You who love words and books, you know this. The inability to stop reading a story. The not caring what other responsibilities are sitting to the side. The vaguely conscious decision of being okay with missing an obligation and figuring out an excuse later.
I was supposed to be writing my blog post after lunch today. I promised myself, after not getting time to write yesterday and being cranky about it.
Now it’s today.
I eat my lunch (hummus, tzatziki, chunks of fresh tomatoes, pepper ham, oh yum). While eating, I read Natalie Goldberg’s new book Let The Whole Thundering World Come Home. I finish lunch. I keep reading.
I can’t see a clock from where I’m sitting, and I don’t care. I know I promised myself I would write the post, and I don’t care. I keep reading.
How can I stop reading when someone offers me the truest, barest, words of their shot-through-the-heart life?
Natalie’s words in this book are stark. She offers no consolation and no place to hide, not for herself and not for me. I can’t stop reading. These words are her life, everyone’s life, pared to the bone.
Finally, I am done, the book finished, Natalie’s story complete for now.
I feel like crying. Empathy, recognition, sorrow, relief, love for a fellow human being.
I decide I’d rather write than cry. I get up and walk to my studio at the opposite end of the house. I carry Natalie’s book with me. I am still wrapped in the experience of her story.
I sit at my work table. I pull loose leaf paper towards me. I pick up a pencil. I don’t start writing. Instead, I remember a September afternoon, years ago. It is the third or fourth day of a silent writing and meditation workshop. The air is warm. There is no air conditioning. I can smell the wood of the building, hot from the sun. We are doing walking meditation, a slow circle around the room. Natalie walks beside each of us in turn, taking our hands, gentle, quiet.
“You’ve got it,” she says to me, smiles wide, and moves to the person behind me.
Why am I remembering this?
The woman who walked beside me for a few moments was teaching me to find the truth in my words, and to settle for nothing less than meeting and loving my life and writing with both hands and my whole heart.
I am not all the way there yet, to the deepest truth, but I am walking the life that stands before me every day, finding a way to love all of it, laying one truest word after another.
Thank you, Natalie, for your hand, your heart, your words, and your teaching. You are present in your books in my studio, every day whispering “You’ve got it.”
In this post,
Natalie Goldberg, book Let The Whole Thundering World Come Home: a memoir, Shambhala Publications, 2018. http://nataliegoldberg.com/