These are stories that have a video included, usually by the same name as the story. We use video when there is something about a particular situation that calls for a more animated way to describe it. All of our videos, which include those made for Music, Storytelling, or Behind the scenes documentation, can be seen on YouTube at the Uncommon Promise Video Channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/uncommonpromise

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Listen. . .Shhhhh!

Poetry and music are powerful forces, actively shaping our world whether we realize it or not.  The poets and troubadours are those sensitive souls venturing out into the inexplicable, teasing, coaxing it into our consciousness. This glimpse provides us with the faint outlines of who we are beneath the familiar trappings of culture. Preoccupied with the drone of the ordinary, the mundane, the every-day, we sometimes need a nudge from a visionary to stop us in our tracks, suddenly catching our undivided attention—as if taking our face in both hands and saying shhhhh! We listen intently. We hear the message for the first time. Something stirs within. We may unexpectedly and suddenly feel deeply. Perhaps we are taken aback with innocence and a penetrating honesty. And sometimes, we spontaneously weep at a sobering revelation.

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Brandi in Concert

This type of awakening recently happened for us. We must admit that we were predisposed, already poised to find meaning, both obvious and hidden within music. For years we have admired the music, lyrics and irresistible poetry of Brandi Carlile, the talented singer, poet and prophet in this age of accountability. In the middle of our tumultuous 2017, she stepped forward with a new musical story to tell, called The Joke.

As we read the lyrics and watched her video, we were struck by the musical message. Afterwards, we talked about its meaning. The song is powerful, poignant and spellbinding. There is a lingering sadness in the realization that within our society and extending to the world, we have hurt each other countless times over the years through the relentless priority given to masculine energy. For decades (maybe even centuries) we have pushed forward at the expense of others.

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Seeking Balance

Brandi speaks of the symbolically shy and sensitive “boy,” and the under-appreciated, suppressed “girl” that live within each of us, no matter who we pretend to be or what face we decide to show the world. That image makes us sad because we recognize the painful truth of her descriptions. But she pivots in the chorus, to remind us that she has “been to the movies” and knows how it ends. Her vision and faith in the wholeness of humanity comes through, delivering an overwhelming sense of hope for the much needed emergence of the feminine energy as the under-appreciated equal and balancing partner to the forceful masculine energy. This balanced being, melding both halves, represents who we are deep within—or at least strive to be.

Throughout 2017, we have all witnessed the destructive power of excessive masculine energy run-amok. It has finally been exposed, laid bare, open for the world to see. The reality of imbalance has been made visible right in front of our eyes, never to be forgotten. We interpret Brandi’s message to be that this overtly masculine phase of humanity is coming to an end as it finally “spins, and scatters in the wind.” “Let ’em laugh while they can,” because “the joke is on them.”

We invite you to read the lyrics, share them with someone, and have a conversation about Brandi’s beautiful message. You may want to listen to the music and watch the video again. The vision Brandi shares here is of course her own, but we too feel a special connection and resonance. We’d like to know your interpretation!

Brandi’s “Joke” is really not a joke after all! This post was written on January 22, 2018, the date of the second great Women’s March.

Video – The Joke (live studio recording session)

Video – The Joke (official video)

“The Joke” by Brandi Carlile

You’re feeling nervous, aren’t you, boy?
With your quiet voice and impeccable style
Don’t ever let them steal your joy
And your gentle ways, to keep ’em from running wild
They can kick dirt in your face
Dress you down, and tell you that your place
Is in the middle, when they hate the way you shine
I see you tugging on your shirt
Trying to hide inside of it and hide how much it hurts

Let ’em laugh while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them

You get discouraged, don’t you, girl?
It’s your brother’s world for a while longer
We gotta dance with the devil on a river
To beat the stream
Call it living the dream, call it kicking the ladder
They come to kick dirt in your face
To call you weak and then displace you
After carrying your baby on your back across the desert
I saw your eyes behind your hair
And you’re looking tired, but you don’t look scared

Let ’em laugh while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them

After he returned from 3 weeks in Lyon, France, Emerson offered me his journal to read. As I read, I wondered about the whys of his ways. He chatted with Marina on the first day. He struck up a conversation with Rosina and Stephan at dinner. He accompanied Romain to his workshop. Talked with Sid and Jean Pierre in the park—just to name a few local folks. Why? After walking all over the city, why did he continue going back to Place Sathonay, rather than other compelling spots? (more…)

