Ever since I brought my son home from the hospital almost two years ago, I’ve constantly felt like I’m just waiting to sit down. The needs of each moment—one more story, another diaper change—are both gifts and challenges. I often feel so absorbed in the immediate that the world around me is invisible, its beauty a haze around me.
As a writer, my work in shaping stories is an extension of what St. Irenaeus has been quoted as saying: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Being fully alive—living with astonished trust in Christ’s resurrection—should bring us to be awed by the world around us. But parental struggles go beyond the daily needs of food and sleep; just this past week, I heard of a family whose son, born with heart defects, died in his mother’s arms. He was less than 2 years old. How hard is it to lift up our hearts when we are also so fragile and fearful?
One of my friends recently posted a favorite Wendell Berry poem of mine, “The Peace of Wild Things,” which ends with these comforting words: “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” Poetry, novels, photographs—all these things are balms for those wearied by the demands of raising and loving children. But how to read novels when my son won’t sleep?
I have not been able to spend an afternoon reading since before my son was born. But I do play classical music while my son runs around our apartment; I get updates from Toni Morrison in my Facebook feed. I don’t have time for joining a book club, but I do have time to turn on an audiobook (my latest was Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto) while I clean the kitchen.
Simply making lists of who and what I want to read (Claudia Rankine, Ross Gay, Sally Mann) keeps me going too. And sometimes I just repeat lines from poems I remember while I vacuum. In this season of mothering, these small habits help reveal beauty in my life and in the busy, busy world around me.
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- Feature: Tending God’s Creation
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