awful- blood pooled in one ear, pale from blood loss, blood-shot eyes, and drugged-looking- because I am drugged up {a hundred bucks worth of drugs at that!}. And my hearing is blurry- there's a sort of dull echo inside my head. Otherwise, I'm fine. God has granted me endurance and contentment I did not have a year ago, and He has truly absolved my worries and anxieties. Such trials as this are, I suppose, just that: trials. It is easy enough to talk of remaining joyful and thankful in suffering, but to practise it is another thing. I am convinced that only by God's grace is one capable of holding up under true suffering. I can't say that I have ever experienced true suffering. But I hope that if I should, I will reman strong in Christ and not despair- for my God is a stronghold in all sufferings.


Irish Health Minister Micheal Martin has banned smoking from all establishments where food is served: including pubs.

I won't say much of anything, other than to quote Chesterton: "We have had no good comic operas of late, because the real world has been more comic than any possible opera." I suppose, after smoking in pubs has been snuffed out {pardon the pun}, we should tackle the very pressing problem of people sleeping in hotels...


My friend Barry, who recently came to Christ, has posted his story at the blog he shares. Please pray for this wonderful brother: he is firmly commited to live for our Lord. I'm praying for you brother!

In I Timothy 6:11-21 I read to-day this wonderful passage: "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Grace be with you."

What is it to take hold of eternal life? It is the fullness of the Christian life- to take hold of life, which is life in Christ: the One who brings us life, life wrought by He who gives life to all {what a thrilling thought this is!}. I rather like the word used for "to give life" by the King James: quicken. It's a word that speaks of life, not dull, but living and vibrant, for it comes from God. And this is speaking of all life on earth- which, mind you, is not something to be sneezed at, but rather, a wonderful and mysterious thing. How much greater though is the new life in Christ! It is truly life. Here we find true enjoyment: not as the world gives, of possessions and wealth, but of that pure spiritual enjoyment found in God's presence, when I am absolved of all the other things, of myself, and one with Christ Jesus. It is when I am crucified to myself that life comes. Here is peace and joy and contentment. Here is life, beyond all the contrivances of the world and man's mind. I know because I live in Christ- and dwell in His presence. To come away from the outer world and enter in with God is the supreme bliss of this life. I find that as every day passes, I desire more and more time in the pure presence of God, dwelling in Christ and in the Word and His love. All other things, the things not of God, are but drugs and cheap nasty wine. But He gives us Himself to eat and to drink, and what more may we ask?


This poem drifted into my head after a contemplative walk through my neighbor's wood and field, which is a lovely spot: some big thick hedges, ponds, old oak trees, and rolling little fields, all veined through with little farm lanes. After I have read Scriptures at home, I tend to- when I can, which is occasional- go and take a short walk, in which I try to maintain a contemplative, prayerful attititude, in which "Christ is all" upon my being, and in which I may praise and thank my Father as I often fail to do when the affairs of the rest of the world press about.

Hymn on the Rain

Quake!-quick strewed against strathing sky-
Yare- yorn willowleafen wrought white washed upon rain
Dregging clouds: graying, streeling, gab-thrown high
World-sized, world-shorn reeling raring over down and slane
While mapleleaves green grasp, scatter soft-edged
Catch the gray strathy skyed frown-
Deep frown, soft frowned, broken now to rain.

Yare bent willow: O praise Him!
Quooken leaftipped arms throw forward praise-
Lifted, linned over, speak!
Green-grafted maple: O praise Him!
Voice resounds- resounds, resounds: soul
Slakes soul praises- praises Him!
Toss, still and settle- but praise, praise yet!
Glory given ever, on heaven and on earth:
Soul’s song, quickbeam’s song- life gorn, breath touched all
Redemption wrought bringing:
O Praise Him!

The Hat has my little essay on John Knox, The World as His Monument, up this morning. I hope it's not riddled with too many historical innacuracies...


This week I bring to you, good reader, the marvelous story of a branch of my ancestry, the much distinguished MacNeil's of Scotland, written in its fullest form since the Red Book of Lewis in 1346. Here it is:

{The Curious Story of the MacNeils of Barra}

There is, far off at the fringe of those stony thrusts of land in the sea west of Scotland, a small, rocky and quite remote island by the name of Barra. This is not where our story begins, however, it is where our story ends. Let us instead consider the small clan that has long resided there, the clan whose history is enveloped in great story and song recited across the wide world: the MacNeils of Barra. This is the story of a family of such import and remarkability, that the fact that it has gone untaught in most so-called progressive and modern schools is truly a travesty.

