Writing: “Small details intimately observed.”

As I prepare a writing lesson, I think about Mary Pipher’s statement that “all animals, carefully observed, have things to teach us. So does every person we encounter.” On her chapter on diving into the writing process, she quotes Ernest Hemingway when he says, “If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”

I’ve been observing the fat, fluffy cardinals that have discovered the four different feeders we placed in the backyard for them. They stay so close to this food source all day long. They lounge in the trees and enjoy the bounty. The don’t leave. They just feed and rest, feed and rest.

That’s the work of a winter in the heart. There’s a season for staying so close to God–feed and rest, feed and rest–because the spring will come soon.

Besides observing the birds, I watch my kitten. Inside the warm house, I have a new kitten who can’t stand to be alone. In the morning, he’ll sit in the middle of the house and meow pitifully until my old cat comes to find him to play. Hearing him cry out like that, from the depths of his kitty self, and seeing the quick response of the older cat, teaches me something about crying out to God.

Feed and rest. Cry out. It’s winter.


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