Once, when I was walking in the Belvidere Park, I stopped to chat with a woman. She suggested instead of writing down the hard things, why don’t I write down the good stuff?
When I think back about the little community I found by walking at the same time twice a day, people were kind when I spilled my story, offering friendship and steadiness. One couple, married 60 years, shared how their relationship weathered hard times, said mine could too. I miss those regular friends, since I’m now living on a farmette where fields separate neighbors, though I wave at passing trucks when I walk the dogs. Sometimes a neighbor stops and we chat.
So why don’t I write down the good stuff? When I advise friends about the trouble in their lives, I suggest they write the story to get the poison onto the page. Drama stings enough to take our attention and I’ve found relief and answers.
But lately I’ve started listing my consolations and desolations. I’m surprised the good outnumbers the bad. Sometimes they are routine like a good meal (I still talk about the taco dinner from Quinta Carmina in Belvidere), seeing young people chase their dreams on American Idol, dandelions in the fields. And the not so ordinary—bridge building between two friends, tired muscles after putting up hay, leaves making shadows in moon light, roadside wild roses, a lightning bug in the barn.
Even in these perilous times I’m consoled by writing down what’s good in a day.
I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.
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This practice is formally called examen, where you ask God to show you the consolations and desolations in your day or what a friend in a class on listening said, “the sweet stuff and the sour stuff.” Dennis Linn in Sleeping with Bread offers simple questions, “For what moment today am I the most grateful? For what moment today and I least grateful?” I don’t do this every day, because I feel like I have to write down everything. I’ve taken to writing lists. But when I do I am surprised by how many sweet things I write down compared to sour things.
There wasn’t room in the radio perspective, but I wanted to mention how a book that takes you away is a very good gift. It can snap you out of a boring routine and be more soul filling at the end of the day than TV. (I’ll admit I do enjoy junk TV. American Idol is a feel good show about young people pursuing their dreams. I enjoy listening to the creative ways the judges encourage each contestant, even the ones they have to send home. Bruce and Omalola are both enjoying the show. Finally we have a dog who loves Bruce as much as she loves me, maybe more.
Crissi McDonald has written two books in the North to Home series that develop the love story between a newly divorced woman with powerful empathic powers and a member of the Blackfish people, who has the ability to switch between being an Orca and a human. North to Home and A Clock in the Water are lush sensual books that take the reader to the undersea world of the Orca and the challenges of a cross species romance. North to Home introduces Nolee and Keet’s love story and A Clock in the Water continues that story by introducing Keet’s relatives. There’s a creation spirituality that turned my eyes to the mystery of the world around us.
Then there are the squirrels. We have a couple young ones who run across the yard by jumping from tree to tree, which is a joyous thing to watch and sometimes a little breathtaking as they drop from branch to branch. These are nearly tame, watching us from a patch of grass, not very far away, before darting up the nearest trunk. Their nest is way high in the Linden tree. Sometimes they run up the TV tower and run along the roof. We can hear them as we wake to the day.
Another good thing in my life is driving a Paske Morgen, (Easter Morning) with my good man. Right now we are merely walking the perimeter of our acres, pretty easy, giving Morgen some exercise and both of us a chance to relax and look across the other fields to neighboring farms or woodlots. I have felt guilty I don’t do more with her, but I reject that guilt. This is what makes us happy and fits with our full days. Sometimes Bruce will look up a jet high drawing a white line across the sky on Flight Radar, noting the to and from and make of the jet.
Here’s The Tree from a different perspective than the usual one. The Tree is like a light house, or a cathedral towering over a village. Seems to me I heard farmers left these for shade while they were doing field work, or perhaps a focal point in order to plow straight lines. I can see why the ancients made trees into holy places. Even the Bible talks about Abraham entertaining three angels by the oaks of Mamre.
And here’s a usual view of the tree with yet another squirrel. Our door yard contains a veritable feast for them because of all the black walnut trees. Last fall we shoveled enough black walnuts to fill a wagon our neighbor pulled behind his lawn mower. He was pleased to have them and we were pleased to get them out of the yard so I could mow but there were plenty left over to feed the squirrels.
And there’s the dandelions that have gone to seed but are beautiful even then. Little things can lift up our hearts. Maggie Ross in Silence: A Users Guide Volume 2 refers to Julian of Norwich: “the way to deal with sin is to ignore it. As sin has no substance, it seeks attention to give it the illusion of substance, and the best way to fight it is to turn away from it to behold” (34). I’ve had some dark days lately and turning away from the shame, beholding the world, writing down the desolations and the consolations is a way to respond. Weeping too. Sometimes those tears take me right to the heart of how creation is groaning to be redeemed, how that redemption is not yet, how we fail to help that redemption along. But there is that beholding, and the glimmers of that redeeming in me and in the world around me.
As far as perilous times, I found this in the barn.
Well, that’s all I know for now. What are some of the good things you’ve come across in your days? I’d love to hear.
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