Early Morning Shape Notes

I wake up with a tune in my head. It’s lovely. It’s simple. It’s familiar. But I can’t remember the words except for something about going through deep waters.¬†Grinding the coffee beans, more of the line comes to consciousness.

“When through the deep waters I cause thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

It’s an American “shape notes” folk tune that voices lyrics written earlier by an unidentified author named ‘K-‘ in a collection by John Rippon from 1787.

The subconscious knows better than the conscious mind. It deals with deep waters. It knows better our deep sorrows threatening to overflow the banks. It knows about troubles and deepest distress. It also knows something else: a kind of unreasonable assurance, a hope against every reason to hope that something deeper than our fears and anxiety will shape the notes, will shift the shape of things to come.

Shape notes, sometimes called ‘character notes’ and ‘patent notes’, reflect our deeper character, but none of us holds the patent-right.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 16, 2017, 5:34 a.m.

 

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