i have written no essay today

blank page

Written by Christie Purifoy

Christie Purifoy writes at an old desk in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. After earning a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago, she traded the university classroom for a large kitchen garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement. The chickens move fast and the baby crawls even faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all.

October 14, 2013

And I am sorry.

I wanted to give you metaphors that sing, but I have only this empty page and a blinking cursor. I feel embarrassed by this blank page, as if it exposes something of which I am deeply ashamed. It seems to matter more than a blank page should.

This page is my life, I think. I rush and worry, trying to fill it up with words. I am terrified that I might run out of words.

blank page

photo by Kelli Campbell

Typically, I fill my empty pages quickly. So quickly, in fact, I rarely notice their emptiness. That this page has stayed blank longer than most, I blame on my ragged throat and tissue-burned nose. I blame it on my flexible work-from-home husband who was not, this week at least, able to work from home. I blame it on the baby girl whose cough matches my own.

She knows the baby signs for “milk” and “more” and “banana” but not for “sick.” I have to read it in the way she clings to me, the way she asks for food then tosses it down, the way she makes it impossible for me to live. Because isn’t my life composed of tasks ticked off, essays written, deadlines met? Which means today my life is not being lived. It means today this essay is not being written.

Or is it?

What if life is the sum, not only of tasks accomplished in a day, but also the empty spaces in between? What if our stories are written, not only in words, but in silence?

The four-year-old is lost in a Sesame Street haze when the baby finally settles on my chest. Do I hold her while she sleeps? Or do I risk moving her to the crib so I can get busy, get working, get living?

I sit a while longer, undecided, and I remember a framed print that used to hang in my grandmother’s farmhouse. It showed a mother in a rocking chair, a sleeping baby on her chest, and it said Quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep / I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

If it’s my choice to make, I will always choose a peacefully sleeping baby over cobwebs and dust. But that’s a false choice, isn’t it? I can only wish life were so simple. There are babies asking to be held, lunches demanding to be made, children telling me they don’t want to go to school, and teachers expecting them on time. And that is only the life lived in the seconds it takes to fill my first cup of coffee.

Perhaps it isn’t only the choice to live differently that is at stake (to choose the sleeping babies that matter over the dust that doesn’t). Perhaps it is also the choice to see my life whole. To see that life is beautiful words and quiet pages.

I have looked at my life as a string of items checked and jobs accomplished. Looking ahead, I imagine everything still to do and yet to complete. But what if life is all of those things and everything that happens in between? The words written as well as the pauses, the gaps, the losses, the missteps, and the wanderings?

Do the blank pages also have their stories to tell?

I try to hold the baby perfectly still as I rise from my chair. Her eyes snap open, and her fist finds my ear. I accept that this nap will happen in my arms or not at all. We settle back together, and I strain to hear the words written on this empty moment.

Words like grace and gift. Words like weakness. Words like waiting.

Words that just might, someday, add up to something beautiful.

20 Comments

  1. Koki

    I subscribed to your blog on email and I love this!

    You write beautifully you beautiful soul you! And this young fiancée is gleaning madly from you. You will never know…

    Thank you.

    Also, get well soon. You and your little girl.

    xoxo

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Ah, thank you, Koki! So grateful for your encouraging words (and get well wishes).

      Reply
  2. MsLorretty

    brilliant.

    Reply
  3. Dawn Cole

    Your page is “empty” because your life is so full right now. The day may come, as it has for me, when the children are gone and your life feels empty. And you still wonder what there is to put on the page…. I looked forward to this day….no, not this day. To a day that hasn’t come yet, when it all makes sense and I see the payoff. A day that I may not see this side of eternity.
    I liked what you wrote. You are on the right track. You make me nostalgic for the days that I thought would never end.

    Reply
    • valarie

      Love this.

      Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you, Dawn. This is why we must pass our stories around – yours reminds me that the days which feel endless are anything but. Here’s to the gift that is today (the day the Lord has made).

      Reply
  4. janetb1

    Good morning, Christie. I am here from your blog that came through my inbox and so happy to be here. Beautiful thoughts. Thank you for sharing. Lots to ponder today in your thoughts. This is a keeper to keep on studying.

    Reply
  5. kelli woodford

    Oh, Christie. Oh yes.
    Just as the most powerful moments in music are preceded by a rest, so it is in our lives. These times tempt us to feel their vacancy as failure, when actually they are just as important to the whole of the score as any other single note.
    I love the way you see. And how you whisper that vision into my ear with all the peace of a sleeping child. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Kris Camealy

    Christie, I read this this morning as my children were stirring and the day began to unfold. I cannot tell you how beautiful this is, in it’s simplicity, and quiet reflection. It truly ministered to my heart today, as I often wrestle with these sorts of thoughts… Your writing breathes grace, and I am better for having read it. Thank you, sweet lady. What a gift you are.

    Reply
  7. Shelly Miller

    So excited to have you on our team at Living the Story Christie, this story right here is just a little piece of why I wanted you to join us. You always take me to such a meaningful, and often beautiful place with your words. Thanks for bringing me back to what matters in this piece. Gorgeous prose.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you, Shelly. Can’t tell you how happy I am to be writing in this beautiful space.

      Reply
  8. Kelli Day Campbell

    “the choice to see my life whole”
    can’t stop thinking on those words. thank you for this!

    Reply
  9. pastordt

    omigosh, Christie. I just slurped this up like something delicious and so, so needed. beautiful, beautiful. thank you!!!!!

    Reply
  10. Marilyn Yocum

    Ah, you’ve visited the place I’ve been living for a year, and you got a true snapshot of it. You really captured it. 🙂

    I have been without words, but yes blank pages do have a story to tell. I was encouraged by all you wrote here, Christie.

    Reply
  11. Stephanie

    Such a beautiful reminder–I needed it today! I love this line: “I strain to hear the words written on this empty moment.”

    Reply
  12. Kathleen

    yes, yes, yes. Beautiful words. Thank you so very much for these encouraging words.

    Reply
  13. essay on time

    There are a lot of techniques on how are you going to create your own essay that would surely help you in creating an essay easily and effectively.

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i have written no essay today

by Christie Purifoy time to read: 3 min
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