On a brisk, cool Saturday morning in September, we set out on our trek through the French countryside. From Rue de Saint Jacques in the town of Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques, toward Toulouse, the trail known as the GR 65, wends its way through some of the prettiest French villages in the country. Within minutes, we were on the pilgrims’ footpath, leading to Santiago, Spain, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. But we weren’t going that far . . . not even close . . . not this time. Our plan was to cover only a little over 200 kilometers (125 miles) in 10 days. Next year, perhaps we’ll walk another section. We’ll see. Our conclusion is that those medieval pilgrims were some pretty tough cookies indeed! (more…)

We decided to take a big walk!

Sometimes it’s helpful to symbolize life’s journey by creating a walk that challenges us with everyday trials, on our way to a special destination. It’s even more powerful when that path is one that’s served as The Way for millions of pilgrims over centuries of soulful walking.

The Way of Saint James is one of the most famous pilgrimages in the history of the world, and is made up of countless paths throughout Europe, all converging at Cape Finisterre, at the western coast of Spain. Finisterre means “land’s end,” and was definitely thought of in ancient times as the “end of the world.” What better destination to symbolize life’s pilgrimage? (more…)

Over the next several posts you may notice a French theme laced throughout our stories, for good reason. Our plan to “get out of Dodge” (see the previous story called “Taken for Granite,”) landed us in the beautiful city of Lyon, France, which is the heart of the southwest region of the Rhone Alps. For sure, each day brings a new experience. Add being a stranger in a new town, and you’re pretty much assured of stories everywhere you turn. The tough part is choosing which ones to write about. Last weekend, the magic transpired in a delightful neighborhood park called Place Sathonay. (more…)

Many people have asked us over the years, “How did that fantastic international game of Bocce Bale ever get started, anyway?”

Well . . . once upon a time . . . three years ago, we were out on our evening meadow walk with our friend Joan. It happened to be the end of June, and Stefano, our local farmer friend had just cut and baled the grass in the fields. Well . . . Joan is an artist, and as you might expect, was captivated by the beauty of the sculptural round forms dotting the landscape. We all talked about them as we walked, playfully winding our way in and out of the geometric grass cylinders, marveling at the beauty of nature. (more…)

We sat down on the perfectly placed stone bench to enjoy a quiet moment with nature. A rustling sound began somewhere nearby: perhaps two lizards playing, a harmless garden snake, or just leaves blowing in the evening breeze. However, the strange sound intensified and before we knew it, we were sitting amid rubble. Our sacred stone perch overlooking the valley had literally disintegrated beneath us. No one was even slightly injured, but our quiet meditation had been bruised rather badly. (more…)

Ah, the ever popular stuzzicadenti, toothpick. Yes, they are readily available the world over. In any grocery store, a hundred can be had for a few coins. But the picking of one’s teeth shouldn’t be limited to processed slivers of wood. Oh, no! For those of you who are already a bit confused by the title, we’re not suggesting that istrici, porcupines have discovered the secret to perfect teeth. Certainly not! Most of them have nasty overbites. But, we are saying that the curious gift of the porcupine can make a difference in our dental hygiene, while making the world a better, tidier place. All we have to do is start using quills instead of toothpicks when the judicious picking of i denti, teeth becomes necessary. Let us lay out the argument and then you can decide for yourself. (more…)

A cherry-plum tree is right outside our bedroom window—so close, you can almost reach out and touch it. On Wednesday morning when we looked out, on the delicate branches that are contrasted with beautiful deep purple leaves, we spied a bright green caterpillar. If they came in sizes, this would have been an extra-large. Curious, we looked around the tree and sure enough there was its twin just a little higher up on another branch. Having discovered a matched set, we felt like it was our lucky day. Cheryl named them Catia and Claudio—after all, they are Italian. (more…)

There’s nothing quite like a smarty-pants e-mail.

What I mean by that is: when somebody sends you a message that seems innocent enough at a glance, but beyond the surface niceties, there’s an underlying smarty-pants attitude that can’t be denied. The reason I even bring this topic up is because I got one of those SP messages the other day. It was from our dear friend Scott who happens to be one of the best cooks I know. Yet, that doesn’t give him the right to parade his gifts in front of those of us less fortunate! (more…)