a peek at this little book i’ve been making for the last couple years…
there is a choreography to birthing a book, an unseen one, one that’s becoming familiar to me, a familiarity so far beyond the dreams i cast out my long-ago childhood window, into the leaves of the oaks that arbored and harbored me, onto the heavens far, far beyond.
first, you feel an idea wriggling around deep in your soul, then it rises up to your brain, and the only way to scratch the itch is to begin to breathe possibility into it. what if? you percolate that inkling for a while, front burner to back to front again. and then you begin to read, to see if sinew comes to the bones. and, if you find that the deeper you read, the more curious you become, then you know you’re onto something worth chasing.
i chased the idea that all of creation––the cadenza of birdsong, the golden slant of the setting sun, the comfort of even the chirring cicadas in the waning weeks of summer––held the pulse of the sacred. all of it was of the God i’ve long held close to my heart, the God daring to brush up against us, to draw us into the dance, to unfurl timeless truths in an alphabet of moonbeam and monarch, the veeing of geese or the hard crack of lightning scything the sky.
i’d long known that when i step into the dawn or the woods, plant my bum on a log by the lakeshore or the rickety rock in my own back plot, i’m keen to a sense that an ineffable presence is there, right there, with something to teach, to offer, to whisper. but until i knew of this so-named Book of Nature, an ancient theology rooted in the notion that long before there were words, God spoke through the murmurings, the convulsions, and the unfurlings of the natural world, i hadn’t sensed it so perceptibly. hadn’t realized there were millennia of thinkers who’d been reading that book.
it’s imperative, and more urgent than ever, that as this great holy earth is pummeled and poisoned and burned, we realize that maybe what’s most at stake is a tie to the sacred.
for the better part of eight or nine months, i read everything under the sun––poets and prophets, mystics and saints, believers and non-believers, all of whom had something to say on the subject of all creation, its wonders, its heartbreaks, and lately its cavernous losses. i combed my readings for notes upon notes. then, equipped with voluminous cross-referenced pages, i started to write. within a couple months, i’d written some 200 pages. and then i waited a very long time.
but now, those pages edited and copy edited, typeset and proofed, the cover designed and posted online in most of those places where booksellers peddle these days (it had been on amazon, and now–except for U.K. amazon––it seems gone! but now it’s back––like magic!), i’m at the part of the book-birthing dance where you pull back the cover on the book’s actual cover so the ones to whom you most emphatically write can be the first to officially peek.
so, here’s the cover. (you are, i hope you know, all the ones to whom i most emphatically write, the ones who faithfully wander by and pull up a chair whene’er the spirit so moves you….)
the pages inside, 204 of them, will have to wait to be read till the next vernal equinox, the day the book is “official,” marked with its very own pub date––March 21, 2023––and whirling into the world.
of all the books i’ve written, this is the one that counts as the most intensive. it started from scratch (unlike the others, all collections of essays), and came in layers and layers.
i had a brilliant editor, lauren winner, an american historian, scholar of religion, professor at duke divinity school, episcopal priest, formerly an orthodox jew, an endlessly curious mind, a voracious reader, and a best-selling author on multiple spiritual subjects––Mudhouse Sabbath, her journey from orthodox judaism to anglican priest, Wearing God, the many metaphors for God found in the bible (these are but two of her many published words)––who now teaches the craft and art of spiritual writing at workshops, universities, and seminars from coast to coast. i can and will attest to her brilliance, to the way she evoked from me layers i hadn’t known were there, the way she lifted the prose off the page, insisted i weave in an airiness that might make a critical difference.
there’s a whole team behind the making of the book, though only one of us gets our name on the cover. there’s a meticulous and exceedingly kind copy editor, there’s a cover designer and another designer for the interior pages (this book is a beauty inside). there’s a production editor, and a typesetter and a page proofer. and there’s the editor who believed in the idea in the first place, and nurtured it along. i am forever indebted to each one of them. and there will soon be a team whose job is to do what’s hardest for me: peddle the darn thing, get it onto and off of bookshelves. in bookshops and libraries. and into the hands and the nooks of readers.
there is an essential and indispensable triangle in the world of letters: the writer, the idea, and the reader. it’s a conversation unspoken. a conversation in pages. and without the reader, the writer is whispering into an abyss. and the only sound is the author’s own echo.
so this is the book. and if you ever choose to pluck it off a shelf, you will find my whispered whole truths deep inside.
if writers write to say this is what i believe, this is where i find the beautiful and the sacred, and maybe i can show you just where i’m seeing and sensing, maybe just maybe one little writer can filter onto the world just one little mote of starlight or sunlight or moonlight where before there had only been the murkiest shadow.
