Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Circle of Quiet

Every so often I need out; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody - away from all these people I love most in the world - in order to regain a sense of proportion...

My special place is a small brook in a green glade, a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings. There's a natural stone bridge over the brook, and I sit there, dangling my legs and looking through the foilage at the sky reflected in the water, and things slowly come into perspective...the birds sing more sweetly there than anywhere else; or perhaps it's just that when I am at the brook I have time to be aware of them, and I move slowly into a kind of peace that is marvelous, "annihilating all that's made to a green thought in a green shade." If I sit for a while, my impatience, crossness, frustration, are indeed annihilated, and my sense of humor returns.

- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet, 1972


I'm hoping for such a place the next four days. My own circle of quiet. Maybe it will be during the five hour plane ride. Maybe it will be a walk out to the harbor. Or a scenic drive down a New England road. Maybe it will be in the silent moments of introspection while I listen to other women chin-wag. L'Engle's words startled me. She said it without apology. But it is true. Sometimes I need "out" - time away from the people I love most.

It will be a period of discovery. For all of us.


I'm taking Madeleine with me. Smitten by her Crosswicks Journals, A Circle of Quiet is the second I've read, but you needn't read them in order. Any one, at any time, will move you to places you'll wish you had traveled sooner. Her words are timeless, her wisdom sound. I want to live like her. Observant, lucid, and aware of all the richest meaning.

Annie is also coming along. I haven't begun her novel yet, The Maytrees, but I've been clamoring to crease the first page open. How can you go wrong with Dillard? Her language is like water. It is sustenance. It is life. Dillard captures the beauty of the human landscape in such a way you feel you've been privy to something sacred. Something so holy it would be sacrilege to share it with Everyone.

I leave for Boston tomorrow morning.

And then onto Portsmouth.

I have laundry to finish, a pasta dish to make, the house to tidy, bags to pack, six bodies to hold, and six faces to kiss goodbye. I'm leaving the people I love most in the world. They're my reason for going. But I hope to return toting perspective and proportion to last us a good while.

I'll tell you all about it when I'm back. After I've found my circle of quiet.

After I've opened the door to the warmth of home, knowing this is exactly where I belong.


  1. "Her words are timeless, her wisdom sound. I want to live like her. Observant, lucid, and aware of all the richest meaning."

    --exactly how i would have described reading your blog. you are my idol. no joke.

    have the best time.

  2. That was beautiful. We all need a circle of quiet. I think it makes those we love the most mean even more. It's so important to rejuvenate!

  3. blessings to you on your journey sweet girl. xox

  4. Can't wait to experience the same things! See you there!

  5. thanks for the recommendations-- I just found both books on Amazon for one cent each.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. Have a fabulous time, Catherine, I would love to be there!

  7. Catherine, I can't wait to hear how the Retreat went. Oh, I wish I could have been there, but my "Circle of Quiet" will need to wait a bit. I'm hopeful we'll meet soon!

  8. Catherine I so enjoyed meeting you and being the designated "greeter" with you! Hoping you went home as relaxed and inspired as I did. Hope to meet again sometime! Pam

  9. I read your interview on The Mormon Women Project. I think you are a amazing! I have three boys, 3, 5, and 7, and that has been overwhelming at times. Every situation has its potential for learning. I've been learning to look for the cuteness in my child's face to help nurture that motherly love. When we focus too much on how hard things are, we don't feel the love as keenly. I love motherhood for what it is teaching me. And love learning from other women's motherhoods, as well, like yours. Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. I love Madeleine L'Engle -- and I loved this book -- and how wonderful that we met.

    It felt quiet just reading this post and seeing your photos.

    Looking forward to being in touch -

  11. You picked the perfect time to come! Last week was gorgeous, this week it has cooled down a lot and starting to feel like winter. I live just outside of Boston. Great to read your story! You know the funny thing, I'm dying to move to Utah where we used to live. Of course if we did, I know I'd miss it here a lot, so you just can't win once you've lived in both places I guess!


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