Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the antidote to exhaustion

So you know how it is when you read a book you love, and then you read that book again the very next day. You're soaked in it, and you don't want to leave the world you were in and you don't want to read anything else, maybe ever. Though you know you will. The writer part of you starts making promises to yourself. About how you will write after this, how you will think, and mostly feel, and how your next book will be. This is the way it's been for me with Marilynne Robinson's Lila. (I've put it on the recommended shelf above). I don't want to talk about it, and I don't want to read any of the reviews. If you haven't read Gilead, or Home, you might want to read those first. And I can tell you her books aren't for everyone. Well, what decent book is.

So last night I came home from my library shift, a bit before 10:00. I needed something to peruse before bed, so picked up a book I'd already read to dip into. Diane Ackerman's Dawn Light. (Also on recommended).

And I must have read this part before, but in this reading, it just jumped out at me. Page 152.

She's talking about fatigue, exhaustion. She's quoting from a passage in David Whyte's Midlife and the Great Unknown, where the author meets a monk to whom he confides about feeling "bone-weary, waterlogged, and windless."

"His friend listens with concern in the dwindling hours of the night, and then says something that still gives me pause: "You know the antidote to exhaustion is not rest. It's wholeheartedness." "

Okay, that's so wonderful, I'm going to repeat it.

"The antidote to exhaustion is not rest: it's wholeheartedness."  

Coffee, I think is also nice.

And yesterday, because it was Ursula Le Guin's birthday, this quotation popped up on the all the social media sites:

“I think sometimes about old painters—they get so simple in their means. Just so plain and simple. Because they know they haven’t got time. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.”

So I have Robinson's Lila, rattling in my brain for three days, and then I come upon the line about wholeheartedness, the line about not wasting time (which is my longtime personal writing advice to myself). I'm thinking about old painters, I'm thinking about the time I have left. I'm so bloody exhausted. But also, suddenly, not.

The night before last, I went outside after dinner, and the light was that old and tired and glorious light we get in mid to late October. And I drank it in. I tell you, it doesn't last long at all, not in my yard. It reaches into the low spots only selectively. Eases through the apple tree and onto the bits we still haven't cleaned up yet and maybe won't.

When the light had gone, I looked up and there was this bird singing up in the neighbour's tree. Illuminated, just so. 

And I don't know what to say about it either, but you can imagine how it made me feel. 


  1. So lovely. And thank you for the 'wholeheartedness' quote. Stick-worthy, that.

  2. You've made me look forward to Lila even more than I already was. Though I'm in no rush -- I'd love to re-read Gilead & Home (again!) first. And, yes, that 'wholeheartedness' quote -- that's a keeper. And the light on that bird, just so, like golden filigree. So glad that you keep looking for the magical for us!

  3. Thx to you both. Sarah - I'm doing the opposite - re-reading the others now :) But your way is equally good.

  4. I love the post so much.
    Thank you also for the reminder to enjoy what is right in front of us. Those precious gifts of nature and song.


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