- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Enjoying August at Home
We aren't getting to the beach this year - which I'm sorry about even though it's because we took a great vacation earlier in the summer instead. Will have to rely on Wordsworth (see my post from last August) to remind me of what I need to remember.
Being at home in August, I can understand why most people around DC are at the beach or somewhere else if they can be. It gets pretty hot, and there's a lazy feeling. But I'm savoring this week, which amounts to my last week of really "open time" at home -- I start regular class meetings next week (will be studying NT Greek with the incoming seminarians - something I've always wanted to do and in that way a "vacation activity" still for me - but it will be hard work and a daily commute). I just want to post a few things about today - my favorite kind of summer day - so I'll remember the peace of this week.
I started the day on the patio watching the birds, as I do every summer morning when it's not raining. It becomes my contemplative prayer time, with that, a cup of tea, a journal, sometimes some reading. Then I came inside, got coffee & lunch together for my husband (a daily ritual), and settled down at the computer for my "butt in the chair" time working on the book I've been writing this summer (I'll be looking to readers of this blog to help me publicize it if I ever get a publisher interested -- working title is something like "Fully alive: Discernment for Discipleship in the 21st cantury" -- lots of themes that started on this blog, and workshops I've been doing, especially with young adults but the audience for the book spans generations I hope).
Anyway, I poked along at that - (yesterday was a really blank day as far as writing went -- couldn't get anything down so I just gave up and did other stuff around the house, feeling frustrated; it paid off b/c I woke up this morning with an idea about how to regroup and fix the chapter I was struggling over).
By about 11:00 I knew I couldn't spend any more time on the computer, and the writing wasn't really going anywhere. It was relatively cool today, so I went out for a walk, taking the printout of my whole MS with me. (It's still very rough but I think I have something down now for all 6 chapters - about 100 pages). I stopped off at my congresswoman, Donna Edwards's office to tell her how heartily I support the passage of Health Care, and her handling of the issue and her response to opposition (more about this in another post) To my astonishment, ran into her in the hallway and was able to say my piece to her, which was fun. Then went in and talked to a staffer. I really feel strongly about this issue. And it felt like "democracy in action" to be able to stop off at her office on a walk around my neighborhood near downtown Silver Spring.
I wound up at Starbuck's, where I bought a "for here" skim chai and spent a couple of hours with my MS and a pen, seeing what parts of the very rough draft work and what parts don't. Discouraging in spots, encouraging in others, but at least I had a little distance and could see what I have -- it is almost the end of the summer and this was to be my "summer project" so it's time for some stock-taking.
Anyway, after that pleasant "writer's time" in Starbuck's, I took a pleasant route back home, one that took me past my neighbors' well groomed yards and lawns. One thing I love about the DC area in August is the crepe myrtles, blooming everywhere, I don't have one in my yard but I love my neighbors' -- Walking through the neighborhood and the park, listening to the cicadas who are singing all day now that it's August (crickets mixed in, perhaps), I have been enjoying the summer day. The rich magentas of the crepe myrtles, the brilliant gold of black-eyed Susans in a sunny garden -- even the somewhat reassuring observation that like me, a lot of my neighbors have been pretty much defeated by the wild grape vines that grow over pretty much everything by this time of the summer. But it's familiar, it's home, it's been a comfortable day to be out enjoying the beauty of my neighborhood, and the fruits of my summer writing-mode - a part of the pattern of academic life that I love, and have never lost track of.
Again a familiarline from Wordsworth comes to mind, one I usually remember late in the summer, from "Tintern Abbey" where he reflects, revisiting a familiar landscape in summer "That in this moment there is light and food/for future years." Looking back I see I quoted this and other parts of that poem in last year's August blog! I guess there's always a certain wistfulness, mingled with the quiet joy of the time, that comes to me in these later weeks of the summer. I still have hours ahead of me now today, and a stack of reading to do - but glad to have the time to give it my full, luxurious attention without any plans or interruptions. Nice to have a little time for blogging, too!
May I remember the pleasant openness of this summer day as the fall routine heats up and this kind of open day for walking, writing and reflecting becomes rare indeed.