Friday, September 17, 2010

Reading McKillip

I think that when I grow up, I want to be Patricia Mckillip. Which could be discouraging, because when she was my age she'd had eight books published and won the Newberry. But I don't think that she'd had four kids. I'll take the trade. (And yes, #4 is still in utero, but I swear that he's taking more time and energy than the other three combined right now, just in the amount of extra sleep that been extracted this summer).

In the last month I've read Od Magic and Alphabet of Thorns, (together with a smattering of her short fiction from Harrowing the Dragon). McKillips prose is some of the best out there and the worlds she creates so rich, so layered, that I can actually get lost in them. Putting the book down can be like exiting the theater. "Oh, it's still light out. I had no idea--"

After spending a large chunk of yesterday reading, I could actually feel the need to transition. My head was swirling and it was a good thing, lost in speculation on the nature of magic and the power of words--but I had a first grader getting off the bus in ten minutes, and I needed to be ready to hear about recess and the bus ride, to provide hugs and snacks and start working on dinner. A completely different good thing.

This, I think is what has been one of the hardest things about trying to write over the years. It's not finding the time to write exactly, but I want to be able to submerge myself in the writing and reading--and that requires an emotional and mental energy that is not natural to parenting small children. It's not easily interruptible. I can't lose myself in ten minute allotments between loads of laundry and while keeping one ear open to negotiate squabbles.

I'm reminded of the Olympic biatholon. I'm told that one of the challenges of this sport is that the cross country skiing drives the athlete's heart rate up, while target shooting is most natural while one is calm, with a low heart rate.

I'm not sure that I have any answers. But maybe being able to articulate the problem a little more clearly will be able to clarify things a little. But I think that the start of an answer may be here: this is essentially the same set of concerns that swim around the issues of spirituality and religion and that so plague the church. We have an innate desire for our spirituality to be transcendent, to be able to lose ourselves in worship, to be able to touch the infinite. And yet the reality of Christian discipleship is mostly carried out in the frustratingly mundane. Christ does not pull us out of this world, but rather comes down into it with us--and sets about showing us how to interact with it. Hmm.