The Book of Nature is my one mote of filtering light.
you can find it on Broadleaf Books here.
you can find it on amazon here.
and, very excitingly, you can find it on the indie booksellers’s bookshop.org
here’s how my publisher, Broadleaf Books, is describing the book:
We live inside a nautilus of prayer—if only we open our senses and perceive what is infused all around.
Throughout millennia and across the monotheistic religions, the natural was often revered as a sacred text. By the Middle Ages, this text was given a name, “The Book of Nature,” the first, best entry point for encounter with the divine. The very act of “reading” the world, of focusing our attention on each twinkling star and unfurling blossom, humbles us and draws us into sacred encounter.
As we grapple to make sense of today’s tumultuous world, one where nature is at once a damaged and damaging source of disaster, as well as a place of refuge and retreat, we are called again to examine how generously it awaits our attention and devotion, standing ready to be read by all.
Weaving together the astonishments of science; the profound wisdom and literary gems of thinkers, poets, and observers who have come before us; and her own spiritual practice and gentle observation, Barbara Mahany reintroduces us to The Book of Nature, an experiential framework of the divine. God’s first revelation came to us through an ongoing creation, one that—through stillness and attentiveness to the rumblings of the heavens, the seasonal eruptions of earth, the invisible pull of migration, of tide, and of celestial shiftings—draws us into sacred encounter. We needn’t look farther for the divine.
and that, dear friends, is the news of the week. be careful out there, this latest covid bugger (BA5) seems more determined than ever to muscle its way in. i’m going back into semi-hiding given that i am still dizzy from my first covid round….
what’s stirring you this week?
OMG I love this SO much, Barb! I’m over the moon for you on this and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!
And Lauren Winner was your EDITOR????? I love her work.
You were clearly the woman for this job.
Ellen Blum Barish
Writer and Coach
Author of Seven Springs: A Memoir https://www.shantiarts.co/uploads/files/abc/BARISH_SEVEN.html
lauren was pretty much a dream. she edited Slowing Time, too. but our engagement this time was way more fulsome. she’s amazing. her capacity for making me see and understand just what i needed to do was unbelievable…..thank you for your blessed enthusiasms. xoxox
Available for pre-order on Amazon! Just placed my order. Can’t wait! Love your beautiful writing, insights and ability to touch one’s heart so deeply. Thank you and many blessings. ❤️
wait, you found it there?!?! i couldn’t find it a few minutes ago. bless your heart!!!!!
Oh!! I can’t wait. Ordered.
This book idea resonates so much.
holy mackerel!!! bless your heart!!!! thank you. i was not expecting any such thing! just wanted to finally show a peek. i will whisper a little secret: those little birds flying across the cover make an appearance on nearly every page inside in the faintest echo or trace…..it’s a little detail that hushed me into silence…..
Ah!! Congratulations ! Your nurturing and grounding words will herald in the New Spring! I ordered two(:
oh, holy mackerel! i think those might be the first two! and my publisher will likely pedal over to your house and kiss you on the cheek! i know i will! i don’t understand some of the mysteries of the publishing world but there is apparently some magic equation when books are pre-ordered. i think i’ve heard that some book sellers decide whether or not to offer certain books based solely on their “pre-order numbers.” all of which is mystifying and beyond me. i will never forget how you loaded a satchel with Slowing Times, and scatter them like Miss Rumphius’ lupine seeds wherever you traveled. xoxoxoxoxoxox
Be still my ❤! I’ve written 3/23/23 on my calendar for first light porch sittin!
a thousand hearts, dear marsha, my low country comrade. xoxox
bless your beautiful beautiful heart. there is a whole chapter on our beloved shared moon. guess who i thought of the whole time i was writing it? xoxox
“If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison. And you did! And as poet John O’Donohue said, “May this book find its way to those who need it.” 💚 Congratulations bam!
i pray that prayer every time i send a little book into the world, John O’D’s prayer…..thank you, dear P.
I’m so excited for you! I pre-ordered via Amazon and then also discovered it on bookshop.org – the indie book site. It’ll be a perfect Easter gift for several folks I know!
I loved this line from above: “the leaves of the oaks that arbored and harbored me, onto the heavens far, far beyond.” It brought me right back to my childhood playing in the woods behind our house – nature’s haven.
And also I love Lauren Winner’s writing too!
