Do you have a lodestar book?
One that explains your self to yourself?
One that you can read in any season of life and it still instructs, comforts, and inspires you?
Like this one?
I have read this book at least four times.
I come back to some passages nearly every year.
This novel tells the story of the artist as a young woman
and how she finds her calling as an opera singer.
For me, the heart of the book has always been the section called “The Ancient People,”
set in Panther Canyon among the cliff dwellings in northern Arizona.
Thea Kronborg arrives in this place from Chicago as a broken person who has studied both piano and voice.
She was stuck.
Her voice was weak in the middle range. She was ready to give up her dream of becoming an artist.
She lets go of her striving, even lets go of her dream. She’s tired.
Do you see that note written on the upper lefthand side?
I think I was in my 30’s when I penned those words imagining an epitaph.
I already “knew” where my older years were headed!
I was “seeing” the truth in this sentence. I was feeling it inside my body.
“The things which were for her, she saw.”
When I found these words, and my marginal note, yesterday, I felt “it” again.
Energy zipped through me. I sat up straight. My eyes focused.
Cather’s words later in the chapter go deeper into the sensory and mystical and physical process.
Why was I going back to Willa Cather yesterday?
I needed new language, better language, for the idea of calling. I was trying to answer the challenge
from a new friend, Judith Valente, who wrote,
“Sometime I would love you to write on how you base decisions on whether you sense a call in your inner life that resonates with an outer call. That would be very worthwhile reading for women like me who tend to do too much!”
me that no amount of study, desire, and even spiritual practice, protects us from
accumulating more (good things!) than we can handle.
I had just turned down a very attractive invitation, one full of opportunity and pleasing to my ego,
but, ultimately, not one I felt called to.
I had had an external call, but not an internal one. Which is why Judith challenged me to explain.
I chuckled when I read the “women who do too much” part of her challenge.
Then I remembered another book.
This book survived four moves and many book give-aways.
Unlike the lodestar book, it contains few underlinings. However, I opened it up to one of the few red markings:
Yes. A calling is just a series of moments that move and grow and have being inside you.
The only two words I remember from reading Anne Wilson Schaef in the 1990s?
She named a place in the body, right below the rib cage,
where, for her, the external world and internal worlds come together.
Apparently, I have a similar make-up.
On the Meyers-Briggs test I am an INFJ. My N (intuition) is the dominant characteristic by far.
However, you don’t have to experience “Spidey senses” to learn from your inner teacher.
I believe our bodies contain wisdom and that they were designed to be God’s gift to us,
linking the physical to the spiritual.
Back to Judith’s question:
How (do) you base decisions on whether you sense a call in your inner life
that resonates with an outer call?
There are no absolute answers to this question.
But there are many signs.
When calling is aligned internally and externally,
my heart beats faster. I lose my physical hunger. My fingers fly over the keyboard.
I even sing like Thea in Panther Canyon:
“She had begun to understand that — with her at least — voice was, first of all, vitality; a lightness in the body and a driving power in the blood. If she had that, she could sing. When she felt so keenly alive, lying on that insensible shelf of stone, when her body body bounded like a rubber ball away from tis harness, then she could sing.”
With words as my medium, I try to “bend it like Beckham” —
find that arc in the universe where opposites,
a line and a circle, come together,
as I know they will some day.
Cather hated formulas. But she wanted Thea’s world to open up other inner worlds.
So one can extract a series of actions from this book (bend it like Thea) which are ones I often take when in doubt:
Go into a natural place: a woods, garden, lake, ocean, canyon, . . .
Feel the sun on your face. Lie down on a blanket in the sun.
Let go of mind chatter. Move past silence to stillness. Become aware of your body.
Remember yourself as a child. What made your heart sing?
Talk to trusted friends.
In making my most recent decision, I did all of these. But # 5 was most important.
Fortunately, I am blessed by friends.
The first is often my husband.
One of them is even an expert on spirit and the body.
Two of them followed their callings into college presidencies and
know a thing or two about this process and about lodestar books.
Another friend, was my confessor after the decision was made.
All of them asked me good questions. None of them gave me advice.
But when I said I didn’t feel the calling in my body, they all understood.
Judith Valente challenged me to go further in describing the calling process.
So it was fun to turn to another new friend, Judith Trumbo,
business person of the year for Rockingham County, and ask her to describe how she experiences calling.
She too finds time in nature essential to knowing herself, finding refreshment, and making decisions.
Judith cited the famous quote from Frederick Buechner:
“The place to which God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Judith followed her heart into the healthcare profession.
She worked for a time as a critical care nurse and there she was prompted to search for something different.
She knew, even at a young age, that her calling was to help people
“live well, age well, and end well.”
I guess you can see why we are friends. 🙂
I serve on the board of her organization, which I suppose you could say makes me her boss.
But, as I told her on International Women’s Day, when we expressed appreciation for each other,
“Who says role models need to be older than you?”
The lovely Psalm 42 explains how our connections to each other are also connections to the creation and creator:
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
One person’s calling can pull forth the calling of another.
Willa Cather and Thea Kronborg gave me language for my own experience.
As I have written these words,
I have felt a lightness of being.
I sent Stuart out the door to take his walk without me.
I left my red chair only long enough to put a cheese cauliflower in the oven.
Which I am now ravenous for!
Two hours after my usual lunchtime, I am ready to eat again, to walk in the sunshine,
and to say thanks for friends and beauty and the body, mind, and spirit all connected
in ways far too wonderful for me to understand
but not too wonderful to appreciate.
Now, it’s your turn. Please share YOUR lodestar books, the ones you have visited more than once or the ones that have helped guide your steps or named your calling. Also, do you relate to the idea of the body as a source of wisdom?