Sumptuous destitution

Our dear friend Kyo came to visit for the weekend, which was a real delight, as he always brings a lot of levity and thoughtfulness to every conversation. One of my favorite conversations oriented around this Emily Dickinson poem, which he shared with us:

In many and reportless places
We feel a Joy —
Reportless, also, but sincere as Nature
Or Deity —

It comes, without a consternation —
Dissolves — the same —
But leaves a sumptuous Destitution —
Without a Name —

Profane it by a search — we cannot
It has no home —
Nor we who having once inhaled it —
Thereafter roam.

It has been rolling around in my mind all weekend — the fluctuating, dissolving nature of mundane joys. I have been thinking of these vanishing delights as I light the beeswax candles or repaint the grout on the bathroom floor or pick up Moses in the morning from his crib.

Perhaps it is fruitless to dissect or name these pleasures, as Dickinson suggests, or even to try to replicate them. They come and go as they please, and we’re left in that ineffable state, resting in our sumptuous destitution. As summer burns away and fall approaches, I find that I am more mindful of these domestic, everyday joys. It shall soon be time to stay in the dull, reportless places, and yet even there, we are experiencing the richness and fullness of life.

Kyo, Guion, and Moses at Blenheim Vineyards.

The poem hits me strongly because of autumn, but also because of baby.

Now, in month four with Moses, I sense a return to old ways and old pleasures. I didn’t think I’d feel this way in those traumatic early days. I kind of felt ruined, if I’m being honest. And now, things are forever different, of course — gone are the days of spiriting away to a restaurant on a whim! Ne’er shall we leave the house without a tremendous amount of infant paraphernalia! — but the small activities that buoyed the spirits are now capable of being rediscovered. Such as: Painting one’s toenails. Reading a book. Making oatmeal the slow way. Writing words down in a notebook.

Yesterday, for the first time since Moses was born, Guion and I enjoyed one of our “quiet nights” — a screen-free evening for reading and writing. In our recent childless days, we used to enshrine them in our week. These evenings are much harder to come by since we’ve added this little person to our home, but I felt last night how deeply I have missed and needed them. I read a little of Nell Zink’s new novel, Doxology, and tried to get through John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara but couldn’t (it’s almost too lyrical) and felt a vast pleasure wash over me. The days with Moses are full and heartwarming, but the evenings without him can be also (especially now that he’s sleeping through the night!).

(Upon copying the text of the poem, I’m also reminded that Anne Carson has played with it in Men in the Off Hours, splicing Dickinson’s letters to Thomas Higginson with some thoughts on the way we read women. Have you a little chest to put the Alive in? Dickinson! What a bone-chilling genius! I have come off the weekend convinced that we do not talk about her nearly enough and feel that I need to read the giant tome of her complete poems daily, like a liturgy.)

. . .

Obligatory baby photo: Enjoying his first flight! Visiting dearly beloved (and missed) friends in Chicago.


A sister married, a brother gained

(c) Grace Farson.

This past weekend was so perfect in every way. I was blessed to witness my beloved sister marry one of my dear friends. I was overwhelmed by her happiness, by the love that exists between them, by the idyllic weather, by the community created by our families and friends. The wedding couldn’t have been more beautiful.

I cried at multiple points and could even cry again just thinking about the two of them. This was surprising to me. I didn’t cry in my own wedding. (Instead, I was busy hissing at Guion not to cry during our vows, because then I would really lose it.) I started crying when Kelsey walked down the aisle, when she was saying her vows, even when Grace and I dropped them off at the hotel! (And for this, I was much mocked by Grace, who has no heart.) I just LOVE THEM a lot, OK?

Even though the ceremony was everything we hoped and dreamed it would be, I am far more thrilled by the fact that Kelsey and Alex are married. They have a whole lifetime together, to love and be loved, to make each other more and more into the likeness of Christ. I am so happy for them and I can’t wait to see them over the upcoming winter holidays. (I am a little peeved that they wouldn’t let me stowaway on their tropical honeymoon, however… Why can’t I tag along and lounge on the beach for a week? Come on, guys. You wouldn’t even know I was there.)

(Here are my few photos from the weekend, if you care. I was much too busy to take many, but the few I have are special to me.)