the little book wings its way home…
i admit to a particular fondness. soon as i held the sweet little thing in the palms of my hands, i felt a tug at my heart. i should have known it was coming, for i’d felt a rising affection, a weaving into the nooks and crannies of my heart, over the long slow summer.
soon as i spied the fat manila envelope on the front step the other evening, soon as i’d snipped the blades of the scissor through the envelope’s corner, and pulled back the padding, soon as i dumped it onto the counter, and lifted it ever so gently, i felt that rush of newborn awe that oddly might be something akin to the way willy wonka must have felt when the first everlasting gobstopper came spitting out of the chutes and the tubes and the silvery pipes of wonka’s crazy-candy-concocting machine. only i’d spooned in words, lots and lots of words, 219 pages of words, and with little more than 10 months wait, and a bit of hocus pocus, out came a little book. a little book with yet another nest and a robin’s blue egg.
it’s called the blessings of motherprayer: sacred whispers of mothering, and in the vernacular of the publishing world, it’s called “a gift book,” a word whose meaning i had little understanding of back in may when i first got the call from my editor, not long after the birthing of motherprayer: lessons in loving, that collection of motherly essays plucked from the front lines here on the homefront.
not knowing quite what a gift book might be — is it a book with a ribbon tied in a bow? — i did what any scrambling writer might do: i made it up as i noodled along.
what i knew mostly boiled down to this: it would be part-motherprayer, part-brand-new, and it would be pretty.
i gathered that the gist of this idea is to pull out a few glimmering threads, the parts that might jingle around in your brain or your heart for more than a few minutes or three after you turn to a page. i also gathered — because i’d heard so from plenty of most blessed readers — that a snippet here, a snippet there, is a marvelous way to read a particular sort of book (the sort that, so far, my books tend to be).
so i set out to make a patchwork of bits that i loved, bits that might nestle into those places of the heart that come alive with just the right care and attention. and because i realized there’d never been “a gift book” for slowing time, my first collection of see-the-sacred essays, i decided to do a good bit of plucking from its pages, too. and then, for good measure, i combed through a year or two of writing that hadn’t yet been pressed into anyone’s pages. essays and thoughts scribbled during the long aching months when two beloved friends were dying, when the words they spoke shook me through and through, and in which i was blessed to carry their words from their lips, or their texts and their emails, to the page, where now they will live on forever.
i’ve never been a quilt maker, though my great grandmama was a fine one, not so much for the art as for the pragmatics of keeping folks warm, and doing so with bits and scraps of old pretty-patterned cloth. i grew up with those patchwork triangles and squares pulled up to my nose every night as i dreamed. so maybe that’s why i find such joy — three generations later — making patchworks of words, sewing blocks of type into pages of books.
this was my third summer doing so, and with the screen door inviting in the breeze and the birdsong, i sat for hours and hours at the old kitchen table, thinking and snipping and stitching.
and somehow along the way, this little book — for it is a little thing, just big enough to tuck in your purse or your backpack, or perhaps the pocket of your snuggliest coat — wormed its way into my heart. i pulled out parts and pages and paragraphs i’d loved the first time around. i stuffed in ones that never fail to put a lump in my throat, or even to brush away a tear.
it’s tender and quiet and full of my heart.
and, by jove, it’s pretty (all thanks to the wizardry of the book-making wizards at abingdon press).
here’s a recipe page:
and here is a page with a wonderlist (left) and count-your-blessings calendar (right):
i’m rather too shy for the part of the publishing equation that’s next on the docket: the peddling part, where i need to ferry this little book into the world, and ask if you’d like to add it to your bookshelf (or bedside table). so for now, i’ll simply say you should be able to find it — or request it — at your favorite bookseller’s shop. or, on that behemoth of book peddling, amazon, where you can let your fingers do the clicking. (egad! i just clicked over there and saw that already, somehow, since it’s not out yet, it’s gotten two reviews, one good, one not-so-good, and the not-so-good seems to dislike my version of prayer, which is more conversational, less liturgical than some desire, and my wonderment with the stirrings of earth and sky seems to rub the reader* the very wrong way (too flowery, though i’ll admit the sentence cited in the review is a bit over-the-top, and one i wished i’d nipped and tucked). a few years ago, in a slowing time review, one amazon reviewer labeled me “pagan,” for my reverence for sun, moon, and stars, which i see purely as the artistry of the sure hand of God.) (and now you see, perhaps, why this book-writing business is a tough one for the tender of heart.)
while my typing fingers are now trembling, i’d best sign off from this adventure in friday-morning writing. i’ll go gulp a stiff mouthful of coffee and meander through my now-thawing garden.
the little book will be officially birthed on april 3. i might go hide under my patchwork covers till then……(as you have now witnessed the real-time humiliations and humblings that come with baring your heart and your soul….)
p.s. *amazon has this program called “amazon vine customer reviews” in which they send out, for free, samples of products — books, diapers, headphones, you name it — to a phalanx of volunteer reviewers, who in exchange for the product write a customer review, posted right there on the amazon website. from what i understand there’s little pre-screening about who gets what product (which is how a fellow who gave five stars to a book titled “angry white men” saw fit to give only two stars to “slowing time.” the results, as you might gather, can be brutal).
what’s your latest work of the heart? and what gives you the gumption to keep going, even when it hurts?
