New Beginnings at The Wharnsby Place

The Egg

In recent months, the adventure of homeschooling our daughters has been a wild one.   Many times, the young girls are at odds with their parents/teachers.  Often, we two married teachers are at odds with each other on approaches to guiding the little ones.   Frequently, throughout the day, our students too are quarreling with each other over some dramatic issue.

We ask ourselves constantly ~ is homeschooling the right path for our family?  Are we really helping to provide our daughters with a well-rounded life learning experience?

Today, shortly after dawn, while out in the back yard feeding the chickens, my eldest daughter managed to witness our hen Bella laying an egg.   The excited child ran inside with the prize, banging on the bathroom door as I trimmed my beard, rushing in to tell me all about the experience.  For weeks we have collected eggs from our new chickens, but today ~ seeing the egg drop ~ was quite an exciting moment for our six-year-old.

A few hours later, our daughters helped clean the house in anticipation of their grandparent’s arrival, en route from Colorado to spend the weekend with us.   We all scrubbed, mopped and vacuumed in various corners of the house like a well oiled machine.  Even out little 3-year-old was  sweeping up a storm around the rabbit’s indoor hutch down in the work-room.

At lunch, the girls pressured me into making grilled cheese sandwiches then after only a few bites, pushed their plates away saying they were full.  Launching into a passionate ten minute sermon on wastefulness, my tone and temper even put goose bumps on my own arms.  Shortly after sulking out of the kitchen, the girls returned of their own free will ~ wiping their tears and asking to finish their meal.   My heart melted as I reheated the sandwiches and agreed to eat their crusts.

In mid afternoon, a new skiff of wet snow was slowing down traffic en route to the charity shop where we planned to donate some unused household items and clothes we’d gathered up.   Near the shop, a car was stalled dead in the centre of a four lane street ~ with traffic skidding past and frustrated drivers honking obnoxiously.   My daughters and I pulled into a nearby parking lot and, with their moral support, I helped the man push his car off the street.  You would have thought I was snow-covered Superman himself when I got back to our jeep.  “How did you push that car!” they demanded to know.   Wishing I could tell them I had super human powers so they’d think me their hero for life, instead I explained about what happens when you put a car into neutral ~ how easy it is to push while someone else steers.   Then, I added a few lines about how important it is to help others in need.  “One day, we might be in trouble and if someone rushes in to help us, imagine how happy we’ll be.”

At sunset, my daughters came home from their friend’s house down the street, seeming somewhat dejected.  When prodded as to what the problem was, they explained how, on their walk home, they had passed a beautiful house with all of its outdoor Christmas lights on.  They were inspired to go up to the door, ring the bell and tell the homeowner how pretty their house looked.  Sadly, the home owner just muttered a “thank you” at them sharply and slammed the door in their faces.    As we ate dinner, we discussed why sometimes people react so strangely to kindness and, extremely proud of my daughters, I encouraged them to not be put off from ever doing such a sweet thing again.  The lights on the outside of the house are still beautiful and brighten the street for everybody, even if the homeowner’s spirit is somewhat dim.

By evening we were at the airport awaiting the arrival of my in-law’s.   A middle-aged lady came through the arrival gate and walked up to a young man seated in the waiting area.  With great excitement in her voice she said “Hello!”   The young man ~ who seemed to be her son ~ looked up from his mobile device and simply said, “Hey.” then put his head down again and went back to texting.    More words of greeting were offered and each time the young fellow simply responded with monotone, one word answers ~ preoccupied with the text he was composing.

Of her own accord, my daughter raised the issue of what she had observed with my in-law’s once they arrived.  “The strangest thing happened,” she told her grandmother, “A young man was there at the airport to meet this older lady…I think it was his mom…and when she came through the gate he didn’t even speak to her or get up and hug her.  He only seemed to care about his cell phone!”.

Tending to some dishes in the kitchen before bed, I told my spouse, fellow teacher and best friend, “Today our girl’s lived a life, few other kids their age probably lived. From sun up to sun down ~ they saw, learned and did incredible things.  Things they could have never experienced ~ things our family could have never experienced ~ if we did not choose to home school.”

We may look back in 20 years and say to ourselves, “What were we thinking by trying to tackle homeschooling!?”   But tonight ~ I feel confident about the path.

More and more, it seems to me that, our job is not to “teach”, but to simply provide an environment for our daughters where they may learn constantly from everything around them.  “That would happen in a school too,” many would argue.   True, but at home… with our family all together…I can tell you this:  I am learning just as much as they are about life, and it is wonderful!   Hope I get to see Bella lay an egg soon too!

Here’s to a new beginning.  New blogs, new hope and new adventures for the year ahead.

Categories: Community, Family, Homechooling, Personal Philosophy, Simple Living, Struggles & Setbacks | 11 Comments

“Acoustic Simplicitea” New CD Now Available

Acoustic Simplicitea CD Baby Art

“Acoustic Simplicitea” by Dawud Wharnsby. Click the above image to sample or purchase the full album.

Though a new album of original songs is in production for release shortly, it is my pleasure to share this collection of twenty songs entitled “Acoustic Simplictea” ~ now available on-line for digital download or on traditional CD.

A year or so ago, while on the road with the Poetic Vision Tour, fellow songwriter Saad Omar and I noticed something interesting.  Frequently, at the end of a two hour show, audience members would come up to me and sheepishly ask, “Are you the same Dawud who wrote songs we listened to as kids…songs like Bismillah and Sing Children of The World?   We had no idea it was you up there tonight the whole time!  We grew up on your songs.”

