Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A New Other World

"Have you ever been up at five o'clock on a fine summer morning? It is very beautiful. The sunlight is pinky and yellow, all the grass and trees are covered with dew diamonds. And all the shadows go the opposite way to the way they do in the evening, which is very interesting and makes you feel as though you were in a new other world."
-E. Nesbitt Five Children and It

Well, I'm finally posting after a month of silence. Is there anyone left reading?!

Our summer has been so full, it has been difficult to find the space mentally to write and once I stopped it was hard to begin again. It makes me appreciate even more my husband's ability to write, fitting his writing in between classes and office hours, or late at night when we are all asleep!

Don't get me wrong, I love summer: there are a million and one ways to spend a day and the freedom to do it. Yet by August I begin to look forward to the more structured routines of normal life. With all of the fun of summer, I've found it difficult not just to blog but to have time read, write, reflect...

And so, I have begun a new habit of waking up in the early morning. I'm loving it so much, I hope it will continue into the Fall but it may just be for this season of my life. I know there are seasons it certainly wouldn't have worked--the last months of pregnancy, night-wakings with a nursing baby, lots of late nights in a row. But though my days have been busy, I've been getting good sleep for the first time in a long while! And though I'd covet a few more minutes of sleep, the idea of time all to myself to do with as I please, is enough to get me going.

What do I do with these hours to myself?

It's been varied. But mainly I have good coffee and good books, time in prayer and Scripture, and end with a run and a shower.

Time to experience quiet. Experience peace. Experience beauty. The Nesbitt quote above says it so well. In the early morning, when the house is hushed, all seems good and fresh and new. And a hope and a desire build that the day will continue this way. Okay, with a house of little ones, it will never stay hushed, it shouldn't, right?! Not so quiet then, but an inner peace that overflows and fills the house.

Have you noticed how a mother's mood infects an entire household?

I know when I don't get this personal space, I become impatient and irritable, snapping instead of training, ignoring instead of correcting. I also get an overwhelming desire for escape and so can fritter away time on a project or on the internet. I am not present to the people and tasks at hand. I do dishes and daydream. I fold laundry and mentally compose an email. I cook dinner and
plan meals for the week. It is no wonder I then do not enjoy these tasks.

The message our culture sends us is "faster is better; more is better." Susan Wise Bauer writes in the recent magazine article entitled, "Stop cleaning the kitchen and read a book" in the The Classical Teacher that to take the time to read a good book

"pushes back against our society, which tells us that the faster we work, the more we do, the more we produce and accumulate and experience, the better we are...But classical self-education helps us reorient ourselves away from that which is a market ethic. Speed and productivity are not moral goods. It is not ethically superior to do more and to be faster. Reading to yourself in the mornings, instead of doing something else (something "productive") pushes back against the speed ethic, the 'more is better' ethic. It resists the message that says to us: In order to be worthwhile, you must produce something tangible. When you choose to read instead of clean the kitchen you are refusing to accept that your worth as a person is measured by the visible results that you produce in the world. You are asserting, instead, that your worth as a person is based on who you are and who you were created to be...created in the image of God."

And so I may be tempted in this time to plan. I love my lists! Plan our day, our lessons, our grocery list, but I want to resist that. I may be tempted to catch up on internet reading, facebook, emails, but I want to resist that. Not that these things are in themselves problematic, but once the day begins there is little time for reflection or reading or sustained prayer. We always must respond to the urgent--the skinned knee, the hungry belly, the dirty bum. A moment of calm and we decide to de-clutter a desk, send an email, call the doctor, get a head start at dinner (all at the same time!). By the time the children are in bed, we feel like falling into bed ourselves but resist for time with our spouse, a favorite show, an entertaining book, our latest hobby. Picking up the stuff of real meat is rarely likely. Susan Wise Bauer's words are helpful but they are not new. The need for mothers to continue in self-education is of vital importance, evidenced even in the 1892 journal edited by the educator Charlotte Mason entitled "Mother Culture":
"There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children's childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their there not some need for "mother culture"? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, "I simply have no time for myself!" "I never read a book!" Or else, "I don't think it is right to think of myself!" They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification... Each mother must settle this for herself. She must weigh things in the balance. She must see which is the most important--the time spent in luxuriously gloating over the charms of her fascinating baby, or what she may do with that time to keep herself "growing" for the sake of that baby "some day," when it will want her even more than it does now...The wisest woman I ever knew--the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend--told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, "I always keep three books going--a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!" That is the secret; always have something "going" to grow by."

And so, I've been waking up "at 5 o'clock on a fine summer morning" and have found myself in a "in a new other world." One of books and ideas, freedom and peace, reflection and truth, Word and Light.


Jessica said...

I'm still reading! :)

I like getting up early too, though I can usually just manage 1/2 hr.-1 hr. before the kids. But that's my writing time, and the quiet at the beginning of the day makes me much more able to handle the noise of the rest of the day well.

Your quotations get me thinking, because while I agree that sometimes it might be right to skip the dishes to read a book, I think that is more the exception than the rule. I think more often we have to fit our pleasures around our duties - or make the duty of training our minds fit around the duty of keeping everyone fed.

It goes back to the idea that if you choose one thing, you are NOT choosing millions of other things. Especially with little kids, often you simply must choose the dishes, the diapers, the clean-up . . . in faith that in a few years you can all choose the books together.

MomCO3 said...

Ditto on the reading.
The morning is my time as well... it sets the tone for my whole day. It almost sounds, though, like your morning time is several hours... =) I hope it feels that way, too.

Kerry said...

I saw that Susan Wise Bauer article, too. At the time I was thoroughly immersed in a wonderful book (Digging to America by Anne Tyler). It made me feel much better. :) Of course there is a balance (as Jessica mentions), but I consciously have to choose to read a book because the house is trying to guilt me into submission. LOL!

I'm an early riser, too. Unfortunately, I'm also a night-owl. I have to really force myself to get to bed at a reasonable hour (10:30 or 11) so that I can get up at 6. I do find I need a power nap in the early afternoon - but after years of practice, my body takes a perfect 20-minute rest.

I love the hushed house. I love the thin-blue light of the morning hours slowly growing richer and fuller as the sun comes up. I love having a bit of mental space and physical space, too.

Amy said...

I'm so glad to hear that you are all still reading and reading good books too.
We're away again this week so hubby can have a writing retreat so I've fallen off the wagon. (well, I'm still getting up at 5 but so are the kids :-()

Looking forward to getting home and back to our routines.

What a beautiful comment Kerry!

I'll think of all you as my "cloud of witnesses" when I struggle to get out of bed next week!

And Jessica, you've given me much to think about with the idea of faith for the future with little ones and also our duties as wives, mothers, and women. Hope to post more soon!

Allie said...

I would love to be that early morning person, but I truly am a night owl...and have been so for 31 years! I have recently begun to consider the fact that our lives probably would be simpler if I would get up earlier, but I know that it would take a lot of training to get me to bed earlier. You've inspired me to seriously consider some changes though, some that may just be necessary with the coming school year!


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