Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood II: Solitude

“ I am too alone in the world
But not alone enough
To make each hour holy.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Solitude is enriching. My life here is rich in solitude, rich in the pursuit and nourishment of beauty, but when our daughter arrive this past summer, I realized that the time of aloneness I enjoyed while my husband worked would never be mine again, the silence of the trees is interrupted now by the happy chatter, and not-so-happy wailing of Petka, who eats up attention as quickly as she can get it, always hungry for more. With her around, I need to hunt for a purer solitude, finding it in late nights or early mornings, while she and my husband sleep, or days when I can disappear for a few hours. I find myself more appreciative of the time I do manage to carve out for silence and reflection, and I find myself loving the imperfect solitude, the inner silence in the face of the daily sounds.

I thought recently of the many desert fathers who, longing for a life alone with Christ, retreated to the wilderness only to find they’d been followed by scores of enthusiastic young monks in need of a spiritual father. No vocation is entirely as we imagine it to be. This morning I’m up at four, listening to the rain pounding and to the wind. It’s December, and I’m grateful that we still have rain instead of snow. I like to spend these early mornings letting the solitude wash over me, watching the gold on the icons flicker in the lamp-light, preparing to do something great with the coming day. Today, it will be dishes and shoring up the road if the rain lets up.

With Petka, there is still a partial solitude to the days. She’s here, present and demanding, but she isn’t an adult, her demands are different. She and I live the day together. I write, while she grabs at my pen. I sweep while she grips the broom handle, determined to help. We walk the land together, laughing at Luba’s antics, at the birds in the sky, at the wind in the trees. She reminds me to really see the world around me, as she sees everything for the first time - studying it all with her upper lip stuck out and her eyes wide. My times of true solitude are richer for it. My daughter, the student of life.

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