shadows at Bailey IBefore the first winter snow flies here in New Hampshire, some of us pound stakes into the ground alongside our driveways, to remind us later, after the landscape is blanketed in white, of exactly where the pavement ends and the lawn begins.  Nothing fancy, just a few metal rods, perhaps with a reflector at the top, to keep the plow or the snowblower from straying off track.  They are, quite literally, guideposts.

As I sat holed up in my bedroom today, making notes for the talk I’ll give to a group of parents on the West Coast on Tuesday, I realized that some of the quotes that have shaped me as a mother are really the spiritual equivalents of those guideposts poking up through the snow:  words that keep me on track when the familiar landscape of our family life is suddenly altered by some challenge or unexpected turn in the emotional weather.

It’s so easy, when things get stormy around here or seem a bit out of control, to lose my way.  But if being the mother of two sons who have now attained the impossibly grown-up ages of 20 and 23 has taught me anything, it’s that storms pass and that control is an illusion anyway.  Still, it helps when the weather is wild, to have some markers pounded into the earth, words that remind me of where I want to put my feet, of the solid ground I know is there for me, just beneath the blinding swirl of whatever’s coming down.

Attachment to outcome has probably been the biggest challenge on my own parenting path. Little wonder then that my central task as a mother seems to be practicing the art of nonattachment.  And so I look to the wisdom of others to remind me of what I already know:  I can love and care for my children, but I can’t possess them.  I can assist them, and pray for them, and wish them well, but in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their choices and their destinies, not on my wishes.

It surprised me to notice today that none of the quotes that keep me on track as a parent actually come from books about parenting.  But perhaps that’s as it should be. For the other thing this journey of motherhood has taught me is that my children are not extensions of me, and my real work isn’t about changing them, or shaping them into the people I think they ought to be. It’s about changing myself – learning to soften, to trust, to pay attention, to accept, and, most of all, finding the faith to let them go.

So, here are the guideposts I’ve placed along my own path, to keep me moving in the direction I aspire to travel.  What words serve as your guideposts on this journey?

(A word about this photo, taken ten years or so ago at sunset on a summer day in Maine:  I love the joy in these shadows, the memory of a vanished, distant time, the fact that Jack and I danced and played in that golden light and Steve grabbed his camera and captured the fleeting, precious moment.  It still makes me smile and get a little teary at the same time. And it reminds me: be present; we will not pass this way again.)

Words for the Journey

“To bow to the fact of our life’s sorrows and betrayals is to accept them; and from this deep gesture we discover that all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds more freedom and compassion than we could imagine.”   — Jack Kornfield

“I try to remind myself that we are never promised anything, and that what control we can exert is not over the events that befall us but how we address ourselves to them.”   — Jeanne DuPrau, The Earth House

“It has something to do with submitting rather than dominating. Surrender, submit. Have faith, trust in the mystery. That’s not easy. Surrendering one’s life to living in, and serving, the beauty of a mysterious world is a big step. . . .The purpose of the journey is compassion.”

— Joseph Campbell,  An Open Life

“Who you are is made up of three persons.  There is the one you think you are, the one others think you are, and the one you really are.  Work towards making all three the same. Then there will be peace and bliss.”          —  Sri Sathya Sai Baba

“Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold.”  — Peace Pilgrim

 “Life is change.  Growth is optional.  Choose wisely.”  — Karen Kaiser Clark

“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”   — Jon Kabat-Zinn

 “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”    — Buddha

 “To look deep into your child’s eyes and see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then to develop a zealous attachment to every aspect of him, is to achieve parenthood’s self-regarding, yet unselfish, abandon.”

“We must love (our children) for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do.  Loving our own children is an exercise in imagination.”   — Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree


A Magical Journey update

Some books are review books. (Think a quotable rave from the New York Times).  That’s not this book.  Some authors appear on The Today Show or The View, with answers to all your questions about how to be happy.  (Think instant ascension on the best-seller list.)  That’s not me.  I am an under-the-media’s-radar kind of writer.  And I’m pretty sure  Magical Journey is a word-of-mouth kind of book.  That’s fine with me.  And I am deeply grateful to every single one of you who have bought a copy, shared a copy, or urged a friend to give it a try, saying, “Here, I think you’ll like this, too.”  Thank you!

Last week, Magical Journey was #1 on the best-seller list at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH.  Sure, it’s a small independent bookstore in a small city in the middle of my home state, but I’m pretty thrilled to be #1 anywhere.  And yes, readers made it happen.

Want to spread the word?  Here are three quick things you can do.  (With huge thanks in advance for your help.  It really DOES make a difference!)

1. Write a brief review on Amazon.

2.  Like my page on Facebook and share posts with your friends. (I update there often, and post news of every appearance too.)

3. Share the book!  (I just received a new box of beautiful, blank, custom book plates.  And I’m happy to personalize as many as you’d like and mail them right out to you.  Just drop me a line and let me know how many and where to send them. Valentine’s Day gifts, perhaps??)

Also, check my Events page to see if I’m coming this spring to a bookstore near you. Thanks to the generosity of fans and friends, I’m on my way to the West Coast this week:  La Canada, Laguna Beach, and Pasadena.

