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.
Remember: Once you post your entry here, go see Katrina and also Dani to triple your chances—and tell them Margaret says hello.
Want the Books Now?
- Buy “Devotion” now
- Buy “The Gift of an Ordinary Day”
spirit in nature, kindness, growing and making, animals, music, and breath.
Like Jan, I find inspiration from Psalm 139 as I moved from continent to continent knowing there is nowhere to go that can take me away from the Spirit. I sense the Spirit most in the whispered words of comfort or revelation that speaks into a tangled knot of a problem, and I sense it again in the awe of nature particularly the wild fierce beauty of winter where the snow glistens like billions of diamonds.
In all the people I know and the places I’ve lived. After traveling around for over 30 years and living in nine countries, it’s evident that all people have a common bond and desire the same basic things. Now if only the politicians could figure out this simple truth.
Dani and Katrina say hello!
I find spirit in myself and outside myself. In myself I find spirit when I shut out the noise and relax into being me, whether I am swimming and listening to the softness of the surrounding water or doing a forward fold and leaning my chest toward my thighs.
Outside of me I find spirit in the remarkable instances of humanity, a friend’s newborn twins, a Facebook revolution in Egypt, the quiet and stark morning after a blizzard.
And Wow Margaret, you look very cool on your tractor and thanks for that great soundtrack!
In words, both the putting together of them as if a puzzle and the consuming of them as if a food. In the sun as it bathes the pillows of my bed where the dachshunds have migrated before I’ve awakened. In the taste of a sun ripened tomato bit into in the garden. In the arms full of flowers I cut from around the house and bring inside to rearrange and admire. From the black pussy willow buds that are now opening. From the smell of the ocean as you approach it by foot. In the feathers of the goldfinches who appear to increase in brilliance daily at my feeder. In the feel of oil paint as it slips off my brush and onto my canvas. In the threads of the loom as I randomly throw the shuttle back and forth. In the laughter of my husband who I waited 46 years to find. In the way the sky looks when the clouds are imitating a Maxfield Parish painting. In the long stretch of my cats as they perform their own version of downward dog. In the paintings of Monet and Joan Mitchell and Julie Mehtru. In the crazy dashing dance of the chipmunks who bravely traverse the yard hoping for peanuts from the feeder. In the dance of the three tenor crows who have been with me at my feeders for over ten years. In the buds of the Japanese apricot which opens ever February just when I need it most.
well kindred spirits…i took the hard way around. built character no doubt. so through getting my master of architecture and practicing for 20 years, never hated it but it was fundamentally wrong or fundamentally right for my father…..after a serious construction accident you think i would figure it out?nooooo..i came back for more. then i lost my home, something i had poured everything into – financial and otherwise, in the hopes that it would work…..nope. now i am not unhappy, i am an optimist at heart and body and mind and soul! and don’t get me wrong – i love design – i live design but i have chosen community, country and contentment in what grows around me, people animals and plants included. i have decided to leave beautiful vancouver, bc and move to a lovely rural community on vancouver island. is it all about me, no not at all although it may sound that way, it is about making connections, in service of others, sharing all that i have learned and not being so caught up in the race, the rats and the wrong profession. so i know, in my heart this is where i need to be – to find more peace, the new chapter of this book. for the next 50 years(i turn 50 in a month….yes!) orbs of energy to one and all and may you each find your own peace.
I find spirit in my family when they don’t know I’m watching, in hand work, in nature. Thanks! xo
I find my spirit when I am with my writer friends as we discuss the joys and heartaches of our craft.
Saw the title of your book and can’t WAIT to read it. I’ve had that Yeats quote framed and on my living room wall for almost 30 years. May your nine bean rows always be straight…unless you don’t want them that way ;)
Just wrote this on Dani and Katrina’s blog:
The Spirit moves like the wind, ascending to heights unseen and descending, cascading through and through. Its whereabouts are shrouded in mystery. I have been told the Spirit is powerful, as powerful as the wind raging thick and loud in the eye of the storm. I have also been told that the Spirit of God is like a breath of comfort. In times of great duress, if I choose to believe in God and His ineffable goodness, His Spirit descends and comes upon me like a wave of cleansing warm water. He holds and comforts the way a mother wraps her babe close to her breast. Then, there in her warm bosom, a still small voice speaks. This voice rings clear and I hear it telling me, exhorting me to stand up and fight. Keep faith it says. Go and fight the good fight. So also there in her bosom, I am told to keep singing. Sing the songs of remembrance and praise to an awesome God who in due time will make all things well.
Reading the book Quest for the Green Man by John Matthews right now, and the responses to this question underline the deep connection between spirit and the natural cycle of the seasons that Matthews talks about. Which gives me hope that spring will soon be here, and winter, though we’re over it, has a purpose.
