Sunday, November 23, 2008

MysticBliss: Kathleen Norris

Japanese maple leaves in snow, number 2.

I read Kathleen Norris' Dakota fourteen years ago, and it would have been this time of year that I did so. Her writing has been in and out of my life since then, weaving golden threads of wisdom in between the everyday cottons and wools, sometimes gleaming close together, sometimes many inches apart.

When I had to go to St. John's for a conference, I thought of her sitting where I was sitting, chanting the psalms with the monks as I was doing. I thought of her when I came upon the monks' cemetery and stared at the large, black marble cross.

And now I think I am embarking upon her best work ever and will bring up bits and pieces of it every chance I have.

But for today, a small selection from an earlier memoir, The Cloister Walk:

At St. John's I discovered the true purpose of vespers, which is to let my body tell me, at the end of the workday, just how tired I am. Often I'd come to vespers after dinner, and in the middle of a psalm, or in the silence between psalms, I'd find that my great plans for the evening -- to attend a concert, lecture, or a film -- were falling by the way...

Sitting in the choir, in the wooden seats that hadn't seemed so hard at morning prayer, or at noon or at Mass, I would realize that I'd been running for hours on nervous energy. Grateful for the quiet flow of vespers that had nudged me into acknowledging my weary state, I'd become more willing to do what my body asked of me: let the day suffice, with all its joys and failings, its little triumphs and defeats. I'd happily, if sleepily, welcome evening as a time of rest, and let it slip away, losing nothing.

Doesn't that just make you sigh?

1 comment:

epiphanygirl said...

It DOES make me sigh... I have seen several people mention Acedia now, and I am so excited to know that Norris has written other memoirs too (one of my most favorite genres!). Hmmm, the holiday reading list is building. Have a blessed day,