If you missed Priscilla Gilman’s thoughtful interview  Click Here.



for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. This is both a simple and immensely hard question for me to answer. The immediate and simplest answer is: your words. I turn back to my underlined, dogeared copies of all three of your books often. And each time I exhale, grateful, reminded, grounded. I also have four notebooks full of quotes, poems, lyrics, all written in my own hand, started in August of 1985. I treasure these books and am rarely far from them. To pick favorites is difficult … I share them on my blog and at several points in Magical Journey gasped aloud to see one of my favorite passages cited.
    But none of them compare to the profound effect your cumulative work has had on me and how I approach the world. So, thank you. xoxoxo

  2. This post came at a perfect time after a difficult day with my oldest child spent wondering what I am doing wrong, why he is not acting as I want him to act. Your words – and the words you quoted – help me to again remember to submit, to surrender, to get up tomorrow and try to understand less and accept more. Thank you.

    And have a great time in California! I am so homesick for that state, what I consider my “true” home.

  3. “Attachment to outcome has probably been the biggest challenge on my own parenting path.” This is so true. I am learning this big time with my 19 year old. He made a big decision recently, and it wasn’t one his father or I agreed with. It wasn’t a morally trouble one, we just thought it wasn’t the best choice. I had to ask myself, why did I react so strongly about this issue? And ultimately, a big part of it came down to feeling invested in the outcome. It’s time to step away and support his decisions. Not make them. So HARD.

  4. For the last several years, it is the words that you have written that have been my guideposts at the most difficult times. Truly, I carry my dog-eared copy of your book with me so that I have your words of wisdom at my side in the face of some amazing challenges and many times that is what gave me the strength to move forward.

    Another quote I love is one you used in Ordinary Day, by Stephan Hoeller. It’s the quote about a pearl being created from an injury. That has brought me so much peace as I watch my children struggle to grow into adults. I have been searching for some kind of pearl to wear each day as reminder but haven’t found just the right thing yet. I’ll know it when I see it.

  5. It is uncanny how your words always resonate with me and it seems how they are perfectly timed to the on-goings in my life journey. Attachment to outcome. Probably a natural extension of my control freak nature. YES… A great reflection on what my current parenting anxieties boil down to. Now that I can recognize it in your words however, maybe I can mend my ways a bit easier. Here’s hoping!

  6. Oh I am so excited. I am one of the women eagerly waiting in California for you to visit. I was introduced to your book Mitten Strings for God when my oldest was a new born from the group you will be visiting in La Canada. I can not tell you the times I/we have used your book as a reference, a prayer, or even a topic of discussion in our parenting class. You may never know the far reaching impact your words have had on others but they have….especially to me.

  7. What beautiful and encouraging words. I need to remember to “trust the mystery,” especially now, when my first-born is navigating puberty. I need more sign posts to help me walk this road…

    ps: love the picture

  8. Linda Rosenfeld says:

    Thank you SO much for the timing of this email and the beautiful playlist. I have been following your journey as it parallels that of mine. I have a twenty-four yr. old and a twenty -one yr. old.
    You are a blessing in the storm. Today will be difficult, but part of life when your children must grow and make their own decisions…

  9. Wonderful, Katrina, as always:)

    I, too am moved by powerful quotes and usually include them in my annual Christmas letters. The same way I included your entire intro to Mitten Strings for God in my letter one year (duly referenced to you, of course!).. Words that inspire and guide us. Hope you are enjoying meeting all of us along your “Magical Journey.”

  10. Ordinary Day was so amazing I couldn’t wait for Magical Journey and it did not disappoint. The book is so very powerful. at once, I identified with many of the family issues you so eloquently wrote about, including a son who has underchieved and my own discovery of Yoga.
    Thank you so for this book as it made me believe finally, down deep, that my youngest adult son is responsible for his own decisions in life. I am much more at peace and feel free to love him for himself, without feeling guilty that I did something wrong.

    I would love a book plate!


  11. I so much needed to read this on a day like this! Thank you

  12. Beautiful words, Katrina! I so wish I could be at one of your talks. I love your guideposts metaphor, one to which I can very much relate. Yes, the art of nonattachment is the most useful guidepost of all, it seems, in parenting as in life! It’s one I’m still working on — and probably always will.

  13. My quote?

    Be the change you wish to see in the world – Ghandi

    You are number one in my heart Katrina! You give me hope that my daily writings will eventually turn into a book under the radar as well. I just sent a copy of your newest book to my mother in law!
    My best to you,

  14. love your writing – your beautiful posts and books. Can’t wait to get the new one!

  15. Kennedy chopped up ginger for yogi tea and now we are sampling it. Jackson is catching bubbles and their parents left for movie..February is going by but still many months of winter ahead in Dakota. I will show them shadow pictures just as our Dad showed us some 60 years ago.

  16. Oh that photo, Katrina.

    Your thoughts about guide posts resonate with me. As I navigate the early stages of puberty with my daughter, I watch myself try so hard to do the right thing, sometimes succeeding, other times not, and picking up the pieces as I go.

    I need the guideposts because this motherhood journey is ever evolving. I am copying down your words, and these wise quotes, and putting them in a place where I will read them often.


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