NaPoMo poetry party.27


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Our guest today is Gary Copeland Lilley who lives, teaches, mentors, and flourishes as a poet and musician in the idyllic seaside town of Port Townsend, Washington. Gary is the author of eight books of poetry, and is published widely. Gary generously serves and creates community through initiatives like his Writer’s Workshoppe where poets are invited to “do your poetic thing with a focus on the crafting of poems, and on not judging poets.”

I met Gary several years back when he was leading faculty at the Centrum Port Townsend Writer’s Conference. It was a joy for me to sit in Gary’s presence, listen to tales of poetry and his days in the Navy, consider his rich insights, and stretch myself in a new context of American poetry culture. And the icing on the cake was hearing Gary play the blues at our evening open mics. (Hey friends, if you ever have a chance to attend Centrum, go!)

Thanks so much for honouring us by being here today, Gary. I’m excited because we get to experience you reading a poem (via video), and you’ve brought another poem in print. There’s something very special about hearing a poet read their work, I think.

If folk would like a taste of a little more about you, or purchase your poetry collections, they can start HERE, HERE, and HERE. As we have become accustomed to doing each day, we are going to ask you three questions;

Lesley-Anne:  We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Gary:  I am spending my time with the guitar. I love singing. I’ve written a few songs that I’m still working on. Also, I’m learning some good songs to cover. Woody Guthrie songs and Wobblie (International Workers of the World) songs. These are hyper-political dust-bowl type of times, and, for me, that loops right back into writing poems.

Lesley-Anne:  Why is poetry/art important?

Gary:  Hmmm, a better question for me is when has it not been important? The beauty of the expression of things within our lives is one of the greatest joys of humankind. It is truly a gift from God to be shared with others.

Lesley-Anne:  What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Gary:  Today, in my small town of Port Townsend, WA a woman from somewhere else and in a hurry to get where she was going was honking her horn in the sparse traffic. That never happens here.

We’ll move now into the world of your poems. In a time when we can feel distant from one another, I’m grateful for this month’s poetry party that was for me a drawing closer. Thank you for spending this time with us, Gary.

Peace, and poetry,
Lesley-Anne


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NaPoMo poetry party.16


MermaidPinkHair

Hillary Ross’s energetic and enthusiastic spirit spills over into her creation of music, visual art, songwriting and poetry. Hillary splits her time between Kelowna, British Columbia and Redding, California, where she studies at the Bethel School of Ministry. Like many musicians during the time of COVID, Hillary is finding ways to share her music virtually.

One of your favourite quotes is this;

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” – Miss Rumphius

Let me just say you are doing this, Hillary! Last week I tuned in to a Facebook live concert you held with a friend and it was light-hearted, fantastical, and fun. You have a boundless number of ways of bringing beauty to the world, and I appreciate that about you.

Lesley-Anne: What is this quieter version of life teaching you, if in fact, it is quieter?

Hillary: The word that is ruminating over my spirit these days is selah; to pause and reflect. These days the minutes pass by like molasses and I am forced to either avoid my once unconscious mind or courageously unearth things I might have unintentionally hidden in my heart. This catharsis of tenderly and gracefully exploring places in my life where I have previously pushed pain aside has given me the courage to finally face grief, disappointment, expectations of where I believe I should be in life, deferred hope and unfulfilled promises. Giving myself permission to explore this sadness head on has brought an incredible joy and even though the pain has gone deeper, this gives joy the opportunity to do so as well.

This time is a gift in the midst of uncertainty and agony occurring in our world right now. In the slowing down, my roots have been firmly established, knit together and I have a greater appreciation for my own creativity than ever before and this immense equanimity of peace in my mind found when I yield and surrender control to God. When we surrender control our energy makes its way to the heart and we feel love more. Experiencing more love releases higher levels of oxytocin which suppresses the survival centres in the brain. It’s literally that 18 inch journey, you know that book we did that study on? I want to stay in this space and live from this overflow. Oxytocin signals nitric oxide which signals chemicals which cause our hearts to be filled with energy. We feel wholehearted and have more to give to each other.

