Thanks to Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN for having Christy King and me today to read our children’s book, Bartleby. The book is based on a bedtime story that Mark and I have told our kids, and I love sharing it. Also, proceeds from the book (as well as any of my creative projects) benefit our non-profit, Remember Me Mission, that Mark and I founded in 2011.
Finally had some free time in March to complete this special book, and I’m excited to announce that it will be available soon. Proceeds will benefit Remember Me Mission
Bartleby is a special little barnacle you’re sure to love. He’s got a story about being content with who you are and where you land…
The amazing handmade collages were done by my friend (and my kids’ art teacher) Christy M. King. Check out her wonderful work and project ideas.
The book is in publication now and should be available Summer 2016.
If we are to dip our toe in the everlasting
it will be like the seagull who emerges
from the oil
to shake the slick from her feathers
It will be like her going back for more,
saying, “What were we thinking?” and knowing
It will be like sinking.
Then someday we’ll rise from it,
as if from a chattering subway
into an empty station,
to hear God himself
whisper our name.
One poem about traffic. And one poem about stuff our kids say.
Traffic in Nashville
From now on there will only be one way
Into the heart of this buzzing city.
Did you hear? It is true.
All other roads have been dismantled,
A new initiative from the mayor’s office.
And now you must fuss and push this way
While the heat and exhaust beat down
And threaten to suffocate every breath of good will.
It would be better to be the one muddy wildebeest
Who might cross the river unmauled by alligators
Than to be needing something from the store at noon.
But still you press forward with the others,
Black, red, and turquoise, too polite to nudge bumpers.
Did you not hear? It is true. There is only one way now.
(And there will be many texts sent up from this very spot)
There is no other road in the city, save this one,
But you came here for a reason, with a dream, and
By God, you will get through to the other side.
You said I looked like a princess,
And it is such an honor
Coming from you,
You who does not yet know what a compliment
Or a jest is.
You said I looked like a princess
When I came out to make coffee
In my tired, baggy PJs.
You also said you wrote a song
That went like this:
“Pants up, pants down,
All around the town.”
And I think there’s real genius there.
I finally got around to reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things this summer, and I couldn’t help thinking what I thought when I read Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry, Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, and countless others. That is, “I hope doctors will read this.” I have not encountered many truer depictions of grief than what Alma Whittaker experiences when she learns of the death of Ambrose Pike:
There is grief below grief, she soon learned, just as there are strata below strata in the ocean floor—and even more strata below that, if one keeps digging…. There is a level of grief so deep that it stops resembling grief at all. The pain becomes so severe that the body can no longer feel it. The grief cauterizes itself, scars over, prevents inflated feelings. Such numbness is a kind of mercy.
What better required reading for physicians who daily attend to the victims of loss? I wish that the doctors who cared for my father at the end of his life had puzzled over Hanneke de Groot’s words on suffering:
“Well, child, you many do whatever you like with your suffering,” Hanneke said mildly. “It belongs to you. But I shall tell you what I do with mine. I grasp it by the small hairs, I cast it to the ground, and I grind it under the heel of my boot. I suggest you do the same.”
Hers is an exact description of how my father handled pancreatic cancer. Diagnosed just two weeks after the birth of his first grandchild, he only had six months to live, but never accepted his diagnosis. In fact, he denied it quite belligerently. But it didn’t mean he was ignorant or cruel. It would have taken an insightful physician to understand my dad’s grieving process, or at least a well read one.
Medical journals can only take one so far in becoming a great physician. There is an entire literary canon available to doctors in addition to their medical texts that can help them examine the deeper questions of their patients and ask better questions of themselves. Beautifully crafted characters and sentences can help all of us investigate the profundities of human experience. And physicians, as much or more than anyone, should be fluent in this practice. After all, it’s impossible to attend to the human body without eventually being baffled by an encounter with the human soul.
I hope that young doctors won’t leave behind a love for broad reading as they depart their undergraduate institutions to follow the rigorous path of doctoring. For an encounter like one with my dad, there may be only one sentence that matters.
Excerpts from Gilbert, Elizabeth, The Signature of All Things. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.
Outside the Door
Outside the door it is all happening—
A noiseless hum.
Doubt enters with the hand raised to knock—
Just a knock—
Will I be received?
Outside the door it has all already happened—
It’s a story that I drag behind me on wheels.
Before the first exchange
And final diagnosis
There’s a quiet and a weary raised head,
And between an entire world
That will swallow us whole.
I’m just overwhelmed by the beauty of nature this week.
This photo, for instance, taken in the front yard.
And, in perfect timing, a dear friend gave me a book that’s all about finding God in “ordinary time.” I love what the author, Sarah Arthur, says about her reading habits by the seasons: “I read poetry in springtime, novels in the winter, how-to books in autumn and baking recipes. But come summer, suddenly I’m somehow illiterate: creation itself is one long run-on sentence I can’t find the end of.”
For me, it’s this spring that’s making me a little bit illiterate and also reluctant to get anything done indoors. I’m trying to write. This season should make writing almost inevitable with the wealth of inspiration flooding from the trees, the ground, the sky. But for some reason, it’s harder than that. I just want to sit and admire.
I’m currently working on writing several children’s books which has been so much fun. Two years ago,when my husband let me be in charge of the production and publication of his children’s book, Remember Me, I learned a lot about the process, and I realized I wanted to write my own as well.
Many of you know that Remember Me is a book based on the lyrics of one of the most beloved Mark Schultz songs by the same title, and all of the proceeds go to the non-profit Remember Me Mission (www.facebook.com/RememberMeMission). I picked two great Nashville artists, Aaron and Michelle Grayum, to illustrate the lyrics, and the result is beautiful. We’re so proud of this project. You can purchase it on Mark’s website (Mark Schultz web store) or select Nashville locations like Parnassus Books (www.parnassusbooks.net).
And, stay tuned for more updates on my own picture books which will be posted on the FB page (www.facebook.com/katecelaurobooks)
They say I won’t remember this:
Your eyes searching the space between mine,
Where we converge.
I’ll not remember the feel of your fingers curled
around my thumb in sweet instinct,
Or how, being tired, I lie beside you on the floor
While you bat my face with that same palm
As if we are playing a game
And you could never see that there will be
No remembering of this
No recollection but this weak spark
That speaks time but cannot reverse it.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I’m thinking about love in all it’s varied forms, and for some reason also writing poems around a single letter (in today’s case, T).
Here are three poems about love…They’re all different but kind of the same. I guess that’s just how Love is.
The love in friendship crawls
And sidles by,
Sticks around like sand between toes
Outlasting luck and sometimes love
It makes the turn again
Into something ever more
To a T
Take my love as token, talisman, talent,
Truth told twice to turn tides,
Toddler’s toes, tissues tugged
‘Til tattooed trust,
Having a Baby
When you have a baby you give birth
To your own trembling heart
And bring it home for a bit,
Then watch it go
To playgrounds, parties, pools,
And someday lock itself inside another woman’s house
Where it will make the windows glow and beat