DESPITE THEIR DIFFERENT-FROM-MINE SPIRITUAL upbringings, authors Dani Shapiro and Katrina Kenison and I find ourselves at a common juncture: the crossroads of What Does It All Mean and How Much Longer Do I Have To Figure It Out. To celebrate the just-released paperback edition of Dani’s latest book, “Devotion,” Katrina and Dani and I invite you join in an across-the-blogs discussion of where we each find spirit in our lives. Maybe you’ll win our three books; we have six sets to give away. Onward!
I’ve told you how Katrina came into my life, and through her came Dani, whose bestselling 1998 “Slow Motion” (subtitled “a memoir of a life rescued by tragedy”) was one of the most compelling stories I have ever read.
Then last year “Devotion” was published, and I learned that Dani and I had more in common than the dramatic loss of a parent, and our writing careers. “Devotion” is a seeker’s tale, written at midlife; in our books and lives we explore a lot of the same terrain—as does Katrina in “The Gift of an Ordinary Day.”
“Does a seeker ever stop seeking?” Dani writes in “Devotion.” “Or is the very definition of a seeker one who keeps searching, driven by an insatiable hunger for knowledge, awareness, wisdom, peace? The very idea of craving peace struck me as vaguely oxymoronic. Craving, after all, was the antithesis of all things peaceful. It meant living with a constant itch. A dissatisfaction with what is. But could there be such a thing as spiritual satisfaction?”
I have often thought that some shortfall in my religious upbringing turned me into a lifelong questioner. But Dani was raised in a very devout tradition of Judaism–and she wonders aloud, too. So does Katrina, whose religious background probably fits closer to mine than Dani’s, but is somewhere between. As Katrina describes it:
“I was envious of friends with solid foundations which they could either accept or rebel against.”
MME, TOO. MY TINY extended family had few traditions (other than Grandma’s Brazil Nut Stuffing recipe).
I was raised in the Church of Very Loosely Speaking, as I explain in “And I Shall Have Some Peace There.” Many things were a little vague and free-form in my upbringing, through my parents surrounded us with books, instilled the love and power of language, exposed us to theater, museums, music, travel.
Another compass point they provided: They did not tolerate prejudice—not even those “harmless” commonplace jokes at the expense of a particular nationality or race or even sexual orientation—pretty progressive for our 1960s suburban setting. Whether they believed in God, I do not actually know, but they did believe that we are all God’s people. From my book:
“We were not baptized until Grandma ﬁnally won out when I was 4 and my sister 2, and they walked us down the aisle together. Lordy.
“My parents didn’t belong to churches. Then the guilt of raising two heathens set in. Off we went. Like I said, Lordy. I was the kid who tortured Pastor Auman nonstop with the one obnoxious question: How do you know for sure? One Sunday morning before church, around age 15, I fell off the stool in front of my bedroom ‘dressing table’ while curling my eyelashes, pulling out all the top ones on one eye. (They grow back. God is forgiving, even to impertinent nonbelievers.)”
I found my own church when I got into the garden 30-plus years ago, adopting a spiritual practice with lots of kneeling in front of forces bigger than myself—certainly a meditation, and form of prayer.
SPEAKING OF WHICH: Near the end of “Ordinary Day,” Katrina recounts writing a list of all the things she’s grateful for and wishes to “seize and capture,” including sons bent over cereal bowls, silk long underwear, sweet carrots and sharp knives, a crescent moon.
“Maybe it is a form of prayer, this list making in the name of gratitude and remembrance,” she writes. “If so, I pray for ordinary things.”
Katrina’s gratitude list, her prayer, ends with this tricky item: “Life as it is.”
Can we find moments where we are satisfied with things just as they are, when the craving and seeking abate? Ah, but there I go asking questions again. And here’s one more:
So tell us: Where do you find spirit in life, or maybe even a glimmer of an answer?
How to Win 1 of 6 Sets of Our Books
TO ENTER TO WIN ONE OF SIX SETS OF THREE BOOKS EACH—“Devotion,” “The Gift of an Ordinary Day,” and “And I Shall Have Some Peace There”–comment here and on Katrina’s site and also on Dani’s, noting in all three places where you find spirit in your life. Tell us why, too, if you wish. (Hint: You can copy and paste your answers to all three spots if you like; that’s OK.)
I understand some of you are shy and just prefer to say “Count me in,” or “I want to win,” but if you feel like sharing your story, please do; all the better.
Entries close at midnight Saturday, February 19, with winners to be drawn at random (using the tool at random [dot] org) and announced the next day.
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