Lesley-Anne: We often say we wish we had time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Hillary: I am spending my time on taking naps and re-establishing my own natural circadian rhythm. Devotionals, morning journaling, yoga, long walks in fresh air, bike rides and writing more poetry as well. I am calling my Grandmother more and being more intentional with family and friends.

I have put on a mermaid themed quarantine concert with my friend and this week I am actually hosting a #StayHomeTour with a few friends from the west coast, follow my band @syrenandthewaves to catch the performances!

I recently released a new single which you can hear on Spotify and I have also organized, cleaned out everything and my next goal is to re-edit my book, Poems By A Mermaid. It is complete but I’ve been putting off publishing it as there’s a few simple spelling mistakes that are pretty hilarious and embarrassing. In one of the poems the line is supposed to read “Roots grow down deep” yet it says “Toots grow down deep.” How’s that for imagery?

Lesley-Anne: What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Hillary: Lately I am focusing on being a Christian Hedonist. What is that you might ask? Well I don’t believe in hedonism for selfish reasons but as for things of the Kingdom, I’m exploring how I can fully and wholeheartedly enjoy, lavish, linger, dwell and seek out beauty in every area of life. Polishing up my rose coloured glasses and saying yes to courage and my own dreams.

I am in a dance class and even though our class has moved onto a cyber platform we’re still able to connect, express and dance together. The activity we did today was to dance for April, May and June of 2020. When I danced for April I felt very strong and an anticipation for May. May is my birthday so each year I feel a similarity in that this year will be the greatest one yet! I danced powerfully and noticed that my body was wanting to move in ways I don’t normally move and this brought a greater level of confidence and freedom to myself. I gave myself permission to take up more space and expand my territory in the room. When I danced for June it felt like I was dancing with fulfilled promises over my life and a new perspective as I ended the dance in a headstand. Paradigms being turned upside down.

Here is one of Hillary’s favourite poems & a tiny piece of her art that goes along with it from her book Poems By a Mermaid. You can find and follow all of Hillary’s social media links at www.syrenandthewaves.onuniverse.com.

Hillary it’s been great to host you today, and I hope everyone who joined us enjoyed meeting you.

Peace, and good health to you all,
Lesley-Anne

Reach into my chest,
take what’s left.
Tend to this garden
with your elaborate hand.
I’m going to be more than okay is what they say.

Today,
Breathing deeper,
slower,
than ever before.
Laying here in your arms
of trustworthiness.
Blanket me all day in your presence.
open my minds eye to your constant love. 
Wash me in grace
Remove this brokenness.
I want to skip this process and
freely run from mountaintop to mountain top 
but I’m down in the valley
with a guitar for a gun,

streams in the wasteland,
singing you songs.

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NaPoMo poetry party.6


Rob @ the church

Robert Rife is the reason I’m hosting this daily poetry party for the month of April. Rob invited me to participate in his NaPoMo blog, and in that I recognized how much I was missing creative community. So, here we are. Thanks, my friend.

Rob lives and works in Yakima, Washington. He is Canadian born, with the soul of a Celt. I’ve known Rob for decades as a talented singer-songwriter, poet, essayist, and I am drawn as he is to the Christian contemplative way. The standout memory I have is of Rob and his wife Rae’s visit one Canada Day not long ago, when Rob serenaded our captivated family and friends as the sun set over Lake Okanagan:

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(Unfortunately I’m unable to play this video without upgrading my blog platform…but imagine how hauntingly beautiful this experience was, and then multiply by 10.)

It’s just great having you here, Rob, and I’m excited for those joining us to catch a glimpse of your talent and heart. Thanks so much for being willing to stop by. As per usual, we’re circling around three questions that touch on how we are coping these days.

1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
Rob: We must always see silence and solitude as gifts. That is especially so during those times when they’re “imposed.” Oddly, I am less adept now at utilizing this shared solitude, a gift of abundance, as when I stole it from a busy schedule!

2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?
Rob:
We are busily trying to prepare a house for the market (such as it is). But, it is becoming an oasis for creativity once again. And art is life. And life steeps art, which itself, is an act of gratitude.

3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Rob: I arose to draw breath. The rest? Pure gift.

You can get to know Rob better at his blogs www.innerwoven.me and www.robslitbits.com. Also, his music (so much more than bagpipes) is available on iTunes under Robert Alan Rife and streamable on Spotify.

