- That All Shall Be Saved, David Bentley Hart - In my earlier life I would have refused to read this book knowing it would be so far from "the truth." Now I read it and find hope in the expanse of possibilities.
- Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones - The best kind of memoir where a life is explored with a focus on terse reality of daily struggles while reaching for the possibility of love and hope.
- The Dearly Beloved, Cara Wall - Friendship forged by sharing life in ministry (even Presbyterian). It reminded me of much that I have lived and some that I wished for. Caity, thanks for the recommendation and loan.
- Tightrope, Nicholas Kristoph & Sherly WuDunn - Kristoph grew up in the rural area west of Portland at about the time I was growing up 50 miles east in the shifting suburbs. His insights into how America does not work for so many is heartbreaking. His suggestions for change are essential for a better future for all.
- The Depositions, Thomas Lynch - Reading the words of this poet, undertaker the week my Mom died was a true gift. Lynch has a gracious way in helping me wake to better understanding death and thereby gives me the gift of life.
- My Dark Vanessa, Kate Russell - A complex story of the journey to adulthood and self discovery shrouded in an abusive relationship. Something of I Am Charlotte Simmons for a new era.
- Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You, Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi - While written for a young adult audience it begs to be read by many, if not all. I am, again, reminded that I have much to learn, grow and change.
- Carry, Toni Jensen - The voice and perspective of indigenous Americans is often overlooked or quashed. Jensen tells her story with a power we dare not ignore.
- 1919, Eve L. Ewing - With the backdrop of the explosive Chicago summer of 1919 Ewing uses poetry to capture the moment and remind us that there is still much to remember, reconcile and learn.
A few others not to miss are How the South Won the Civil War, Heather Cox Richardson (her daily evaluation of politics and news were the source of sanity throughout the election) , All the Real Indians Died Off, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Being Mortal, Atul Gawande, Later, Paul Lisicky, White Rage, Carol Anderson and the Myth of the American Dream, D. L. Mayfield (I promise, I'll stop...soon).
- Mavis Staples (concert Edmond Center for the Arts, January 16) This was the second time we had seen Mavis with friends Rick and Heidi. As always Mavis brings an energy that creates a sense of community and passion that is the best sense of "church!"
- Over The Rhine (concert Songbirds, January 28) While in Knoxville for an annual visit with the Crossings community, I was told to get ready for a drive with an unknown destination. We eventually arrived in Chattanooga at Songbirds and I saw that OTR was on the bill. A surprise to see one of my favorites perform with close friends (Mark and Monica) and in a new (for me), great venue. We sat in the middle a few rows from the stage with a small crowd of maybe 50. A great gift from great friends!
- The Music of Cream (concert Wild Buffalo, March 1) One of the last public events I attended (with my good friend Erik and what appeared to be all the other aging Bellingham boomer's able to stay up past 9 PM) before the quarantine. It was an amazing show with offspring of the original artists bringing some of my favorite music and memories of the 60's, recreating sound that fed our souls.
- Songs of Our Native Daughters Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla & Allison Russell - Together they explore historic roots speaking to current challenges through beautiful music with an impacting message.
- Old Flowers, Courtney Marie Andrews - I'm still obsessed with May Your Kindness Remain, 2018. Her honest struggles with post-breakup life expressed in this new album proved the perfect balm for the daily realities of COVID and cultural upheaval.
- Bonny Light Horsemen, Anais Mitchell, Eric Johnson and Josh Kaufman - Another balance of music, cultural history and traditions being brought to the moment by accomplished folk artists. Thanks for the heads up, Bobby.
- Soul Soothing Sunday Songs, Allison Moorer - Every other Sunday during the pandemic Allison has been live online. Her sets mix childhood church memories with songs of encouragement from pop culture over the years. Many songs repeat weekly, as does a brief appearance for a story and song with her husband, Hayes Carll.
- Susie on Sundays, Susan Werner - Every Sunday during the pandemic Susan Werner has put on a show, online. She has mixed it up with differing themes and guests. She has covered a number of her albums and taken requests, even dedicating Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra style, to Connie on the weekend of our anniversary.
- It ain't over yet, Rodney Crowell - My song and video for solace in the pandemic. Crowell joins with John Paul White and Rosanne Cash to tell of his life and hopes past, present and reaching forward. Painful and beautiful.
Also, don't miss The Rope Walker Radio Show on Facebook or YouTube. Difficult to explain, easy to love.
FILM & VIDEO
- The Kominsky Method, season 2 (Netflix) Growing old, life shifts, the "D" word (death), friendship, family connections...guess what stage of life I'm in. The perfect balance of reality and humor.
- Unorthodox (Netflix) What could been have another all too common story of growing through and beyond religious traditions and upbringing is told with acting grace, story and pace to carry it beyond the cliches.
- Douglas, Hannah Gadsby (Netflix) Gadsby challenges predjuices and fixed mindsets. While the laughs are appreciated, we would do well to listen to her insights however delivered.
- Parks and Rec (NBC) True pandemic binging. We made it through all seven seasons and loved it all. We connected with characters and enjoyed the storylines and that was enough.
- Da 5 Bloods (Netflix) A story from my generation, but one that opens my understanding to the African American experience that I often ignored or misunderstood. Clearly, we need to make amends for our cultural transgressions, understand each other, support each other and take care of each other.
- Just Mercy (Cretton) As the teenage ticket-taker said as I entered the theater, "Every high school kid in America should have to watch this movie." I agree.
- The Crown, Moondust, Season 3, episode 7 (Netflix) Mid-life crisis meets spiritual awakening. What more do you need?
- Homeland (Showtime) I'd seen bits over the years. Being stuck at home allowed me to take it all in. Watching it in a tight time frame necessitated frequently checking, "What year are we in now?" Great acting and story telling throughout.
- Code Switch (NPR) Direct conversations about race, often focused on issues being lived out across America this year.
- Who Are We (Vox Media) Each episode focuses on a different period in American history and how it links to systemic racial injustice today.
- Driving the Green Book (Macmillan Podcasts) First, this goes beyond the movie. With the backdrop of the Great Migration, Host Alvin Hall explores the historic realities African Americans experienced, especially related to life opportunity and travel safety.
- No Compromise (NPR) My choice for podcast of the year. Gritty look into extremist gun rights activists that bleed from Christian Nationalism. This dangerous movement will continue long after any a single election is settled.
- Embedded (NPR) Do not miss the "Mitch McConnell" episodes.
- Very Presidential (Apple Podcasts) Perfect for my US history geekiness. An weekly insiders look into the life of a president. By better understanding the people, the office and the times I am better able to understand our history and the why of where we stand today.
- the Last Archive (Pushkin Industries) The tagline is "Who killed truth?" A weekly journey through history tracing evidence, proof and knowledge. The journey challenges common beliefs and deep-seated perceptions.
- Throughline (NPR) A weekly journey back in history to understand the future. The 2020 topics would be an excellent curriculum for any civics or US History class.
I'll close with a poem I wrote in May that captures some of the pressures and hopes of the year: