Life right now is all about watching the giant magnolia tree over our chicken run slowly unfold its blossoms.
Life right now is also a forecast of cold and (though I refuse to accept it) snow that might put an end to these pink petals over the weekend. In other words, life right now is beautiful and hard.
Life right now is discovering that a few of the rafters in our roof were resting on air, the original chestnut beam having rotted away long ago. But life right now is also our new friend, Dr. B. (“Doctor of Old Houses”), who promptly left his scaffolding, drove over to his own old house, and picked up a replacement chestnut beam he had handy.
Right now, I am reading books by the bow-window in my bedroom and watering seedlings that sit beneath grow lights in the basement.
I am loving Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. While at work on the novel that would become the Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See (yes, he’s that Anthony Doerr), Doerr was the recipient of an award to live and write for a year in Rome. He found out about the award the day his twin sons were born.
Writers begin as observers, and Doerr models this beautifully. This is a memoir of Rome, of parenthood (and insomnia), and the writer’s craft. It is also a book that gives me hope. As readers, we know that during the period Doerr writes about he is engaged in a creative effort that will succeed beyond anything he can imagine. And yet, Doerr struggles with insecurity, doubt, writer’s block, culture shock, and the exhaustion of parenting infant twins.
For all of us, life can feel impossibly difficult, but this book reminds me that no matter how each individual day feels, our days are adding up to something beautiful and meaningful.
I also recently finished Addie Zierman’s new memoir Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark. On the surface, this is a memoir about one mom’s rather desperate road trip escape from Minnesota’s winter toward the beckoning sunshine of Florida’s beaches.
Zierman brings her two young sons along for what turns out to be more of a search for the light of God’s presence than southern sunshine. The faith of her young adulthood was fiery and intense, but that kind of faith flickered and dimmed long ago. Zierman hits the road in search of a God who often seems hidden and silent. Whether or not you relate to Zierman’s phase of life or the trajectory of her spiritual journey, I recommend this book. Zierman is a gifted writer, and this memoir is incredibly well crafted. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.
I recently shared my writing in a few new places around the web.
First, I wrote On Tears (And Other Blessings) for my friend and fellow writer, Sara Hagerty. I have given Sara’s first book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet to more than a few friends (and sisters).
Second, I shared some family stories in a piece on love and grief for my friend, Mary Bonner. The day I sent this reflection via email turned out to be the day Mary’s mother’s health suddenly declined. She didn’t read my words until she’d returned from her mother’s funeral almost two weeks later. By then, the words I wrote were for her, but perhaps they are for you, as well.
The first Roots and Sky online book club continues! Laura Brown is leading a thoughtful discussion, and you can even find recordings (two so far) of me reading chapters from the book. Here are week one (thresholds), week two (testimony), and week three (winter).
“Without habit, the beauty of the world would overwhelm us. We’d pass out every time we saw – actually saw – a flower. Imagine if we only got to see a cumulonimbus cloud or Cassiopeia or a snowfall once a century: there’d be pandemonium in the streets.” – Anthony Doerr, Four Seasons in Rome
I loved Four Seasons in Rome, and I loved Addie’s memoir, too. Life over here is also beautiful and hard (and I’m hoping, like you, that the snow doesn’t actually fall this weekend). Your words are always a balm, Christie.
Thanks for being here, Katie. I wonder if I have ever recommended a book you haven’t already read? You are my reading hero! 🙂
You and your magnolia tree have been on my mind all week as I have enjoyed watching the ones in our neighborhood burst into bloom! And both these books sounds wonderful – thanks for the recommendations 🙂
The magnolia still looks lovely this morning, even after last night’s cold and snow. I’m hoping tonight won’t be as cold as predicted.
I recently put Four Seasons in Rome on my to-read after listening to Anne Bogel’s podcast. I mean, twins, writing, and Rome!? Sounds like a win to me! 🙂
I think you’ll love it, Danielle.
Thanks for the wonderfully inspiring post and of for the AMAZING pic of your magnolia tree. Very beautiful!
While the magnolia is quite nice, your writing in Roots and Sky is even prettier. I’ve been reading a section each day for a few weeks now, taking my time in hopes of prolonging the inevitable last page. I love a lovely sentence, and you offer an abundance. Thank you for your work.
Blessings and peace,
Thank you, Darrel. Your words are like honey. I am grateful.
Have you ever read the books by Gladys Taber? It struck me tonight after reading your guest posting of farmhouse shelves that you very well may be kindred spirits with her. 🙂
Joy in the risen Lord,
Sarah, I know her name, but don’t think I’ve ready any of these. Thank you!!
Dear Christie: I read this post back when it was published, and your good opinion of Four Seasons in Rome stuck fast somewhere in my mind. I’ve just finished it, right on the heels of All the Light We Cannot See, and came back to thank you for the recommendation. How I laughed and marveled to find another writer-parent whose 3am thoughts jump to illogical (but completely possible) conclusions, and how it gives me hope to “[be afflicted] with Attention Surplus Disorder so I can see what is in front of my face” (Tom Andrews)! Doerr mentions “[hunting] down the most vivid details” so that a story can “help its reader refine, perceive, and process the world,” and this reminds me of your writing, which is — even in grief — so often a collection of striking details that together spell out the range and the feel and the hope of Christ’s redemption. So, thank you, and thank you.