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Simple Gifts

Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Saturday, 20th December 2008


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HARDLY SURPRISING that I should be thinking about simple gifts as I haven’t quite finished my Christmas shopping yet.


I like the original version of Joseph Brackett’s 1848 Shaker song:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.’

Valley of Delight

Perhaps our local valley with Coxley Beck flowing amongst the oaks, alders and willows would just about qualify! Unfortunately, because I’ve lived here long enough to know so many of the stories behind it, I’m inclined, when I walk through it, to notice the destructive effects of self-interest and careless neglect. Even so, I guess it’s possible to love the place for what it is and to take delight in the brighter side of human nature and the seemingly endless recuperative powers of wild nature which far outshine the blacker side of things that I tend to dwell on.

Lord of the Dance

It was many years before I came across the original words associated with the tune to Simple Gifts because I’d first heard it used in Sydney Carter’s popular 1963 hymn Lord of the Dance.


When I get involved in a drawing I feel as if I’ve ‘come down where I ought to be’.