Sunday, February 1, 2015

Saint Brigid and Modern Life

Jeannine Hall Gailey has a great post about book sales; it's the kind of post that has links to other posts that discuss the same topic.  She then posted the link to her post on Facebook, which sparked more conversation.  I am working on several blog posts inspired by her thoughts.

Of course, I'm also battling feeling inadequate, as I reflect on how many people I know have book contracts or books coming out.  I think of all the poets who published a book last year.  Even as I know the answer, I lament, "And why not me?" 

The answer:  because I only sent out my poetry manuscript once in 2014 and queries about my memoir/collection of essays twice in 2014.

Today is the feast day of St. Brigid, one of the patron saints of Ireland, another event that makes me feel like I am wasting my life.  She is one of the early Christians who stood at the intersection of Christianity, Druidism, and the other pagan religions of Ireland.  She is also one of those extraordinary women who did amazing things, despite the patriarchal culture in which she lived.  For  more exploration of this saint, see this post on my theology blog.

St. Brigid founded some of the first Christian monasteries in Ireland, most famously the legendary one in Kildare.  She also founded a school of art that focuses on metal working and illumination.  The illustrated manuscript, the Book of Kildare, was created under her auspices.  Unfortunately, it's been lost since the Reformation, so we know it by its reputation only.

She's famous for miracles of abundance:  she’s associated with lakes of milk and abundant baskets of butter. Like Christ, she transformed water into nourishment: she’s legendary for transforming water into milk and water into beer.

As a 21st century woman, I'm amazed at what she was able to accomplish, during times that are much more difficult than mine.  Founding numerous religious orders, motivating artists, compassion to the poor, devotion to God--she seemed to have had no trouble leading an authentic, integrated life.  Why does it seem so hard to me?

Of course, I know Brigid across a space of centuries, through the gauze of hagiography and legend.  If Brigid could speak, what would she say?   Would she tell us of the sleepless nights where she wondered how she was going to find enough food, enough contributions, to keep her religious orders afloat?  Would she bemoan all her administrative duties, which sucked away so much energy, when all she really wanted to do was to illuminate manuscripts?

A few years ago, these thoughts led me to write a poem, "The True Miracle of St. Brigid."  Since I still hope to publish it elsewhere, I won't paste it all here.  But I will post my favorite stanza:

You don’t know about the weeks
we prayed for the miracle
of multiplication but instead received
the discipline of division.

I should learn from my own writing.  I should also remember that even though I might not have a book with a spine--or even a contract at this point--that there is time.  And here's the more sobering thought:  I could write the most amazing book, and like Brigid, have it lost across the centuries of time.


Jeannine Hall Gailey said...

Yes, send out your book! This is your year!
PS Try Kelsay/Aldrich Press. They might be friendly to your kind of work.
And A Room of Their Own Foundation contest too.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Thanks, Jeannine. They are now on my list!