A Haines Home Companion: The Brave Woman
I would know better to do it, but if you were to come and see me, in my heart, I’d be thinking, Oh please come let me show you our library. It’s so beautiful. It may be my favorite place, more reverently quiet than church ever dreamed of being. Not until you have headspace do you realize how you’d been without it. A thought spins out and strings to another. I’m walking up the stairs, tying them together.
I walk down the isle to the poets. In my years here, I have only ever piled up the children’s books, and only once did I request they put a self-help book aside for me.
A mother gets so little quiet. She forgets herself and the women she used to admire in secret, the prods of Virginia Woolf and Lisel Mueller. It’s been so long since I’ve done more than run my finger down their spines. Poetry is for the lonely voice inside, and motherhood can be lonely enough, too scary to enter in, afraid of echoes I might hear.
Lately I’ve felt the great need for courage else I die, so I’m not afraid of the lonely voice anymore. If I’m to write anything at all, I’ll have be well acquainted with these deeper waters with God.
I have struggled so to release the guilt of enjoying what I do. That sounds insane and shackled, I know, but I bet I’m not alone. I’m terrified that if I enjoy it, or worse – if YOU enjoy what I do, then I’ll worship it. I won’t fit my britches. I’ll turn into someone terrible and shirk my responsibilities. What if I hire help and never fold my own laundry again? What of my womanhood? Well, it’s decided now. I’m allowed to find joy in the work I’m called to do, and I’m allowed to release the work to which I am not called. I would love to say this means that I’ll no longer be putting up my own clothes. But that’s not true.
An hour at the library reminds me that I used to be brave. Once I exchanged courage for peace, an overwhelming desire to see my own two feet in a firm place, not just throwing myself on a fast little pony, hollering as I go. I see now that my old pony has done its tricks. I’ve taken her to stall and tied her up. Now I have birthed these four babies and lost four others. I have seen marriage raise from the dead. I have held my baby in arms all night long, memorizing his face in case I never saw it again.
And I have peace now. My feet are exactly where they’re supposed to be. I stand in the library with fire in my bones. I love it here. I love the lonely places in my heart and God’s mysterious will for my life. He has said left and then right, and here I am at the large bay window lined with tables, here at the bronze sculpture made by Anita Huffington’s gorgeous hands.
She took poetry classes with me. Her hair long wisps of gray, she’s a ballerina, pale body. You could hear her pencil scoot and call it beautiful. I saw her in the grocery store a few months ago, and she remembered that I left academics to birth the many boys. In her day, she danced, the sculptress, and it’s said she found lovers and dearest friends of the poets who line these shelves.
The bronze sculpture is a bare-breasted woman twisted out of bark like a mermaid swimming into herself. I had forgotten that it’s here. Brave woman, I am not afraid to be like you, lonely as you are in the art. I know I must swim into God.