2021 Online Event

Online Event 2021

A Gathering of Men presents

The Gifts I Have to Give to the World

Everyone comes into this world endowed with a unique genius, a special gift for the world. This gift is hidden from us. Our call is to discover this gift and be our authentic self.

Our social and familial conditioning forms our ego (false self). Ego says that we must get along in the world, we must be right, we must win. The shadow of the ego tells us we’re the worst and the lowest and totally unworthy.

The authentic self is not encouraged and our gifts become more and more hidden.

Meditation – The Gift

A Fiddler’s Yearning

By Eugene Marckx

Alan’s Uncle Hurley died in Scully’s barn. Scully had been feeding Hurley and wanted the old man to stay in the house by the fire, but Hurley disliked the quarrels at Scully’s table. He preferred to wrap up and sleep with the milk cows and chickens. No one in the valley made a fuss when Hurley died. He’d been loved for his fiddling, but he hadn’t played in many a season. He blamed his shaky fingers for this, and his last playing had been a slow frail farewell.

But Alan, an orphan boy who worked on the Scully farm, had heard Uncle Hurley play in better days and remembered the music. In the dispersal of his things, Hurley’s fiddle was given to Alan, who was a good bit closer to manhood now. With limber fingers Alan took it up, and by next summer he played well enough for all to remember old Hurley. The next year, with Alan’s fast new fiddling, folks couldn’t help but dance. They were dancing beyond themselves, dancing right through the night. The next day they were no good for anything.

This wouldn’t do. Like old Hurley, Alan worked from farm to farm, dependent on whoever hired him. In bad weather he played in ale halls for pennies. Now the aldermen allowed him to play only on summer solstice and winter solstice, just two times a year. Wherever he stayed, he played alone. Alan grew desperate for land of his own. Working for others, his fingers got sore. His fine playing one day would fall off. He’d have nothing in his old age. And what girl would throw in with a man like that? None in the valley, no matter how sweet his fiddling.

A hunter with his dog passing through told Alan of a goat trail. “It’s a treacherous passage through the mountains to a high valley,” the hunter said. “After harvest those people hold a fiddling contest. Ten gold ducats for a prize, quite a cache against starving.”

Alan took a risk and told Scully he was leaving to climb those heights. The farmer cursed him. “You’ll not get work anywhere in the valley!”

In the foothills Alan found the goat trail, what there was of it. He marked stones in the trail with white chalk. At night he made a fire against the chill and played tune upon tune, some of these coming to his fingers all on their own. Water and berries were his only food. The sun was too distant above the mountains for warmth, and the moon looked like a hen’s egg among the stars.

After three days and nights, the goat trail led down to a valley of fat cattle, big horses, and sheep, half-naked from the shearing. Alan was welcome at the farms. He helped bring in hay and spuds. With the harvest put away, the farmers gathered for a feast and a fiddle contest under a golden harvest moon.

A farmer’s daughter heard Alan play in a barn to the chickens at night. She danced to his tunes. But she was promised, she told him, to a young squire. Alan saw love in her eyes, painful love. Promised or not, she loved him, and he loved her.

Next day everyone came with food and jokes and lore to pass around, laughing and shaking their heads over the lore and the jokes while stuffing their mouths. This went on until a full moon rose above the peaks of that high range. And in this golden light the contest began. A dozen fiddlers made a circle, and one by one played their best. The people clapped and hooted pleasure.

After a couple of rounds one fiddler or another, with nothing better to play, sat out. They were winnowed down to a few, then three, then two, Alan and an older fiddler. By now the people were dancing. The older man got them leaping fast. Now Alan had his turn. The people flew to his tune. Their feet skipped over the grass. The older fiddler took a turn. Everyone began weaving in circles, laughing as others clapped. With Alan’s turn, his fingers found a new tune. The dancers leaped and twirled, faster, in figures fresh and thrilling. At this the older fiddler shook his head and gave over. The bag of gold ducats went to Alan.

With more feasting and drinking, Alan passed the girl. She sat with her betrothed squire, who was drinking wine, telling a joke, and telling it badly. Before he came to the end, she slipped out and followed Alan into the night. No one saw them. With much bruised pride the squire led a search party toward the mountains. In the moonlight a chill fog descended and confused them. They returned without a clue.

With white chalk marking the stones, Alan followed the trail under the moon until fog came. He asked, “What’s your name, Miss?”

“It’s Thea.” The two huddled in the moss, warm in each other’s arms. Over the next days, Alan traced the goat trail over the pass to his home. With apologies to Scully, he asked to buy a certain plot of land beside a salmon stream. One gold ducat changed Scully’s tune.

“Yes, Sir, Mister Alan, and shall we have a wedding this Saturday?”

Many good wishes came to Alan and Thea. In later seasons their children grew up to dance after the day’s work. Folks came to the fiddle music, and at long last Alan found ways to construct a few new fiddles to pass around, with more grand times in the valley. One of those fiddles may yet be played by one of Alan’s descendants. To this day none in that valley that ever need to sleep in a barn, playing for cows and chickens. All are safe and warm by the fire.

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