The grandiose and stirring account of the MacNeils begins with the very inception of the Gaels- immediately after the Flood. While some chroniclers have reported the existence of a private boat manned by none other than Niall himself, I have found these tales to be quite unfounded. It is known, however, that Niall founded the Gaels no little time after the waters had resided. Of these courageous people, well endowed in the skill of bardship and wine-making, the MacNialls were the head and finest family, though some other accounts, produced by mainlanders who fought alongside Englishmen, dispute this fact. At any rate, few can dispute that Niall went on to found the city of Ur (which any good Gaelic scholar will recognize as derived from the word for fresh, new, recent, flourishing, young, vigorous, beautiful, fair). It was a bustling city, and a rather important person once called it home. I understand he made a lengthy journey and founded a clan of some significance. Niall- or rather Niall the Third- also departed from Ur, and set off for a small town on the banks of a large river. Aside from some tall lumps of mud that functioned as rude graves for the petty nobility, the inhabitants had constructed nothing more than simple bawnies and huts. Upon Niall’s arrival, the inhabitants quickly humbled themselves beneath him, and thusly Niall gave the region the name Easgaidh, which has been worn to the more vulgar Egypt over the course of the centuries. Niall also saw it fitting it name the river after himself, as he had been the first to grasp the opportunity of its anual floods. Over time this name too has been vulgarized to Nile. But Niall’s greatest achievment in his flurry of rule stands tall and proud to-day, and is commonly known as the Great Pyramid. In recent years certain English scholars have attributed its contruction to the native inhabitants, going against two thousand years of recorded knowledge.

Yet, for all the glory of the MacNiall’s accomplishments in Easgaidh, they soon grew weary of the deserts. Young Faiscal MacNiall heard of a distant land that was sparsely settled but well endowed with fertile soil. So the family, which by this time had grown quite large, set off for what they named Itealaich, for indeed across the wide sea they had flown, so eager was the clan to be rid of the deserts. Upon arrival there, they established a city, which, later legend tells us, was named after a child raised by a wolf: a quaint tale, no doubt, but belying the quite prosaic nature of the original name- Ròmach, which is hardly a name to stir one’s imagination. For, though the crops grew well, the MacNeils- as they were now called- grew anxious to move once again. It is said that Faiscal the Second journeyed far across the earth, east and west, north and south, until he chanced upon an island nation at the edge of the west- Britian. The story of this strange and marvelous journey is best recounted through the use of a tale by old Deargh MacNeil, one of the bards of old:

Upon coming to the southern shores of the land of Britian, they were confronted by a savage folk, giants of the land, who dwelt in deep wealds of ash and yew. Courageous Cearthudh leapt ashore despite the threat and slew down ten of the fell giants before he was cast back into the sea. Seeing this, Dubh Mor, his brother, splashed into the foam, his sword drawn, and cried out for his clan to follow. Their pipes roaring and droning fiercely, the MacNeils struck down two score of the giants and sent the rest fleeing into the wood. But on the following day the giants renewed their attack, and the MacNeils thought it wise to sail further west.

That they did, swiftly coming to Ireland, where they found the greater part of the land all ready settled. So instead the clan, sailing in seven ships, continued north along the island, until they came unto Ulster. Here Faiscil did battle with Cuchullian for a year and a day, and at the end brought him to a draw. Cuchullian allowed the MacNeil’s to settle in that land, and they found it pleasing. For many long years they dwelt there, in peace and prosperity, and many fellow Gaels lived there. But one day in spring, a young MacNeil named Ruadh became weary of Ireland, for he was restless, and had walked Ireland’s length seven times. He traveled to the Boyne and bought a firm little boat and sailed northward, for he had heard strange yore of the lands there. He landed in Glasgow and met with a fellow Gael who ruled a narrow band of land there. He told of marvelous tales concerning the glens and corries and islands, but warned Ruadh of the Faerie Folk of Skye, for they held the islands. But Ruadh laughed and told the king he feared neither man nor faeries, and off he went for Skye. He came to the island, which was then covered in forest, and strode ashore, blowing his horn, should any challenge him.