Thanks for bringing more beauty into the world! xoxoxo
ohhhhh, bless your heart for finding it! i couldn’t find it on indie books. but i admit to not being too adept. i think we both grew up in the woods, which is the root i’m certain of our shared love of finding things there where the leaves rustle and the sunlight plays peek-a-boo…..
Read this gem from Henri Nouwen right after your blogpost: “Nature is ever ready for us to hear and see the great story of the creator’s great love for us.”
hallelujah, and amen!
Congratulations! I am so very happy for you!
thank you dear dear dear jack!!!!!!!
Wow! Your description of the book’s birth and the writer’s raisin d’etre are fabulous! And the cover is beautiful. Can’t wait to see the finished product. Big hugs and congrats!!
hey BEEEEE KAYYYYY, you’re pretty sneaky! you musta played a lot of spy when you were a kid. probably agent 007. or maybe 0015 Grange Walk. Fair Haven, 07704. you made me laugh out loud, from up there on your stretcher……
Please let me know if there will be an event at The Book Stall!
thanks, MDP!!!!!! can’t even begin to think about book talks, but i always saunter back to my friends at The Stall. hope all is good in your necks of the woods (i know you have a neck just up north and your home base out southeasterly way…….)
May the words of the poets, naturalists, and philosophers we’ve long adored shine like the guiding stars they are in this beautiful new book. May the message inscribed in these pages reach many hearts and kindle new awareness of the divine gifts that are lavished upon us daily in the ineffable miracles of Nature. I’m happy for you, dear friend. Many congratulations! xoxo
bless you, beautiful beautiful amy!!! it helps immensely to be surrounded by souls who see so deeply and point the way for me to see too. giant hug from my side of the Land of Lincoln to yours! xoxoxo
Good afternoon, Ms. Mahany. I’m thrilled to read that a new book is forthcoming! I’m sad that I’ll have to wait until March to get my hands on it, though!
I know it will fill me with the quiet peace your last two books have. I revisit Slowing Time quite often when I get homesick for the midwest. The east coast is just not the same.
God’s blessings to you and yours❤
well isn’t this just the loveliest email to find on a rainy afternoon here in sweet chicago! thank you. and thank you for reading any of this little book’s predecessors. making a book is like having a long and cozy conversation in the coziest armchairs, or a porch swing that creaks as it arcs back and forth, march is only eight months away. believe me, i’m counting! (i still have two more rounds of page proofing before it’s finally sent off to the printers, so still in serious gestation.) take good care, and thank you SO much for swinging by. and please call me barbara, or babs!!!
I’ve put in my order at Women and Children First. I added a note that “the author is a friend of mine, and I think this will be an extraordinary book.” Hope that catches the eye of someone in charge of ordering.
And I hope conditions are such that there will be an in-person reading and signing. But I will simply have to savor the wait for the book that ushers in spring next year.
in a million years, i never thought that the lovely souls who circle here would wander over and click pre-order buttons! but bless you for going to a fave, and for adding your note!! be still my heart. i think we should all have a romp in the vernal woods, come the birthing in spring. let me get to work figuring that out. and in the meantime, thank you for pointing me to Mr. Eiseley, who opened my eyes a thousandfold. xoxoxox
So happy for you and what a wonderful accomplishment ❤️Can’t wait til March!
thank you, dear mary.
BAM, if this is anything like Slowing Time, MotherPrayer, The Stillness of Winter…….YES! We’re in for a treat. You are amazing and thank you in advance for this blessing! Love and congrats from one of your raving fans xoxo
bless you, MJ. all the work is a blessing, doubled by readers — and friends — as soulful as you…..xox
how exciting to read your blog – which is sumptuous, profound, engaging – and then read all the comments, and to realize the table has many sections added, expanded for a growing community in support of your work. happy to be among those seated here, sharing.
sweet david, fellow sojourner, having you by my side — in life — is a blessing beyond measure. and to find you here: pure joy. i love you, you know. xox
Your publisher’s book description gave me goosebumps, Barbie! I cannot wait to set eyes to page when it arrives. Ordered my copy via Broadleaf and have the release date on my 2023 calendar, so I’ll be looking for it when circulation begins. That little black and white photo of you is precious! (Were the tennis shoes on your feet the fabled PF Flyers?! I begged for them every year so that I’d be able to run like the wind!🏃♀️🌬) I’m so happy for you and your huge achievement!❤️
hello sweet angel! bless you for ordering up a book. and my guess is those were my Keds. red Keds. still pinch myself that we tumbled back into each other’s lives all these years later. tis a beautiful thing. xoxox