Yesterday was a sick day for my son Yoshi. After drumming class, he was feeling flushed and tired so when we got home we went upstairs with a pile of library books and flopped onto the bed. The rain was falling and the sky was white as a page and we propped ourselves up with pillows and read together.
I’ve been frantically working on a deadline for the past month and as much as I’ve tried, I haven’t been the most ‘present’ mother lately. I’ve also been fighting a cold, resisting rest, feeling busy-busy, marching (as Virginia Woolf would say) like a soldier “in the army of the upright.”
SO yesterday was a much-called-for reason and reminder to decelerate.
I was thinking today of Virginia Woolf’s beautiful essay “On Being Ill,” and the fact that sick days often point out the ill habits we develop when we are in ‘good health.’ No one wants to be sick but maybe it’s a gift to have our priorities forcibly rearranged (for the better) every now and then. Take sky-gazing:
[Illness allows us] perhaps for the first time for years, to look round, to look up—to look, for example, at the sky…Ordinarily to look at the sky for any length of time is impossible. Pedestrians would be impeded and disconcerted by a public sky-gazer. What snatches we get of it are mutilated by chimneys and churches, serve as a background for man, signify wet weather or fine, daub window gold, and, filling in the branches, complete the pathos of dishevelled autumnal plane trees in autumnal squares. Now, lying recumbent, staring straight up, the sky is discovered to be something so different from this that really it is a little shocking. — Virginia Woolf
Yoshi and I read a lot of books yesterday that we liked but the one that stayed with me the most, not least because of its subject, was A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The book, written by Philip Stead and illustrated by his wife Erin E. Stead, won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. The illustrations are all hand-done—even the title, no computer!—using a combination of woodblock printing and graphite pencil drawing. I love the loving care that went into this moving and unexpected friendship story.
It’s all about slowing down. Right, Yosh?