I’d been sick for a few years and knew that I wouldn’t ever be returning to the workforce, so it was left to my lovely partner to provide for us both. With our children grown up & moved on, we were left with a huge house & an even huger mortgage & financially we were slowly going down the drain. If we didn’t make some drastic changes soon we’d be financially ruined so we took a huge leap of faith…. we put our house up for sale and went looking for a place where we could relax & live a slow quiet life away from the city. We’d talked about growing our own fruit & vegetables,as well as having some chickens but we thought we would never be able to buy a house with much land to be able to do that.
Little did we realise that our spirits had a very different plan…..
My partner found, on the internet, an old red brick Church for sale in the country, 5 hours drive away from our family. We took a huge leap of faith & decided to go look at it. When we saw it was on 1 acre of land, we fell in love with it & put a deposit down straight away. If our old home sold it meant we would be financially secure, with a small mortgage that was manageable & our quality of life would be better… so I prayed!
We had never had the money to get officially married & we decided that as soon as we bought the Church we’d organise to get married. We joked that the 4th September seemed like a good day & we were absolutely amazed later on to find out that the Church had officially been opened on the 4th September in 1940.
We bought the Church & on it’s 70th Anniversary, we got married in it, with our parents & our children at our sides.
Our old house has just sold & we will be moving to our Church in the country permanently soon, as man & wife….so that we can grow our own vegetables & have the chickens I’ve wanted for so long….
I really enjoyed reading your post – now that I’ve been introduced to all three of you I feel like a little girl who’s stumbled upon treasure box! I keep loving what I’m reading, which is a rare and wonderful feeling.
In the past I would have said that I found spirit and connection in various places – in long talks with friends or time at home with my family…but lately I’ve been finding it with myself too. Reconnecting to the me that existed before my marriage, before my baby…getting in touch with the part of me that loves both silliness and quiet pondering.
I find spirit in my five-year-old son’s exuberant giggle. And in every moment in my garden.
Can’t wait until your book comes out!
P.S. Dani says “hi”.
I learned how to knit about 10 years ago. During the process, I had to concentrate on the “under, over, through” mantra my friend taught me, but now, I find spirit and it finds me in the simple repetition of the knit and purl stitches.
Hi! Dani sent me. So glad to meet you. I’m really looking forward to reading you book, as well as Katrina’s.
I encounter spirit in nature, in a breeze, or sunshine, or the leaves falling from a tree. And I encounter spirit in the people I meet everyday, people I know and don’t know. Spirit is all around me when I open my eyes to see it.
Thanks for the great giveaway!
I find comfort in the joy of my family
I routinely walk the paths of nearby parks where I find I’m surrounded by spirit found in nature and often think what a shame more folks don’t travel these paths that give such inner peace… peace in the calmness and beauty of nature which is free. There are so many reminders in the park of the spirit of family and friends lost. For example, my daughter’s father was an avid tennis player and everytime I go past the tennis court in the park I feel his magnificent spirit. So to me finding spirit is staying connected.
I was just thinking today that my most spiritual and peaceful moments are in the company of my 11 year old labrador retriever.
Spirit is all around and within each of us. I feel Spirit’s presence most in that quiet moment at the end of my practice lying on my yoga mat. At that moment, totally relaxed, acknowledging conscious thoughts and letting them go, knowing that I am totally and utterly safe, being held in the palm of God’s hand, is the moment when I am most aware of spirit.
Spirit must have led me to your blog this morning as I feel hopeful knowing that there are at least three books on mid-life pondering that may offer me some peaceful thoughts. I find Spirit in the simple acts of kindness caringly expressed between and among beings–humans, animals, nature. When we care about & nurture one another in quiet & peaceful ways, that is one of the greatest gifts of life. So, please count me in, and I would be remiss if I did not tell you that I will be sending your good wishes to Katrina & Dani. thank you for writing your book.
My search for spirit comes from within myself. I can’t change my life and wouldn’t want to. I have a great husband, two wonderful children who are on their own and doing fantastic, and I have a nice-size yard to create my gardens.
Sometimes the little problems in life start to creep into my thoughts, is there going to be enough money to get by?; will my health stay good for a while so I can enjoy it all; when am I finally going to lose the extra weight?
When that happens, I tell myself which of those things I can and can’t control and I reach out to cherish the things I can and learn to make the changes I need to accomplish the others.
Please count me in!
Spirit is everywhere… in ourselves, others and the world around us.
I’ve come closest to finding my true spirit while researching my ancestry. Finding out the real story of “what I am made from” has breathed new life into my purpose. One that I am passing on to my children.