Of late, I have been praying a lot about and asking a lot for invitations. I am tired of trying to carve my own road in life, and honestly, I”m not sure I’m supposed to “make my own way,” as we are so fond of saying. Instead, I feel like I am to be true to myself and to my gifts and talents and follow the way I have been given. Instead of hacking a path for myself through bracken or rock, my machete of energy and determination and my jackhammer of will on my back, I am simply supposed to keep walking. The energy and passion to move forward all I need, the simple tools of a quill made from peacock feather and a quilted backpack laid over my shoulder. A journey of distance not a race to be first.
So this weekend, when Madeline L’Engle’s The Summer of the Great Grandmother came from Bookmooch, I felt a sense of affirmation. Years ago, I read her first book in the Crosswicks’ Series, A Circle of Quiet, and it absolutely changed my view of the world in some fundamental way. That book is about how she and her husband Hugh came to have this farm called Crosswicks where she spent time writing, where they lived for years when her kids were small, and where she summered most years after that. The book taught me about place and a writing identity and quiet, that kind of quiet that makes your shoulders drop down from your ears.
With these ideas in mind, I sat down to start this new L’Engle book, and already I can feel my perspective shifting a little. There is just something simple and true about L’Engle’s words. Her syntax is straight-forward and her insights real and genuine. She is a person who understands the emotions of things as being as real as the material of things, and I can respect that.
Last night, here is what I read that really stood out to me. This passage comes just after she gets a call from her husband saying that he’s afraid he has a brain tumor; she is away from him for the week, and he can’t get an appointment for two, so they are in the place of waiting
The only way I could be a wife to him was to affirm silently a courage and endurance I was very uncertain I had. One of the problems of being a storyteller is the cultivated ability to extrapolate; in every situation all that what ifs come to me. . . . And I said that the artist’s response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, not to impose restrictive rules but to rejoice in pattern and meaning, for there is something in all artists which rejects coincidence and accident. And I went on to say that we must meet the precariousness of the universe without self-pity, and with dignity and courage.
In my bed, cuddled against the beautiful fall chill last night, I felt reminded of what I had been praying all day – that my work as a writer is not to produce books or essays but is to observe and to see and to write what comes before my eyes – to accept the invitations that cross my path. This I can do, this I can do.