This has been a great little visit, Rob, and I wish you peace and healthy days ahead. We’ll leave now with your journeying poem:

Look Now, the Bless-ed Road

Look now, the bless-ed road rises to meet
feet, weary, uncertain, but sure
of steps yet untaken that, parting, greet
a step, one step, from that step. Intentions pure
where hinted there, evidences of worn
and bent, slow and plodding with care,
the stone-way moss with feet, unshorn.
It now draws this one from here to there
and back, or not? Perhaps to see once more
the trace of place and diligence where
friend not seen for to strength restore.
Beyond this hill, that rock, another vale,
to part from us the sure, the safe, the soft
and bring once more the promise of tale,
of song, of new and now and hope aloft.
As turns the way from risk to gift,
she bids one turn and, unflinching, faces
the way unmarked by mark-ed feet, swift
to lead not ahead or behind, but grace -
the name of he who draws, and we who strain
the path we sought,
and found again.

 

What I want to say…


That Certain Sound

There’s a musical chord called a ‘unresolved suspended chord’, a series of notes played simultaneously on the piano that hangs in the air, like you know there is something coming after, it sounds unfinished musically.

Last night, after I prepared dinner, I sat down at the piano in the peace of a dusk filled room, I sat and played something I’ve never heard before, it spilled out. The melody was filled with suspended chords, the room with music and sighs and a days worth of unresolved thoughts of you.

I dropped by to see you earlier in the day, and you were sleeping, somewhere between two worlds, perhaps already there and longing for your body to catch up to what your soul has been craving for the last few weeks. Someone told me you are ready now, tired of the fight. I have seen you hero against this damned thing, seen you fight with all you’ve got, alternative means as well as conventional. Through it all you’ve dispensed hope to everyone around you, offered us a God-perspective and God-love. You’ve turned it on it’s head, your love blessing us rather than the other way around.

Which brings me back to the suspended chord, the haunting sound of music that kept repeating though my hands on the satin keyboard of well worn keys and in my thoughts until now. I found in that chord an echo of Gods voice, as if God had placed all of earthly life into that one musical chord of waiting, leaning, hinting, suspended until the day when we lean into his final resolving chord and all shall be as he planned it, just as he saw in the beginning, his eyes wide as the horizon. Sometimes there’s a hint of it at sunset, a lingering sense of it in a certain fragrant bloom, a combination of  words, the eyes into another human heart. We can’t help be drawn, our souls longing for that final transformation, for release from this suspended waiting. I sense that you feel it too, perhaps more strongly now.

And this thought, this small revelation of God’s way in the face of so many things I do not understand, and the great and heavy sadness that losing you is laying over my heart, suggests that you are indeed the lucky one. As we wait in this suspended place called earth and count the days of our existence here, Heaven is preparing for you, a celestial celebration is being laid out to welcome you home, dear and faithful one.

So I think of you, wrapped in a gossamer garment of light. I think of you, dancing in the most gorgeous designer shoes you’ve ever seen. 
I think of you, altogether lovely and perfect and laughing in the presence of the King of all Kings who delights over you with singing. While we continue to walk this dim lit pathway toward what you will soon know beyond doubt’s shadow.

You will be in that place of eternal music resolving absolutely everything, knowing and being known, face to face with your Jesus.

And I will miss you here. I love you, my friend.

 

The healing power of creative expression?


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Image via Wikipedia

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at the esteemed Okanagan Institute Express, on the topic of  THE THERAPEUTIC MUSE CELEBRATING THE HEALING ARTS. I was one of a panel of four artists, each involved in different artistic ventures that have resulted in a particular experience of healing.
The mission of the Okanagan Institute is to contribute to the quality of creative engagement in the Okanagan through publications, events and collaborations. If you have never attended one of their Express events, I encourage you to do so, Thursdays at 5 PM at the Bohemian Bagel, Bernard Avenue, Kelowna, B.C.
This is what I shared with those gathered last Thursday night.
Soli Deo gloria, Lesley-Anne.
Poetry and the healing power of creative expression

Preparing to speak tonight on healing and creative expression, both as a writer, and as a human being, led me to ask several questions;

What is healing?
When we say healing, do we mean physical healing?
I have a friend who is absolutely convinced that her cancer-filled body, is healed. Another friend, with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, believed in a healing miracle for three years before he passed away. I’ve been asked to pray for ‘healing’, and I have to admit that causes conflicting emotions for me.

