Today is the day that I begin writing again. It’s the day that Sadie is three days old, and Stella is three years old, and Milo is five. I don’t live in my own house. I don’t have a circle of friends. Basically, my life is pretty much in turmoil, and I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do in the next five minutes, let alone five months. It’s the perfect day to begin something beautiful and new.
Last night I accidentally wrote a poem. In the middle of the night, at two o’clock in the morning, holding a wakeful baby who is so brand new to this world that we say she has her days and nights backwards. That is what we say. But I have a hunch that the newborn is not the slightest bit confused. She knows what night is. And she has the wisdom to want reassurance in the night, because the night is dark, and she is pretty sure that somebody ought to stay awake and watch.
I don’t generally stay awake nights watching for tigers or bears. There aren’t very many predators in the cul-de-sac. But last night I did what my newborn asked of me, because she’s madly adorable, and, also I don’t really have a choice. I stayed awake and watched. I watched and listened in the dark. And what I found there, waiting for me, was a poem. It slipped through me. It hung there, in the air. I had to decide what to do. Stand up? Go get a pencil? Or resist?
If I did resist, then I knew exactly what I would get. I would get another day of not writing, in a long string of days of not writing. I could have another day of ordinary time, of the Chronos, of words that stay still in lines on pages like your teacher says they should, like loading the dishwasher.
What I didn’t know, was what would happen if I said, “Yes.”
If I could say, “Yes,” to my creative impulse, even though this poem probably is not any good and nobody will ever like it, and even if they were going to like it, I don’t know that I would want to share it with them anyway.
If I could say, “Yes,” to editing my book manuscript, even though a rewrite feels like turning a pair of oxen while standing on their backs, and therefore essentially impossible…if not insane.
If I could say, “Yes,” to writing a blog about my life and faith, even though there are far too many blogs in the world already, and a disproportionately high number of them are written by pastor’s wives, and so what does my strange in-between tale of redemption have to do with anything?
If I could say, “Yes,” to being a vessel for something that chooses its own way and doesn’t make sense in any language except for beauty…then what would happen?
“Well, probably, Esther, it would hurt a little bit.”
There are good reasons for all of that resistance. Wouldn’t it be nice if our art could just take a little edge off of this human life? Like a gin and tonic, maybe? Like wrapping butterflies and rainbows around the sharp edges of man’s inhumanity to man, or draping some pretty red silk over the places that hurt? But it doesn’t really work like that. Real art is born out of compassion, which is awakened by pain, and trained in stillness. Real art loves a long hour of wakefulness in the middle of the night, especially one inspired by miraculous, impossible volumes of love for a baby who is perfect, and precious, and pink, and utterly vulnerable to both predators and pain.
To say “Yes,” to the poem hanging in the dark is to be willing to receive whatever the spirit has for you to speak, and then — and this is the part that really sucks — to sift all through the ugliness of your own resistance. It’s a hell of a lot of work. But I’m just crazy enough to love it anyway. I’m just crazy enough to think there’s nothing better, in the end, than receiving that gift in the night and saying, “Yes.”
That’s why I’m writing today. A poem. A blog. A little more work on the book manuscript. And I’m celebrating the magic of new beginnings. New births. New sounds. New friendships. Broken shards of old things finding their way into a new shape. I’m celebrating the long slow work of growing things: a baby learning how to sleep when everybody else sleeps (and for God’s sake how long does that take, anyway?) and a quieted voice getting ready to speak out loud again.
So this is my journey. A new blog. A new beginning. A new cause for gratitude and celebration. Won’t you join me?