and she asked me to sweep the floor. I fetched the broom-
stick to humor her, but I thought I’d better have the
housework problem out with her right away.
“I don’t like cleaning or dusting or cooking or doing
dishes, or any of those things,” I explained to her.
“And I don’t usually do it. I find it boring, you see.”
“Everyone has to do those things, ” she said.
“Rich people don’t,” I pointed out.
Juniper laughed, as she often did at things I said
in those early days, but at once became quite
“They miss alot of fun,” she said. “But quite
apart from that–keeping yourself clean, preparing
food you are going to eat, clearing it away afterward–
that’s what life’s about Wise Child. When people
forget that, or lose touch with it, then lose touch
with other important things as well.”
“Men don’t do those things.”
“Exactly. Also, as you clean the house up, it gives
you time to tidy yourself up inside-you’ll see.”
Since I closed my business…and my mom recovered
from her fall…and the most urgent tasks were accomplished
and put behind me…I have become aware of a sort-of
….generosity of space in the day. Most days.
On the days when I am able to bring just a little
more clearness and order to our little world…a new
arrangement of furniture, an organizing of paperwork,
a finding of a place for each sock and shoe and shirt
of mine….on those days I feel it most strongly. On
those days, it is a tho’ each little task removes a gauzy
layer of disarray or surfeit that hangs between me
and the peaceful days and rhythms I long for.
And I get a glimmer of the “room and time
enough” feeling that is so lovely, and oft-expressed
in Wise Child, a book which has utterly absorbed
me for the past few days. I have turned down many
little corners of pages in the old paperback copy I
have been reading, and will share more of what made
me turn down those corners in posts to come. Suffice
it to say, I was so taken with Monica Furlong’s
wisdom about home and nature and religion
and Life-expressed through her characters-
that as soon as I closed the book, I hied myself
to the computer, hoping to find that she now had
a blog or website or further books to explore.
Alas, I discovered that she died in 2003, never
having written another book quite like Wise Child…
nothing so domestic or everyday deep.
So I shall gather what I am able from what I have…like
the jewel of the last line that I quoted above. I loved
coming upon “to tidy yourself up inside”….and then
to be able to achieve it through housework! But it is
sometimes true. I have been trying to acquire the practice
of meditation recently, as part of a healing path I am on…
you would think that with twenty-some years of Quaker
worship in my experience, I wouldn’t find it challenging…
but I do. And I am finding that it is often easiest
for me to find that quiet contemplative place as
I hang out the wash or sweep the floor
….and am not rushed.
Lynn May 26, 2010 at 2:26 am
Lesley – my heart did a little fluttery thing as I began to read this post, as Wise Child is one of my favorite books ever. I want to be Juniper when I grow up; and when I re-read the book with my then-eleven-year-old son last year, he wanted to be Juniper, too (or at least have her as his mother!).
I look forward to reading more musings, as well as to hearing how your meditation practice is going. I very much need to get disciplined in that direction myself.
glenn May 26, 2010 at 2:56 am
Oh dear Lesley, what a intriguing post! I love the quote about housework, and agree that it can help tidy oneself on the inside. Sometimes it is the only activity I can find that has such a lovely effect on my soul. Thank you for such beauty, as always…
Tristan Robin Blakeman May 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm
delightful excerpt … you have intrigued me, and now I’m off to find more by this author.
thanks for the marvelous tease!
(love “tidy yourself up inside”)
Anonymous May 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm
Thanks Lesley. I will have to look for this book and put it on my summer reading list. Loved the quotes and I’m looking forward to hearing more from your reading.
Anonymous May 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm
Oh, I LOVE Wise Child. I read this book to my daughter when she was young. I’m so glad your posted about this gem of a book. This is just what I would throughly enjoying reading again.
Peace to you.
Laurie May 28, 2010 at 2:07 am
Such a lovely post. And another book I’ll have to search out. I too find hanging the laundry to be a peaceful, contemplative time. And am working on nurturing that, and other healing pursuits. I’m looking forward to the other bits you’ll be sharing.
Lisa June 3, 2010 at 5:00 am
Love this post!
“….generosity of space in the day. Most days. Some days.” “room and time enough” ~ such delights of words and ideas! The book and author are unfamiliar to me, but after reading your thoughts after reading it and the quotes you chose from it, I must search it out!
Many blessings to you and may you find space in each day!
Ginny June 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm
Another beautiful post. I too plan on looking for a copy of Wise Child to enjoy this summer. Did you ever read May Sarton’s The House by the Sea? It too has a serene sense of place.
Before Wise Child, I look forward to browsing your blog and reading more of your musing.
Bonnie June 4, 2010 at 7:10 pm
I found the book for 1.00. It is not in our library system that is having budget cuts so it might have been purged. I was not the one to have found it! Thank you for this and keeping room in my days for tidying ,etc…. I have found I need to create too ~~ as an antidote to the busyness that appears in our weeks because it is the work the Lord has given us. You have blessed me today!
shelley August 30, 2010 at 12:44 am
I’m so happy to have read this book – Thank You! I too, sought more from Monica Furlong, and found that she wrote a prequel to Wise Child entitled “Juniper”, as well as a sequel titled “Colman”…so there is more about the characters we came to love! You may have already discovered this ….. but I had to make sure. Thanks again for sharing.