Healing is multi-faceted, involving our heart, our mind, our spirit or soul, and our body. When we make peace with something, that’s healing. When our hearts finally mend after a huge loss, that is healing. When we change a thought pattern, or still the voices, or quiet the demons, or forgive the unforgivable, all that is healing. And, when we speak of our disease going into remission, or our body being clear after a series of treatments, that’s profound healing as well.

Why do we need to be healed?
To say we require healing suggests we are broken, hurting, imperfect people. This is the human condition. This is who I am, as much as I’d like to project otherwise. Yet, we all desire to be whole people, don’t we? We all seek healing to some degree or another.

And, what is creative expression?
The act of creating anything, whether a dance, or a painting, or a garden, or a cathedral, or a poem, is inherently powerful. This ability to create belongs only to the human race. It is an echo of the divine nature in each of us.

Creative expression is about courageously delving into our inner lives, unearthing or glimpsing something unique, intriguing, transcendent, and then casting our thought, idea, epiphany out into the world, in the belief that what we have expressed has a purpose higher than ourselves.

Creative expression is deeply cathartic. In the process we acknowledge who we are, what we have to give, and then release our creation to leave it’s mark on the worldŠ proof that we were here.

Creative expression allow us to tell a story to someone whom we may never meet. Author Stephen King says in his book, On Writing, ” We are not even in the same year together, let alone the same roomŠ except we are together. We are close. We are having a meeting of the minds.” That’s powerful stuff.

Is everyone creative?
Yes. Although sadly, many have lost touch with that part of themselves, like the free spirited pre-schooler who was told to colour within the lines. Creativity is hard wired within us, and we are more fully alive when we learn how to reconnect and express this part of who we are.
But does developing and expressing our creative nature heal us?
Healing, of the body, soul, spirit, heart and mind, comes from wrestling through, therapy, acceptance, faith, forgiveness, surrender, wise counsel, time, distance, AND creative expression. As difficult as it is to understand healing, it is still more difficult to measure. We look for outward proof about something that is, by nature, internal and personal.

A healed individual may manifest a spirit of peace, grace, joy, hope, resilience, often where we least expect to see it. I recall hearing of a woman who, when pulled from the rubble of Port au Prince, Haiti after 17 days, was smiling and singing a hymn. She was peaceful rather than afraid. I sense her spirit was whole while her body was bruised, broken, hungry, thirsty, and her mind, longing for release.

The creative arts allow us to put our complex feelings about our world and circumstances into word and action, rather than allowing things to fester and grow into something ugly inside us. Peace is a byproduct of creative expression.

Many Kelowna artists are working through their media to express deep sadness over the devastating situation in Japan.  Jody Bruce, an artist friend, woke in the middle of the night unable to sleep, and was compelled to create this beautiful piece called, ‘Hope’, because she just had to do something in response.  She offered her painting of an illustration to us tonight. Another local artist, Carrie Harper, has created a Facebook Group called, “Artists for Japan”, where artists can donate paintings for online auction. All proceeds will go to the Canadian Red Cross effort in Japan.

On a more personal note, last year, when I heard about the devastation in Haiti, and felt immobilized to do anything hands on to help, I worked through my emotions by writing to poetry. It allowed me to let go of my feelings of powerlessness, make peace with the situation, and to empathize to some degree with what was happening there;This is one of those poems; 

Haiti  16:53

What seems like one minute you are chewing on your HB pencil
Staring at the clock and dreaming yourself out onto the dusty street with
Football between your agile feet, and running, running.

The next, you are lying on your back struggling
To breath, through white dust that settles in your mouth and lungs
And you somehow can’t make your hand wipe away what stops your eyes from blinking.

Sounds of moaning, all around you in the dark, burst the tiny bubble of
Hope that, you are daydreaming at your desk, and you will wake up any moment
And the clock will say 16:54.

