“When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we’re finally starting to get somewhere. It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means, what to expect and how it all hangs together. When we are stunned to the place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it’s down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is “Wow,” that’s a prayer.”
Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow
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I watched a girl recently, drinking at a water fountain on her way out of church, 11, beautiful. I watched a boy walk past her slowly, watching her. After he passed and as he walked down the hall he turned repeatedly to look back at her. When he got to the door outside he stopped, waited, went through. He waited again, holding the door open, while the girl and her family wandered, so slowly, down the hall toward him. He held the door for one person, then another, and finally the girl and her family, even her little sister, who was walking even more slowly than the rest—in the opposite direction, even—and her mother, who saw exactly how long the boy had been standing there and was trying to hurry the little sister along.
When they got outside her mother asked, “Who was that boy who held the door for us?”
“Oh, that’s __________,” the girl answered. “He hates me.”
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Folding origami lilies one afternoon with Youngest: we went step-by-step, following diagrams, creasing and unfolding, bending and folding. To her it must have felt like a wrestling match with her square of construction paper. She held up the flat, angular folds after every step. “This doesn’t look like a flower.” She agreed to keep going, though. In the end each of us held a paper flower between our fingers.
Such mystery in all those folds. So much of the process hidden in something that looks not a bit like what you’re trying to make.
* * *
I keep coming back to this: how tempting it is to just try to get things down to a manageable size. How little we see, especially when we think we know. How much time we spend with the thing we’re working on during which it looks nothing like what we’re trying/hoping/struggling to create.
I shy away from mystery. I try to insulate myself from it, knowing it can have painfully sharp edges. I try to fashion my world so it can fit in a nice little box, because I fool myself over and over into thinking that that’s what I want.
And then those moments happen—the ones that knock me off my feet, or shake me up, or give me the tiniest glimpse at the beautiful wildness I’m actually living in, and I realize that’s what I want: to live in that mystery—more than what I’m trying to make for myself, more than anything I could imagine.