He walked to the highest hill upon the island, and from there could see all across the island and across the sea. While he stood there a short, gnarled old man approached him.
“What may I do for you sir?” asked Ruadh.
“Och! My young boy is dreadfully ill, and will soon die. But perhaps you may heal him sir, for I know you come from many miles distant, where they say men have measured the girth of the world.”
“Easy to say sir, I will help your son as best I can,” replied Ruadh, for he was a kind hearted young man.
The old man led Ruadh across the island to a deep glen where ancient yews, their bark covered over in green lichens and mosses, grew thick and dark. At the head of the glen the trees drew back, and a white gloaming waterfall poured down into a shining pool. Ruadh thought he could hear pipes and fiddles over the waterfall, and he also thought it odd the little old man should lead him so deep into the glen. He thought it odd yet that the little old man should walk through the waterfall, but Ruadh supposed that perhaps men had odd dwellings here, so he followed. Behind the veil of the falls the pipes and fiddles were louder, and their music entrancing. The dwelling behind the falls was composed of a single great room lit with a bright glow, though Ruadh could see no fireplace. Bright weavings were draped across the room, and from deeper within came the sound of the pipes and fiddles.

The old man led Ruadh to a loft where a young man lay, quite obviously ill and pale. “This is my son- sir, please help him, and I will grant you my daughter in marriage and an island.”
Ruadh sat and thought, but he could think of nothing. He walked about, and suddenly he thought of a tale his grandfather had told him of the king of Greece.
“Ah! I have it! Sir, have you a boat or ship?”
“My ship is the swiftest under the skies, but it moves only under dawn and dusk,” replied the old man.
“Lend me it, and I shall go and find the cure for your son.”
The old man did, and Ruadh waited until dusk, and set sail. Swift was his boat! They talk of steam ships to-day, but the Faerie ship could outpace them all. It was in little time- the last gleam of sun was off the horizion- that Ruadh came to the king of Greece. He explained his purpose, and asked if the king could help him. The king knew well the history of the MacNeils, and in honor of them, allowed young Ruadh to take a great book of herbs and medicines the learned men of his kingdom had accumulated. Ruadh read it over, and just as dawn was breaking, found the sweet-herbs he needed, and, with the book in hand, sailed quickly westward again, landing on Skye just as the sun raised its last ray over the world.

Swiftly Ruadh found the old man and his boy, and swiftly he prepared the cure. Three days later the boy was well, and the old man kept his word, giving his daughter to Ruadh in marriage. Ruadh was smitten with love and awe at her, for none surpased her beauty. But the old man had also promised an island, and he brought Ruadh and his bride to it. Ruadh thought they were nearing the edge of the world, but just then the island rose in front of them: our Barra. Ruadh and his bride stepped ashore, but the old man vanished. His wife- whose name was Beithe- told him of a spring on a small island on the north end of the island, and they walked to it. Quite a spring it was! for bubbling forth was not water, but the finest whiskey ever brewed! And standing beside the spring was a tree bearing the finest haggis ever eaten! Little could Ruadh keep such a discovery to himself, so he sailed back to Ulster and told his clan, and bid them come and settle on Barra. So they did, and built a fort about the spring.

For some years they dwelt on the island and prospered, but one winter two ugly urisgs began to trouble the island, wrecking fences and houses for sport, eating the corn, and frightening the cows. The MacNeil’s tried their best to drive them from the island, but the urisgs were to sly. One day they decided upon a plan. A man and his companion happened by the cave where the urisgs lurked, and they spoke loudly of the great whiskey spring in the fort on the island.
“Aye,” said the one man, “it is a fne thing, but I certainly hope those awful urisgs find it.”
“Indeed, for I fear they would drink it all up, and perhaps eat all the haggis also.”
“Och, what an awful thole that would be!”
Of course the two urisgs overheard, and that night they crept inside the fort, whose door was left unguarded, and drank, and drank, and ate, and ate, until they could hardly stand. After a while they stood and drank some more. As morning approached, they feared being caught in the fort, and plunged into the ocean, but having drank so much of the whiskey, they swam westward until far beyond sight. What happened to them no one can say, but they never bothered Barra again.

And so ends Deargh’s tale. He could speak of more, of course: of the fell Norse invaders and our clan’s brave repulsal of them, of the Lord of the Isles, of the ‘45, and of the waning days of the clans. But it is best to end here. Needless to say, with such wealth, the MacNeils thought it best to remain on Barra and farm and raise a few cows, that is, until an Englishman discovered the secret of the spring. The Englishman, upon examining the spring, dispatched an agent from the Department of Health who declared the whiskey spring and haggis tree to be unsanitary and unliscensed, and promptly closed it down- for good. Many folk had all ready moved to America, and few folk live on Barra to-day. But we hold fast to the long and proud history of our clan, though, perhaps, it is true some of the facts are rather murky. But, as it is often said in Gaeldom, if it was a lie told me, it was a lie told you.

