Zen Fatherhood

by Wolf Pascoe on November 15, 2010


Tonight I couldn’t sleep. I woke at 2:30 am and lay in bed, then throught I may as well get up. This happens to me sometimes, and I find it best to read or even knock off an item or two on my todo list until I get tired again. There were no demons this time, just sleeplessness. I went downstairs and on a whim opened the front door of the house. I stepped outside. We have a small courtyard in front with a stucco wall around it, a couple of lawn chairs and a huge magnolia tree. I sat down. From that perspective you can’t see the neighboring houses over the wall, just sky. An infinity courtyard, more or less. I looked up into the tree. One or two stars were poking through the branches. The air was fresh and cold. I could hear cars, but not often.

What has this to do with fatherhood? Nothing. Everything.

I could feel Nick and Nora sleeping behind me. It reminded me of Danse Russe, the William Carlos Williams poem. The thing is, if there’s no spaciousness in my life, then I have none to offer Nick. A todo list isn’t enough to connect me to the things of this world, to my place in it. I need to feel myself here in my body. God peeking through the magnolia tree in front. Nick and Nora behind. Myself in the middle and awake.

It was unbearable, really. I sat there as long as I could stand it, until the urge to write it all down overpowered me, and I went back inside.




You might enjoy: 7 minimalist lessons I’ve learned from my kids

Painting credit: The reproduction above is “The Empire of Light” by Rene Magritte. I had to to look at it long and long the first time before I understood what made it so weird. It’s a daytime sky. But it’s night around the house.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

David November 16, 2010 at 2:13 am

I like what you wrote. Reminds me of this: “We are bigger than our schedules.” radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire


Wolf Pascoe November 16, 2010 at 4:37 am

Man plans, God laughs. (Yiddish proverb.)


Sirena November 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

THere’s nothing like pondering the mysteries of the universe in the middle of the night and affirming how insignificant we are to put things into perspective. Love the Magritte picture – I would have never noticed that it was actually night with a daytime sky….


Wolf Pascoe November 16, 2010 at 10:04 pm

And the great thing about the Magritte is it looks exactly like our house.



BigLittleWolf January 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I came across your use of the phrase “spaciousness” a few hours ago. And it stuck. And I came back here, to the connection you are making to the spaciousness you need and your capacities for everything else that is required of you.

There’s something here I need to learn, to absorb. Something women (I believe), generally, have difficulty with. Even a few minutes of that “unbearable infinity” would be empowering, enriching.

I will come back, read again, see if this seeps in further. That spaciousness is both tangible and needs to be internalized somehow, but I don’t know how. Or what this means. Not quite yet.


Wolf Pascoe January 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Women and men do everything a little differently, so I suppose it applies to sitting as well. Maybe you’d like the poems of Mirabai …


Barbara January 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Lovely post – I could imagine myself sitting there.
I recognized a long time ago that I need that “spaciousness” and my kids are the same way. I hope I gave them the gift of allowing themselves to recognize the need.
That painting – the day sky yet appearance of night near the ground – that’s what my photographs look like in the morning. A beautiful blue sky with white clouds, but night’s shadow still covering the road and trees. I bet there’s a hill just outside the frame of that painting!


Wolf Pascoe January 26, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Readers may want to see Barbara’s post on a similar subject, and some of her photos: Cinnamon Toast and Puzzle Pieces


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