My days are taken up at present with my five-year-old grandson. Among many, many activities, we have in the past week formed the habit of riding our bicycles each morning at just after 7 am, when the thick summer air will still let you breathe.
With Grandson ahead of me, little legs pumping, we ride down our graveled road, past the crowing rooster on a fence, and then down the county blacktop, past fields and thick swampy woods, turn left and speed along the road lined by country houses, fields, and pecan orchards. At one house, three dogs come racing across the long yard, barking furiously. We holler, “Good mornin’!”
On these rides I teach my grandson important things, like to look both ways, ride toward the oncoming traffic, that Nana’s job is to keep him safe, and how to go down a deserted gravel driveway into a field and pee behind a tree.
After that lesson, Grandson rode the weedy gravel track to see where it went. To a small boy, the world is very large. He disappeared into tall weeds, and then his call: “I’m in the end of the ro-ad, Nana!”
In, not at the end of the road. The moment shimmers across my mind’s eye–the delight in his voice, the green weeds and thick wood. It was one of those moments that a thousand nameless truths came to me at once. The first one to stand out was bone-deep gratitude for making space in my life for this child. Then that I could still ride a bike. By the time we arrived home, my mind had sorted out that maybe at the same time that I was making space for the boy, I was also making space for both the Writer and the Mother to discover what needs to be discovered.
You see, since I began writing, when my son was this same age as Grandson, it has seemed that there are inside of me two women: the Writer and the Mother. These two parts of my nature have been in direct opposition to each other. The Writer looks inward and needs great swaths of time alone to think and to read and to play with words. The Mother looks outward, and needs to always be seeing to the needs of the child, to anyone, actually, and in so doing gets very little time alone.
Thus, there is a constant war that goes on inside me. This is two women doing ‘girl fighting’, and let me tell you, it is often not pretty. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve stuck my finger in a light socket, my hair standing on end.
Then, in the writing of this essay, came that Blinding Flash of the Obvious. The Writer and the Mother have a major trait in common: the ability to pay attention.
It is in paying attention to sights and sounds, to colors and smells, to magic, to love and hate, to the light dancing in a small boy’s eyes when he laughs at speeding on his bicycle in the sun rays just peeking over the trees, that creativity comes alive. That I come alive. It is in my talent for paying attention for all of my life that I have stored up so much in my memory, which the Writer draws upon, and the Mother does, too. It is the Mother who gives to the Writer, and the Writer to the Mother.
Just now I see the Writer and the Mother making a bit of peace as the understanding dawns. “We can work together, girls,” I tell them. The Mother sighs happily, content, as she sees it, to have solved another predicament, and to get tea and put her feet up, while the child and everyone else is currently occupied out of her sight.
The Writer whispers: “Let’s write all this down. You can put it in your novel, too.”
The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.~Julia Cameron.
Dear God, direct my attention today to what I need to see and know. Thank you. Amen.