"The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays." — Kierkegaard
I am grateful to have a garage that is connected to my home. It makes for easier winters and for fewer distractions when loading my boys up into the car for outings. From the rearview mirror of my car drapes a pair of teal, prayer beads that I bought at The Kripalu Center this past summer. I remember seeing them from across the gift shop and hoping they could be mine. In the center of the necklace dangles a single clear colored bead. I often place that bead between my fingers, smoothing the fibers that hang beneath it before buckling my seatbelt, peering behind me to double-check carseats and then turning the key to start my engine. Something about climbing into my car and heading out on the road makes me more able to breathe, more able to sink into myself as I go. I savor the longer distances of rural living with the boundless trees to get lost in along the way. Journeying to the historical, port-town of Bath has become a favorite excursion for me. The process of creating a memory quilt for a beloved family member has taken me there recently. The owner of the shop that I visit says that her long-deceased grandparents make themselves known in her store quite often. It is my kind of place. The drive is not long, really, but as I drive, time begins to stand still and I feel overcome with a sense of expansiveness. The road widens and so do the possibilities of my life. Noticing the inlets that pepper my travels, noticing the way the water sparkles—like diamonds. Noticing the quiet. There is so much time for noticing. There are so many beautiful things to notice. Adrian, my littler boy, is with me. He is not sleeping, but he is still. Still and looking, too, out his own window.
It has not always been this way. There was a time when I drove this route and felt like a lonely, drifting balloon. I was new to Maine, new to motherhood, and new to driving after a long hiatus of thirteen years. I traveled to Bath for a weekly chiropractic appointment. There they gave out little quotes on tiny slips of paper—like you might find in a fortune cookie. I still have some of them secured to my refrigerator. A favorite reads, “There is nothing that makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is so.” I have noticed this to be true for the beautiful women that I know. There is another one that reads, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I long to make habits of pausing, of noticing, of lingering.
I was invited to attend a mother’s self-renewal group last weekend based on the work of Renee Trudeau. We were asked to bring one item from our homes that represented ourselves. I knew what I wanted my item to be but I also wanted to be certain that my choice was true to who I actually am, not just who I want to be. I asked my bigger boy, Jonah—nearly five years old, now—what item he thought best represented me. I was slightly afraid of what he might say. He might have said the vacuum cleaner, or the stove. He has many times seen me using these things. He might have chosen my phone or any number of books—items that I am frequently holding, perusing. He might have thought of one of my gardening tools or my new, nifty fireproof gloves for building fires in my wood stove. He might have thought of a paint brush. He didn’t say any of these things, though. I was in our kitchen when I posed the question to him and then—looking for his answer—I peered through an opening between where I was and the room where he was and I saw him—I witnessed him. He was standing, warming himself by our wood stove. He was thinking, looking up a little and then he began sort of squinting his eyes tightly, like he was thinking really hard. I relished that moment—his earnestness in answering my question, his deep commitment to connecting me with an object. And then he answered. It was not what I expected or could ever have hoped he would say. He lowered his head back down and he looked at me. “A prayer,” he said.