Afterthought #20 – Musical Essays

September here seems to be taking some cues from the month of March, but in reverse—in like a lamb and out like a lion.  All day, just as I thought it was time for a walk with my lab, Buddy, squalls of sideways rain interrupted sunbursts. The scrubbed sea air and the color wheel of green in the Madrones, firs, and cedars should have been incentive enough to get outside, but I kept waiting for the clouds to disappear. Finally, I motivated myself to risk a drenching with the reward of listening to a recent podcast of Song of the Soul on Northern Spirit Radio. On this particular segment, host Mark Helpsmeet interviewed Gretchen Wing, a former high school English teacher-turned novelist/singer-songwriter/baker.
Gretchen Wing

I have the good fortune on most Thursday afternoons to sit around a writing table with Gretchen, critiquing her young adult novels and receiving her wise feedback on my personal essays and memoir.  Every now and then she brings in some lyrics to a song she’s working on, and she’s got writing chops there, too.  As I listened to Gretchen talk about her recent ventures into songwriting and heard the results of her work, I realized she’s doing the same thing in her songs that I do with my essay-writing—trying to make sense of some of the big questions in life.  During the radio program, Gretchen talked about her unexpected turn to writing lyrics and sang some of her “essays” about strength in the face of adversity, lessons from Emerson and Thoreau, injustice, and peace. Several times on my walk, raindrops sputtered on my hood in rhythm to the music.
Whether you’re in the rain, snow, or in a balmy climate, I encourage you to listen to Gretchen’s inspiring songs and her thoughtful responses to Mark’s questions about her soulful work. You can read more of Gretchen’s writing at her blog: Wing’s World-Will Backpack for Chocolate.
Oh, and she makes a mean pie, too.
Beginning in January 2012, I instituted posting an “Afterthought” on the last day of each month, fashioned after a practice in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, some groups continue in silence for a few more minutes during which members are invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for brief reflections on headlines, quotes, comments overheard, maybe even bumper stickers.


  1. “Musical essays”–well, I love that. Thank you, Iris, for the shout-out (to me and Mark) and for reminding me that, in fact, I do get to do what you do, only musically.

  2. You’re welcome, Gretchen. Great fun to spread the word about the work you and Mark do – just a little random act of literary citizenship.

    Keep writing, singing – and baking.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s