at the dawn of this new year, i am drawn into a particular quiet, the quiet of entering in slowly, and deliberately. i am turning pages, pulling taut the threads of a thick new wrap, stirring onions and garlics and soups on the stove. i am looking out windows, with little inclination to step into the misty fog of the morning. i am content. content to be quiet. content to be still.
i am, you might say, at low tide.
and i’ve no desire to barge in on your own quietudes and stillness. and so i am simply leaving a few traces here, gatherings this week has brought me. i find myself more inclined these days to bring you the wisdom of others. i am holding this space for the days when i will have something worth saying, but for now, my offerings come from the wonders of others. it’s my hope and my prayer that you find here a little nourishment for the week. i’m inclined to think that my most generous offerings these days come not from my own well, but from reading and looking and living through the days with an eye toward deep curiosity and a never-ending sense of the wonder that always seems to find its way in to our most closely-held nooks and our crannies…
i begin with a book, a book mailed to me by my oldest best friend in the world, the one who long ago all but scooped me off the floor and propped me up, and spooned goodness into me, and shone sunlight on me till i ripened and pinkened, and has never ever let go. she’s the one i call when my heart hurts, and when i can barely breathe. over the years we’ve woven a lifeline that stretches from here on the shores of lake michigan to her house along the pacific coast. she and i share a love for quirky artists and writers and painters of marvelous colors. and she sent me this week maira kalman’s latest: women holding things, described as “a love song to women and the many things they hold, literally and metaphorically.” maira kalman is the madcap artist and illustrator who lights up pages of the new yorker, and lately has been making books so bright and beautiful and hilarious and heart-melting you might want to devote a whole shelf just to maira. you almost might wish to invite her to tea. but it would have to be tea in a room with armchairs covered in eye-popping colors. and you’d need to wear leggings in vivacious stripes and a skirt made of patchworks of peacock-hued threads. and you might serve pomegranates sprinkled on white peaches in winter. because maira seems like a someone who would like the most exotic fruit you could find. and if you served petit fours they would come swirled with coils of sugary buttercream in rose-petal colors. because maira seems like someone who has never colored inside the lines, and never turns down a dollop of whimsy.
and what i love so very much about maira is that you are merrily turning pages, pages so bright and colorful you almost need sunglasses, and then you come to a page that just about stops your heart for a second. a page like this:
but maira is always maira, so page after page is simply marvelous to look at, and absorb in all its whimsy. pages like these (woman holding a pink ukulele under a giant cherry tree, woman holding shears, woman holding red balloons, fruits and jam):
Don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter.
It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.Rumi
and then, in a maria popova posting about how to beat back a sense of helplessness in a world of so much suffering, i ran across this from the musician nick cave:
The everyday human gesture is always a heartbeat away from the miraculous — [remember] that ultimately we make things happen through our actions, way beyond our understanding or intention; that our seemingly small ordinary human acts have untold consequences; that what we do in this world means something; that we are not nothing; and that our most quotidian human actions by their nature burst the seams of our intent and spill meaningfully and radically through time and space, changing everything… Our deeds, no matter how insignificant they may feel, are replete with meaning, and of vast consequence, and… they constantly impact upon the unfolding story of the world, whether we know it or not.
i found it a profound burst of a reminder that every little move we make matters. every little one. only nick cave says it beautifully: “the everyday human gesture is always a heartbeat away from the miraculous.” it’s a very good thing to tuck in your front pocket at the start of the year, to remember that every single day we hold the possibility of being makers of the miraculous. all it takes is a whole lot of love, and a wheelbarrow full of humility, enough to be willing to turn the other cheek, and love as you would be loved…
and, finally, a friend i love sent me this, and it took my breath away, and i am leaving it here, in case you needed to read this very thing. and maybe it will take your breath away, too.
i studied lots and lots of elisabeth kubler-ross in nursing school, but i don’t think i ever came across this. and it’s so true, and so beautiful. “beautiful people do not just happen.” bless the beautiful people who populate our every day with their everyday gestures that hold the possibility of becoming the miraculous.
who’s inspiring you in your new year?
p.s. there are a bevy of birthdays upon us here at the end of the year’s first week: dear friends of the chair mary jo and mary beth, may your days be bursting with the miraculous, large and small….
and i’m reminded that today, january 6, is epiphany, which in ireland is sometimes celebrated as Women’s Christmas, a tradition we’d be wise to take up. it’s described by the brilliant artist Jan Richardson thusly: “some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) as Women’s Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas began as a day when the women set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.” you can find your own copy of her wonderful at-home retreat PDF by clicking to her “sanctuary of women” webpage here. it’s free but her artistry and her soulfulness might stir you to drop a figurative dime in her coffer.
merry blessed women’s christmas, and holy new year….