beginning again and again
This is the third of three posts on books that have inspired me in this season of my life. Grab your coffee, read the post, and then go check out one of Kathleen Norris’s books. (There are two authors named Kathleen Norris — this one is an essayist and poet.)
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Writers on writing and the writer’s all life seem to eventually get around to the mundane aspects of keeping house.
I think because it’s the housekeeping that gets most in the way of writing . . .
but I bet Kathleen Norris came up with these great lines when she was doing the chores:
“In dishwashing, I approach the moral realm;
there are days when it seems a miracle to be able to make dirty things clean.”
“Both housework and poetry require that I pull disparate things together,
sort through the odd pieces of my life,
and try to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Deep words for a Monday morning. And it’s about to get deeper . . .
Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
Sometimes, you read a book at exactly the right time and it makes a pierce-the-soul sort of impression on you. Whatever is in the writing of the story, somehow you feel like it’s yours, too.
That’s how I feel about writers like Madeleine L’Engle and Kathleen Norris. They blend the writer’s life with family, housework, grief, faith, prayer and work.
Kathleen Norris is a Presbyterian who spent some time reviving from a particularly dry, discouraging season in a monastery. She describes the liturgy, prayers, and quiet in ways that express the healing combination of prayer and scripture reading and living in community.
Acedia & Me is where I started this Live the Season series for Write 31 Days. In this book, she dives further into the reasons for the seasons of discouragement and what met her there and pulled her out.
She talks about walking away from the Church and from her faith in God for a season, only to hear Him inviting her back through the kindness and love of a small-town, hymn-singing Protestant church and a bunch of monks:
However true and even beautiful this turning of times and seasons may be,
I tend to resist it as a necessary aspect of the spiritual life. Monastic writers
have always emphasized that maintaining a life of prayer means being willing
to start over, after one has acted in a sinful or destructive way. Both pride and
acedia will assert themselves, and it may appear that we are so far gone we may
as well give up and not embarrass ourselves further by pretending to be
anything but failures. It seems foolish to believe that the door is still open, that
there is always another chance. I may accept this intellectually, but I have come to
appreciate its depths only through experience. Just when I seem to have my life
in balance and imagine I can remain in this happy state forever, I lose sight of
the value of contemplation and prayer, and try to live without it. Soon enough,
once again, I am picking myself up out of the ashes.
–Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
This is so true and yet I wish it wasn’t. Strange that it’s so difficult to pray when things are going well. And then the crash comes and we realize what we are missing and we pray until things are in balance again and then we try life on our own again. It’s a cycle, like the seasons.
Also . . . don’t you wish you could go live at a monastery for a few months? Or at least every Monday . . .
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14