{The author might add that in truth, he knows relatively little of the MacNeil's history before, say, the nation of Scotland's conception. How they wound up on Barra, and where the Gaels came from in general, is largely a mystery. So, quite sorry, but I am not descended of the man who named the Nile. Just thought I'd let everyone know...}

Chasing Hats has begun Reformation Week with this fine story by David Henreckson.


"I will meditate in Thy precepts."—Psalm 119:15.

Here are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in His service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser's feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, "I will meditate in Thy precepts."

I passed to-day still ill, and was unable to attend church this morning or evening. I set up the comments and fooled around with the template, until I exhasted myself- from sitting at a computer- and went back to rest and continue in the Scottish War for Independence.

For Sunday, in abeyance of original material, a bit of poetry I composed while walking out in the local National Forest:

Ode To A Dogwood

Thy slow-stround frame all thrown
To touch the tips of the star’s meshed veil
And whisper in on nuthatch song-
All ablaze in quickened flame
Thy leafed-fire bends, bends to touch
the greater frame.

Well well, Manalive! now has the capacity for me to amuse myself with comments. How wonderful! I can now hold an online conversation with myself in real-time.


This is a fine little essay. Remarkably relevant to have been written so many years ago.


{Overheard In A Remote Location, or, Some Pithy Observations on Men and Women}

“Well my dear, let me be the first to make a grand and glorious proposition to you- a cadre of thoughts so sublime you will wonder, as I did, why their magnificent significance did not arrive sooner-”
“Ah love, watch your step there-”
“Oh yes yes my dear, a trifle matter. Anyway, consider this- do you see that butte yonder? Of course! You cannot help but see it! And that is the true glory of it- here is something we have never seen before, something whose name- whose previous perception to other men- is unknown to us, as if we had discovered a new planet! Here, let us stop and gaze with wonder upon this sight, whose thrill and sublimity fill my heart like wine.”
That there was indeed a large, looming butte of that glorious nature only known in the remoter corners of the American West, was quite clear to both the husband and his patient wife.
“Dear, you’d best come along- we’re all out of water.”
“Water! What is water, but a drug to quench our souls- when behold, there is water- nay wine!- all about us in the form of new-born discovery and cognition!”
“Yes love, it is a pretty sight. Now, what have you done with our map?”
“Map! Maps are but restrictions upon man’s wanderlusting spirit- man craves to see what is new, what is fresh, to strike out into Terra Nova- but eh, I seem to have misplaced it. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason-”
“Then let us sit here and gaze, my dear, as the sunset of all that is freshly primal sets about us, for we are in a new Eden-”
“Love, did you bring a light?”
“Eh, well, yes, but-”
“It’s out of batteries.”
“Well, you might say that- I mean, they’re quite in the flashlight, but well-”
“Quite alright love. We’ll simply have a campfire. Now, let’s head for that creek, and tommorow we’ll set off in the way we came. I think I recall seeing a little hill with some white rocks on it, back near the trail.”
“Oh my dear, in you is feminine virtue exemplified!”
So the little couple passed the night in relative comfort, considering the circumstance- the young man serenading his darling to sleep with one of his improtu bouts of poetry. In the morning they made their way- quite readily- back to the trail and subsequently home. I am not certain, but I understand they are still quite happily married, the wife however carrying the responsibility of bearing the flashlight.

There is something singularly remarkable about a strong head cold- everything about me seems startlingly new, and my perception of things is quite more heightened. I have at last managed to get up and walk about a bit- having been in bed all morning save for a quick jaunt downstairs- and look about at things. I have had the experience of seeing the sky and seeing that it is really blue- and the pines are truly green, and truly pines. I plucked at my banjo, and the notes where truly notes, and sharp and vibrant- though it was clearly out of tune. I am listening to Battlefield Band right now, and the music is really music, and beautiful and moving- more so than ever before.

There is no doubt some vulgar scientific explanation for these lovely sensations, but I'd rather not have any of them. I would rather like to say that in being immobilized for a longwhile {for me at least!} I am awoken to the simple beauty of life. In passing from good health life is made all the more vibrant, and my heart is joyful with the realization of all of God's good and simple gifts that I take for granted too often.