Oh my! This is exciting. And the pages look lovely! Congratulations. I’m looking forward to the release date. Hugs and best wishes
thank you, thank you. xoxoxo
I was thinking about your courage in service of love and went to look up that courage word as Cour means heart. (You know I love words!) and bless Brene Brown for this quote
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”
Thanks for your courage to be vulnerable and insightful to the whole world. Love you much, you “ordinary” kinda gal. xxoo
my favorite school nurse rides to the rescue with balm. oh, it does hurt, and oh it does take courage, a particular courage, one that sometimes runs to hide and i do need to coax it out from the corner with insistent pleas. i wrap myself in the hearts here who take me as i am, full of plenty of bumps and bruises and soft spots.
i found myself in real time reacting to the sting of that review. and rather than blur the blow i let it roll right here on the screen. i did go back and read the review without shock in my eyes, and thus tweaked my reaction above. those amazon vine reviews are tough, and plenty of writers squirm. but we live in an age where all voices have platforms. and i will seek my solace in my blessed ones here. and try harder next time. xoxoxoxoxoxo
love you, lamcal. thank you. xoxo
My work of the heart is being a mental health counselor at a clinic that serves the underserved. Yesterday a valiant parent came in with an addict son whom everyone else had lost trust in. This parent was a father, a nurse himself, who works 12-hour shifts. He held his cowboy hat in his hands as the 3 of us talked. He knew the stats for the success of opioid addicts are bleak, but he had decided to give it one more chance, helping his son. I sent out a quick mother prayer to ask what I should say. The Big One upstairs knows I need fast results. So I found myself talking about how trust is just knowing someone so well that you know what he will do. I talked about becoming a “stand-up guy.” And how doing that is just becoming your word, doing what you say you will do. I don’t know if my words reached father or son, but they are my attempts to be a stand-up counselor: to be human, to instill hope, and to never give up.
ohhhhh, polly! that’s a work of heart indeed. God bless you. and your work of heart matters in the crux of a moment. it might be the difference between life and death, which is why i stand in awe of healers and teachers and those who inject themselves into the heart of life, even life at its messiest. i love that you moved your life’s work from putting words onto news pages to putting words to work to in the real lives of those looking to heal the broken places….
you are my hero. xoxox
this is actually a comment from beloved nancy pardo, who for reasons that befuddle both of us wasn’t able to get this to post. so i am posting for her. if you ever have something you hope to say, but find the mechanics of posting tangled, please send my way, and i’ll make sure it’s done. the best part of this table is the collection of wisdoms brought here.
here’s beloved nancy:
What Joanie said, better than I ever could. But know this: just because your words may not resonate with one, they will not only resonate with others but also comfort, heal, save, preserve … more people than you can possibly imagine are helped. Like that icon of wordiness — Taylor Swift — (are you laughing yet?) says, “haters gonna hate hate hate hate … so shake it off.” Much easier said than done. But those of us who gather around this table understand … and hold you close. Why is it so hard to take in the good words but be slayed by the hurtful ones? (I’ve asked myself only a million times.) What Joanie said about courage, yes — in this world where hate is trying so very hard to win … it takes courage to speak the gentle truths. People may mock us for believing in love, in hope, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. My work of the heart these days? Just staying alive emotionally and not going numb. It’s a struggle, and I lose more than I win … but your words are one of the big helps. Fred Rogers used to say, in times of turmoil, look for the helpers. You’re a helper. Love xoxo
HA! your tricky little computer — or, ack!, this tricky little site — stopped playing tricks and let you and your black-winged butterfly post. xoxoxox
There’s not much I can add to these wonderful comments other than, thank you to my seatmates at this loving, nurturing table! Reading the replies of others gives me great solace being among this group of similarly big-hearted individuals. Knowing that bam’s heart is protected by we, her warriors 💛💘
(Sorry, maybe I saw Black Panther one too many times 😉)
and God knows, i love me my warriors. xoxoxo only in the certain safe harbor of all of you could i, would i, dare to play out the real-time pang of discovering a two-star.
thank you, thank you, dear sweet beautiful laura! xoxoxox
Just ordered several copies, one a gift to myself and a few for mom friends near and far, from a favorite bookstore near your sabbatical home in Cambridge. Made sure to click the “in-store pick up” box before checking out. Can’t wait to get the email that my order is ready! As part of what’s now become a cherished ritual, I’ll drive to the store and request my books loudly and proudly by author last name! So excited!
Bless your heart, my beautiful Cantabrigian! or Lexingtonian, to be precise! love your ritual. to imagine the whisper inside those hallowed walls…….wish i’d have a stash to bring with me next week. too soon, methinks. xoxoxo
Just a quick note to say, the book is visually beautiful. Wonderful cover design and the peek at the pages makes my heart happy! Really lovely through and through.
oh, goodness, thank you! your kindness melts me…you just made my day, and it’s only 10 a.m. here. xoxo