What marks the dark time of Coronavirus for me are the many instances of acute beauty that I am offered daily, from offerings of virtual exhibitions and films from galleries and museums, to “finds” from friends and readers that have the effect of infusing moments with light. Like designer Pamela Hovland’s instagram riff “My Quarantine Bookshelf Exhibition“: excerpts from books on her bookshelf that Pamela had time to visit during quarantine.

This video was thrown over my virtual transom by Ruth Kissane. There is nothing to watch, only to listen to: Yo-Yo Ma sublime cello accompanying Alison Krauss singing Simple Gifts, a Shaker song from 1848. A simple gift for right now.


‘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 shall not be ashamed
To turn, turn
Will be our delight
‘Till by turning, turning
We come round right

Pierre Joseph Redoute via Pamela Hovland’s Quarantine Bookshelf Exhibition

Reading a favorite kid’s book, Tales from Moominvalley, I stumbled on a perfect, surprising description of “simple gifts”. Moominpapa reflects on what life would be like if he ran off to join a group of Hattifatteners who “didn’t feel, didn’t think —they could only seek”.

Just think, never to be glad or disappointed. Never to like anyone and get cross at him and forgive him. Never to sleep or feel cold, never to make a mistake and have a stomachache and be cured from it, never to have a birthday party, drink beer, and have a bad conscience…

How terrible.

Simple Gifts is from the album ‘Classic Yo-Yo’.

Thanks Ruth and Pamela!

Related posts:

Holiday Respite: Lil Buck Dances With Modern Masterpieces + Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma On Leaps Of Faith

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