Have I experienced healing as a poet and writer?
I haven’t always been a poet, haven’t been able to say I’m a poet without choking on those words. I’ve become a poet. It’s taken time, courage, and a healthy dose of faith to stand before you today.

Art, music, design, love of the written word have always been part of who I am.  But my design career as an Architect ended when I became a mom. There were many years when I did not creatively express the deeper things of my heart. And part of me shriveled up and almost died.

Then, about 6 years ago, through weighty circumstances, and the pursuit of spiritual formation, I began to pay more attention to my inner life, to the ideas and desires that percolated around inside me. I began to write, and opportunities came for me to share my writing. I started to listen to people’s positive response to my writing, which fueled my passion further, and gave me greater purpose.

I see a clear connection between Creator God, and the ability to express my creative nature in writing and poetry. I am a spiritual being, and my creativity is a spiritual pathway for me to commune with God. To write is a gift. In the movie ‘Chariots of Fire, the olympic runner Erik Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” That is how I feel about my writing.

As I write, I find that my words contain a common message of love and longing, wonder and revelation, grief and loss, forgiveness and redemption, this message resonates with others.

Healing happens when I write because I embrace what I was intended to do. I use my unique voice, and add it to the chorus of humanity. Writing gives me permission to ask unanswerable questions, and to speak of unspeakably difficult things. Writing allows me to own living in the tension of not knowing, not being in control, not needing to be the one. I live as a writer who relies on God, and isn’t afraid to be human.  Living out of this new wider place is what heals my soul, a little bit day by day. 

So what is the ripple effect?
Sometimes we don’t expect to be part of a healing process. it happens as a byproduct of what we do. 2 years ago, I created a book for that friend I mentioned earlier who had ALS. I collected stories, letters, emails, poems, bible verses, photographs, and worked with a graphic designer to produce a book called ‘Buddy Breathing’. The most powerful part of my experience, was seeing how written words impacted my friend. I was witness to healing.

Over the weeks and months that led to his death, Art’s bible, and his book ‘Buddy Breathing’ became touchstones of strength, and platforms for meaningful conversations. In hospice, in the small hours of the night, his nurses read to him. He often asked friends to read and re-read certain portions of the book. He would say, “Is this really about me? I can’t believe people say that about me.” He was made stronger in his daily physical struggles through the affirming words of others, through knowing his life mattered. His heart was healed, though his body never was.

Could it be that our experience of healing through the creative process, the healing of our hearts, minds, and spirits, is just a tiny taste of what’s to come? An ancient Hebrew text promises that, “One day, God will wipe away EVERY TEAR from our eyes, and here will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.” Could it be, that through creative expression, we are being invited to a deeper encounter with  Creator God, the author of creativity and the source of ultimate healing?

Why music?


Sonatas for Violin and Piano (Grieg)

Image via Wikipedia

When the weather is grey, and Spring seems like it will never come, I sometimes get confused, lose my perspective, and feel like there’s not much hope. My regular everyday life feels overwhelming, and it’s all I can do to get out of bed and carry on. My faith takes a beating, and God seems far away. I know he’s there, but I just can’t seem to find the right frequency to connect with him. So, I wait for change. I keep taking my vitamins, keep doing the things I’ve been given to do to the best of my low energy ability, and wait. Because I know change and Spring will come. This morning I happened upon these videos and the small miracles in the voices of these kids, and a shift happened in me. I looked up to see the sun coming through my Winter windows. I considered going outside with my dog.

So I ask you, if there’s no God, then why is there music? Where does it come from?

1. 6 year old Connie sings, ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’;

2. Cover of Lady Gaga, ‘Born this Way’;

3. Brendan MacFarlane, from Perth, UK,  sings, ‘I got a woman’;

Hey Rob, “Lang may yer lum reek!”


It’s not often that I have the opportunity to share my space here at Buddy Breathing. But I should be more intentional about that. Because there are so many people out there who are smart, talented and interesting.

Case in point, I’ve known Rob Rife and his wife Rae for many years. Rob used to lead worship at our church, and we’d joke about being some of the few members of the congregation that actually ‘got’ the tin whistle and the bagpipes… our mutual heritage being British, while the majority of our congregation were Germanic in origin. We’d joke in a decidedly British way, share our love of UK sitcoms and Monty Python, and once Rae and I wrote a short skit in which we played the part of two middle aged British women who referred to one another as ‘Hen’.

