beautiful writing and pictures by Nikaela, enjoy her prayer.
A mother’s prayer:
I fantasize about silence. When my boys are gone I hear my feet on the floor and the knife on the cutting board. These sounds are a luxury. When my boys are home the older one is talking and it sounds like this:
“They all sweep off into the whispering night with their friend the manta ray oh no baby bat ray in the twilight of death. Downwards in the murky twilight they swim on. The baby calf was just born but the giant whale can SMASH waves with its giant tale. The ray, the sperm whale and the blue whale all sleep together. But THEN! ANOTHER friend of theirs swims on. It WAS: … THE RHINO!! They both walked on. ANYBODY WANT TO SEE!? There are so many of us and we are the ONLY ones that ARE. OF. THE. Twilight.”
The toddler’s sounds are softer, like a siren underwater. My fantasies continue. When my boys are home I wipe things a lot. I wipe the counter and the backs of chairs and I grab an arm to wipe a hand. The dishcloth is dirty. I fantasize about sanitation and a life that doesn’t produce residue. I imagine a day where no one has jam on their hands. There is grit: in their characters and mine and on the floor and under my fingernails. Sometimes a chair is overturned and the smallest boy surfs it like a surfboard. Sometimes a mouse is caught in a trap behind the piano and it cries.
Having young children is like living in a Greek tragedy in which strange gods throw lightning bolts willy-nilly – a fever; a tantrum; a soiled bath. The best intentions thwarted. I find a bug on the head of a boy and a new chore emerges: the scalp examination takes an hour a day. He sits on the floor between my legs and I comb his scalp for lice eggs and nits and my neck strains to hold my head down. But then the bugs are gone I miss chore and the ritual of it – the turning of his small head in my hands – his ears and the soft hollow running down the back of his neck.
Here is my prayer:
Give me courage in the face of noise. Bring me to my knees so I can better look bravely, each day, into the faces of my children. Reveal order running parallel with the chaos. For it does, doesn’t it? Discipline is not the opposite of desire, but the refinement of it; order is not the opposite of chaos but the measure of it. I crave solitude and silence because I imagine them refining and freeing me, but doesn’t this Greek tragedy life do just that? My soul might end up feeling just as trapped by silence as does is by the uproar. I may end up being just as distracted by cleanliness as I am by grit.
So my fantasies change: Do not give me silence. Do not give me cleanliness. Thank you for this thunder and this burden; for the boy yelling about great white sharks in the kitchen and the one drawing with marker on the wall. This commotion contains me while honing my desires for stillness. So it is not through the fulfillment of my fantasies that I am fulfilled, but through the realization that the obstacles between them and me are their fuel. Thank you for my fantasies and their impossibility; for the wild freedom within this form. Thank you, because my response to quotidian pleasure is sharpened and I am emptied, finally, of myself. “So we struggle and we stagger down the snakes and up the ladder, to the tower, where the blessed hours chime”. Amen.
Words and pictures by Nikaela Peters