A Spiritual Walk with Kathleen Norris

Best-selling author, poet, essayist and oblate Kathleen Norris talks to Beliefnet about her spiritual life and her latest book 'Acedia and Me'.

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It varies. When I lived in the Great Plains for 25 years, nature and the weather patterns and everything were so vital. Now I’m back in Honolulu with my family and nature there is so spectacular and so beautiful. The weather there is fairly constant during the year. In South Dakota you’ve got incredible temperature extremes, but Hawaii is much less. In the Dakotas it would range from 112 degrees above zero to 30 or 40 below. And in Honolulu it will be more like 60 to 90 degrees. It's just a very small variation, but I think the weather affects us in ways that are very easy to ignore in an urban environment. And Honolulu is a city. It is an urban environment.

But, when the wind blows from the south, we all get a little antsy. When the trade winds start to blow again, everybody is happier because that’s the normal pattern and those are cooling breezes rather than the muggy winds that make us uncomfortable and hot. So, I think people are affected by weather in all kinds of ways. And I guess I consider myself more of an urban person now. I’m not living full-time in South Dakota anymore but I still like to watch the dawn. The light change at dawn and sunset are two of my favorite times of day. Just seeing the light change in the sky does something for me. It does something to me. It’s good to also honor those moments of change in the day.

How do the hours of the day—morning and night—play into your daily liturgy?

A monk years ago said those are the hinges in the day and that’s why we pray at those hours. So, that's when the dawn and twilight are lauds and vespers in the liturgical day, morning prayer and evening prayer. So, I think it’s just kind of respecting that these changes that often produce spectacular effects in the sky around us, these deep sort of rose-colored skies and blue and violet things at night. Those changes are something for us to notice and to honor creation and forces beyond our control.

One of my favorite New York City experiences years ago was in my 20s. I came out of the subway one night and I had noticed there was an absolutely spectacular sunset over the Hudson. I was in the west village. This man came out of the subway very disoriented and he said, “Can you tell me which way is east?” I just said “Do you see that? That’s the sun going down. I think if you go this direction, it’s east.” He was so urban-oriented that he had completely lost sight of the fact that the sun sets in the west! And I thought “Whoa! That’s really weird!” That's getting a little too urban.

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