And Rob and Rae’s two boys bear the same names as our boys… their “Graeme and Calum” to our “Graeme and Malcolm.” No we didn’t plan that! And while they don’t have a daughter as we do, they named their bunny… yes, indeed… they named her “Clare,” completing their family unit with an unusual reflection of our own daughter “Claire!” Did you do that on purpose, Rob? Well, did you?

Anyway, Rob often made me cry during Worship service… something about the sound of those two instruments I mentioned, and the decidedly Celtic flair of the music he led, that echoed within me deeply. So you can imagine how utterly sad we became when Rob and Rae told us they were moving away.

Yet our lives continue to intersect, sometimes at peculiar times… like the time we happened upon one another while on vacation at the Oregon Coast… me seeing Rae in a parking lot while we were driving past leading to us having a gut wrenching funny lunch at a local restaurant. Good times always!

So, I am honoured, and I am smiling, as I introduce you to my friend Rob Rife. Some of you may already know him, and some will meet him now for the first time. He’s talented, deep, and funny as all heck. And he has agreed to share some of his writing here at Buddy Breathing. I’ll be posting several of his works over the next while.

Thank you Rob. Thank you so much.

And for those who are wondering… “Lang may yer lum reek!” means “Long may your chimney smoke!” (it’s a Brit. thing!)

Silence of the Fall

by Rob Rife

It is surprising just how many toxins build up in our spirits when we neglect regular periods for silence, solitude and spiritual refreshment. What an affront to our self-referentialism to discover that the world has gotten along famously without our invaluable contributions! Nevertheless, it remains an immensely challenging undertaking to willingly disengage for a few days in order to re-engage the deeper things – God and those archetypal realities of our meager existence.

My house stands in need of significant repair, my wife deserves my attention, my sons need a father and my employer needs me to make the trains run on time.To retreat from our responsibilities requires our brazen intention to be vulnerable before God with no guarantee of visible returns on the investment of time.

Be that as it may, I took three days last week in Ocean Shores to enjoy silence, contemplation, reading, writing and sleep; not necessarily in that order! It’s enlightening how a good, long drive is always like Drano to a clogged soul or foggy mind. I guess that’s why there are so many good road trip stories. Few things are so fast acting in ironing smooth the unsightly spiritual wrinkles that beset us.

And, for me, there is absolutely no better time to do so than the fall. Everything feels different in the fall. There is a hesitancy about the passing hours that seems somehow not so…insistent. The world is not so in-your-face cheery and the sunlight’s less gaudy rays lie slanted on blushing trees, caressing the sadder sky in reassuring gestures that although winter is crouched and ready, she too, must pass like autumn before her.

Pursuing silence in the fall has always offered far more treasures for mystics like me. I am reminded of a line from a Chris de Burgh song, “there’s nothing quite like an out of season holiday town in the rain.” Amen to that. Take away the touristy stores full of shiny, campy bobbles attractive only to our covetous need for yet more worthless shit and we’re given permission to exhale.

Our need for silence mirrors Jesus’ similar need. It’s instructive to see the unabashed willingness of Jesus to turn his back on the madding crowd and escape to the hills under cover of night to meet his Father. He understood his own personal rhythms well and could thus obtain maximum benefit from such times of solitude. From there he changed the world. It is just that self-awareness for which I yearn. In such times an unseen door opens that invites us to see what God sees – and what God sees is remarkable…

Robert grew up in Calgary, Alberta but is presently the Minister of Worship and Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a master’s student, self-proclaimed book nerd, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes-go figure), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet and liturgist. He defines himself as “small-‘c’-catholic-post-evangelical-small-‘r’-reformed-Celtic-contemplative-with-issues.” Robert’s debut CD is entitled “be that as it may”, an eclectic collection of Celtic flavoured folk-rock. He went grey at 30, hates spiders his right ear is bigger than his left. Greatest achievement to date: a 22-year marriage to wife, Rae and 2 boys, Calum and Graeme.