Rest, Restless Children
“The fall is falling and winter nears, the longest nights of the year.”
When I lived in Indiana, I spent as much time as I could curled up with a tea mug at the home of Mark & Candace Minster. In addition to being my dear, dear friends, they are curious, creative and thought-provoking, and all of our conversations and time together over the years are a gift I am humbled by.
In addition to his day job as a literature professor at Rose-Hulman University, Mark is a writer. He wields words with insight and precision. It feels odd to talk about one’s friend as “an award-winning poet,” even if he is. So instead I will tell you that, to me, his words feel resonant.
A canticle of sleepy children and long, starry nights
Some years ago, Mark challenged himself to write a hymn for each week of Advent. He set each one to a different traditional melody, and put these poems up on Facebook, of all places. At the time, I read them all and couldn’t help but sing them to myself, testing out the melodies.
(I am a child of Catholic schools, with choir practice and Mass twice a week. During long, boring homilies, I would entertain myself by sight-reading the hymnal and singing all the songs in my head. I’ve since left the particular faith of my fathers behind, but these old melodies and the feelings they gave me have ingrained themselves deep within.)
So last year, when our friend Eric Rasley asked Jimmy and me to come over and record a song for his yearly Christmas album, I remembered Mark’s poems. I went to his Facebook history and scrolled back and back and back until I found Advent 2014. “Rest, Restless Children” was sitting patiently in a post there.
I can’t tell you how much I love this perfectly crafted secular hymn. Mark’s words are somehow both cosmic and domestic, immediate and ancient.
The poem was lovely when I first read it. But now that I have my own sometimes-restless child the words speak to me anew. I read them and I feel it: the cold, clear winter solstice. The sleepy children. The songs, the stories and the stars.
And when paired with the traditional “Land of Rest” melody, the song is both a meditation and a lullaby. I have seen my daughter’s eyes grow tired as I sang her to sleep with it.
Recording the single
Jimmy figured out a wonderful, lilting guitar arrangement for the song and we practiced a few times. Then we bundled up our then-baby Dottie and went to Eric’s house, where Eric held her on his lap while he recorded the track. You can still hear her little 10-month-old babbles in the background, behind Mommy singing and Dad-Dad playing guitar. It is a perfect little moment, captured while the fall was falling and winter neared, and I love it.
I can’t think of many things more delightful than working together with my husband to sing a song by a friend, recorded by a friend, for our daughter and our families and our friends near and far. “Rest, Restless Children,” by Christina Blust & Jimmy Rinehart, is now available in all the usual places.
by Mark Minster
Rest, restless children, blessed and dear
Let fall all feverish fear
The fall is falling and winter nears
The longest nights of the year
Yawn, yawning children drawn to rest
From rush and restive fest
Let hush and peace come ease your chest
These nights are winter’s longest
Sleep, sleepy children deep and tight
Bathed by broad swaths of moonlight
The bright of noon will wait polite
All winter solstice night
Breathe, breathing children sheathed by song
By love kept snug and strong
By hugs and prayers of ancient throng
The nights of winter are long
Dream, dreaming children, gleams appear
Beyond Earth’s atmosphere
Till dawn responds we’ll stay right here
The longest nights of our years
Top image credits: Left: Jimmy & Dottie photo by Christina Blust. Right: The Pokljuka forest, Slovenia, by Dreamy Pixel.