During my almost 25 years of singing, there have indeed been times, places and circumstances where I have presented my work for specific niche communities and demographics.  Sometimes that has resulted in degrees of distance between my audiences.  Occasionally it has even caused confusion in the minds of some listeners who have developed assumptions about my work or about me personally.  Once, a very upset father emailed me to say that he had brought his child to one of my shows expecting a percussion based concert about animals, nature and God, only to have me kick off with a tune about child abuse, strummed passionately on the guitar.  “I took my son by the hand and we left the hall very upset.” he wrote.

In cafes or folk-festivals of my late teens, I sang of a search for identity or mused about my observations of humanity and it’s greed.   Discovering that many of my fellow muslims in the world were dogmatically disconnected from their rich musical past and culturally caged in narrow theological paradigms, I began to write songs for their children ~ urging the importance of artistic expression as a means of positive social change.  When I realized many parents were listening to the songs as well, I began to address issues of domestic violence, gender equity, spiritual self-righteousness and the importance of religious pluralism in my songs.  As the simplicity of spiritual nasheed (hymns drawn from Qur’anic and muslim tradition) fell prey to the trends of a growing commercial muslim pop-music “industry”, I began turning inward to write about my ongoing spiritual journey ~ relationships that shaped me, scarred me or healed me ~ and songs pertaining to my passions for the environment, Simple Living and pacifism.

At times, I have recorded my songs pretentiously with producers and session players to create lush arrangements.   At times I have recorded independently ~ using just my own voice as the primary melody instrument, atop layered harmonies and simple percussion.

Through it all though, one thing has remained consistent.   All of my songs grew out of simple observations I have planted over the years in my journals.   They are organically rooted in the soil of my belief that life has divine purpose ~ that it was created and not the product of accidental circumstance.  They grow upon a stem of understanding that each life is sacred and of equal worth ~ deserving of dignity, the freedom of choice and the honour of mercy.  They blossom as expressions of my experiences, with leaves of varying shapes and sizes, and flowers of both fragrant and sometimes even pungent  reminders to those who pass them by.  The songs themselves are diffused from the leaves of the plant.  After brewing and stewing, they sometimes result in a warm, sweet beverage that is palatable and sometimes pours out dark and bitter.

And so it is that my friend Saad Omar suggested I re-record some of my songs in a simple, live, acoustic style ~ as a way of drawing attention to the consistent ideological journey  that has always underscored in my writings over the past two decades.

“Acoustic Simplicitea” is that collection.  It was captured live over a two day span in my hometown of Kitchener Ontario, at the same studio where I recorded most of my albums, including “Colours of Islam”, “Road To Madinah”, “Sunshine Dust and The Messenger”, “The Prophet’s Hands” and “The Poets and The Prophet”.

Growing up on the music of iconic folk singers like of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Liam Clancy, I took a retro approach to capturing the songs, strumming and singing simultaneously into a mic with no overdubs or digital apps to correct my pitch.   If we were sitting for a cup of tea together in my living-room and you asked me to pull out a guitar and sing you a song ~ this is pretty much what I’d sound like.

My hope is that those of you who have shared my songs with me over the years ~ the children’s songs, anasheed or even the angst folk music ~ will take a listen, better understand me and those ideas I hold so dear in my life, then join me in song by adding your own parts to these basic skeletons of work.

If you are a closet violinist, a bed-sit guitar picker, a garage rock band, a Saturday night DJ, a Tuesday evening piano-school student, a bathroom-shower-solo-choir-member or a stay-at-home mum/lullaby expert ~ grab a mic and your home computer, play your favourite song from the collection through some headphones while you record your harmonies, raps or instrument of choice, then send me the final track as an MP3 or AIF file and I will re-edit a few of these songs for a follow up version of the album recorded with you.  We’ll call it, “The Tea Party Mix”.

When I was starting out in music, an old friend of mine who often tried to ill-fittingly book me into local shows,  once told me: “Dave, nobody wants to hear you sing your journal.”   I stopped having him book my shows and took my songs out onto street corners where I found that indeed, there were tens of thousands of others too afraid, too sick, too unstable, too confused or just plain too unsure of how to capture their observations of life’s struggles and joys into a journal.  To my joy, many of these folks were also all too happy to sing the pages of my diary with me so collectively we could foster a sense of hope.

Thank you for joining me on this musical journey over the past 20+ years and let’s keep trying to change the world for the better…together…one song at a time.

With peace,

dawud

PS ~ that gentleman who was so upset at me and walked out of my show…we spoke by phone shortly after I received his email.  “Call me up,” I wrote him, “let’s talk.”  And we did.  And all went well.  We promised one day we’d have tea together.  Simplicitea.    As Willie Shakespeare wrote, “If music be the food of love (ie can open the door to valuable communication resulting in peace) ~ play on!”

Categories: Community, Personal Philosophy, Simple Living, The Artist's Workshop | 7 Comments

Daily Suggestion For The Soul ~ Perspektif Magazine

2014 Perspektif

The good folks at Perspektif Magazine in Germany recently asked me an important question.   For all my Turkish speaking friends, here is my response, with an attached English translation.

Perspektif magazine: “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” says Goethe. What are your suggestions that one should do every day, in order to keep the sense for beauty Allah has placed in our souls, alive?

Dawud Wharnsby: People should spend time outdoors each day in natural environments ~ observing as many signs of God’s creation as possible.  Hear the songs of birds and voices of people…study the sights of dawn or sunset…inhale the fragrant scents of fruits, foliage or flowers…taste the joy of smiling at others…feel the sun, the rain, the snow or the wind.   Losing touch with our earth we risk being scattered like dry leaves ~ divided from each other, uprooted in faith and withered in divine balance.

Read the full magazine here.

Categories: Media Articles, Personal Philosophy, Simple Living | 5 Comments

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