Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Listen to the Nightingale

Once upon a time- a hundred years ago the smallest children at Holbein’s believed- Madame had been Niura, a little Russian girl living in the country with her grandmother.” ’ Niura,’she used to tell me,” Madame in turn told the children,” ‘listen to the nightingale.’
“Why did she tell you to listen to the nightingale?” asked Archie, an inquisitive boy.
“I think she was trying to tell me that, though I was a dancer first and foremost, there are still other things in the world that I should need- yes, need,” said Madame.
“What sort of things?”
“Oh, cats and dogs, flowers, books, parties, wine and people of course. All things far removed from Lottie. We all need them and I have listened to nightingales and their kind ever since.”
From “Listen to the Nightingale” by Rumer Godden

Lottie is a little girl who has been primed from birth to be a dancer.
Dancing is her life and the expectation that this is to be the focus of her life is emphasized by all those around her.
How Lottie incorporates nightingales in her life forms the theme of the story
I picked this book up to take on a recent trip across the Tasman for “light” reading.
But I knew that because it was written by Rumer Godden it would also have something to say to my soul.
“Listen to the Nightingale” is one of the author’s children’s books.
Until now I have mainly read her adult fiction and biographies. I think the book itself was one of “their kind” for me but it also gave me permission to actively seek other nightingales.
I am a wife and mother. I believe God has called me to these vocations. These are if you like the focus, direction of my life. I could not and indeed it would not be right if I were to devote my time to themes outside these were God not to call me!!.
But the small and important secret is that as I nourish my soul with nightingales my focus or life’s direction is also fed; coloured in if you like by the other experiences I bring to it.

I think this wise fictional grandmother was reminding me that my life can become overly obsessionally directed in its focus if I don’t. How can being a mother, wife become an obsessional focus?
Well I’m thinking I suppose of the homeschooling aspect of mothering where without moving from my chair my eyes graze over titles such as “Ten things Parents must teach their children” “Babies Need Books” “”For the Children’s Sake” ”Education in the Heart of the Home” ”Designing your own classical curriculum” “Beyond Survival” ”Let us Highly Resolve”. Many of these books are favourite friends, and ones I would wholeheartedly recommend to those starting their homeschooling journey, they help me to stay focused.
But a focus needs diversions to survive, to stay fresh and to grow stronger.
Without it the converse applies dryness, burnout being some of the effects.
How have I applied this quote this week? Where are my nightingales? Well since returning home last Thursday I would count the following: a walk Sunday afternoon amongst “wonderfilled” plants. (You should have seen the colours of those dahlias and the shapes those melons could grow into!) with a close friend(thank you Mary)
Noting how Autumn is at last touching our district ,rejoicing in the vibrant reds on our otherwise ordinary trees that dot one of the main roads in our suburb as we drive to Mass. Savoring a cup of white tea(a sweet and subtle flavour from the Fujian mountains). Closing my eyes and remembering the smile, the hug, the touch received from my family.
Listening and watching the birds that visit our yard; such tiny delicate honey eaters come to drink nectar from our parched garden(amazing that they can find nourishment; take joy in the cycles of life).
I remember reading not so long ago how for one woman one of her nightingales was actually her salvation; turned her life around, drew her away from the obsessions in her mind gave her permission to start again. Try it!


Mary said...

You're very welcome! Those melons were something else and I too valued the walk and talk and the hand of friendship - it helped me divert from my own obsessions. You know I have no choice but to read that book now! Hand it over dear friend - put the kettle on while your at it).

jugglingpaynes said...

Sounds beautiful.
My garden is finally coming into bloom. I definitely find it renewing when I go outside. You do need to focus on renewing your spirit at times. I know I've been burning out lately from worries over require testing and quarterly reports and finishing up our year. We need to take care of ourselves to take care of everyone who needs us.

Peace and Laughter,