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Monk in the World Guest Post: Katie Birkeland

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Katie Birkeland’s reflection “Making Art.”

Strangely, my body is willing tonight.  It is my souls that seems exhausted.  I cry just a few lonely tears. Not knowing what else to do, I make some tea and light some candles.  The house is a peaceful quiet.  All is well, but is it well with my soul?  The rain, steady and calming, dreary and fresh, mix with the sound of the refrigerator and Little Man’s feet bumping the wall.  My pen starts to move dully across the page then frantic with anxiety, jumbled words that seem to be the only outlet for the shattered mess within.  “Why?” I scribble.  “Why do I write?  Will anyone ever read this?  Will it ever impact anyone?”  I stir my tea with a spoon swirling the cream.  I realize I am write because it stirs a life that seems lifeless.  It is sweet.  It soothes.  The tea and the pen.  I write not because I want to be productive but because I want to make art.  I want to express what is sitting in my soul, even if it feels dead.  I want death to come to life.

An upward glance catches the picture clamped to my desk lamp of the Gift of Life within.  I feel the Life move.  I wonder with my pen how I can love another when I struggle loving the Lives already in my home.  I want to hold this Gift of Life and push it away all at the same time.  I smile and I ache as I stare at the adorable profile I can already see in the black and white print.  Do I have what it takes to love and how?  Is it safe?  What kind of mother would ask these questions?  A mother with a deep desire to love beyond beautiful moments.  Fear holds me with this kind of honesty of paper. Love requires so much.  It requires me, exposed. “Yes Mama, love me.”  The Life’s movements are getting stronger.  A punch in the flesh, not just a flutter.  “Mama, love me.  I am here.  I just want you.”

Discovering from the scratches on my paper that I want to be brave, I want to love, I want to be exposed, my deepest place bring encouragement through my hand: “When you offer ‘the you of love’ to yourself, then you can receive the truth of others.  When you receive the truth of others then you can offer your truest self to them.  The exposure of self is art, the offering of self is love.  But true art is made when love is the color.” Feel the longing, love, life, movement, and connection all wrapped up in you.  Notice the experience and remember it as you labor for the first time and for the rest of your life with this Life, then you will know love.  Love fills in the empty places.”

It is 10:24pm when the blonde hair of a beautiful boy spirit I know comes into my office with a blue passie and blue blankie, fireman jammies and dinosaur feet slippers cozy him as he carries a big Tonka truck.  He grunts in his high pitched voice at the truck.  I don’t think he wants to play, rather he wants his mommy’s help in calming his soul so he can put his body to sleep for the night.  So I scoop him in my lap and I write.  He watches and listens to the scratching of my pen move across the page, the rhythm calming.  Occasionally he touches the paper where the pen will soon move as if to discover what will be there.  I hope one of his memories of me and him when he is grown is being snuggled on my lap while I write and drink tea late at night.  I lean in and kiss the blonde.

Soon he has his own paper and markers.  Mom and son “write” together.  Little Man asks what I am coloring.  I tell him I’m writing a story about us. “Are you painting your paper Mommy,” breaks the moments of silence. I guess I am.  A deep inhale and sigh of contentment follow as I realize that I am making art on the paper and on two souls.

My sweatshirt falls off my shoulder revealing my own feelings of exposure.  Usually I run from vulnerability, but tonight it is brimming with truth, life, and contentment.  It feels good to share myself with my son—even when he should be sleeping.  Rebellion to rules—scandalous.

He draws quietly filling my lap for the next while.  His voice throws in sweetness every now and then.  Although, without me telling him, he whispers, “I’m being quiet”.   Only to be followed by a conversation carried on by him. Secretly I don’t mind.  And we share our art with each other, and the experience of making it.  And I learn that for children life lessons and self are discovered in the ordinary moments of play.  And I wonder with desire if that can be the same for adults.  So I rest my cheek on the blonde, it’s soft, trying to soak up the childlikeness.  Little Man and I are done “coloring”.  He takes the last sip of my now cold tea.  I pull the candles over, we blow them out together, watching the smoke rise in the dim of darkness.

I made true art.

Katie Birkeland makes her home with her husband in Minnesota where they wrangle, cuddle, homeschool, explore and live life with their three children.  Pockets of writing time with a candle and tea are rare and celebrated, as writing is a life-giving practice and means of growth.  You can find her at

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11 Responses

  1. Beautiful Katie, such tenderness for self and other – I was very touched by being invited into this exquisite moment of intimacy between you and ‘the blonde’. May you continue to find and celebrate these rare moments and share that life with others – known and far away!

  2. This is my very favorite “Monk in the world” post ever. Truly poignant and simply beautiful, or is it beautifully simple?


  3. A beautiful description of receiving the holy in the “interruptions.” Thank you

    1. You are very welcome. It can be such a challenge to remember that receiving those holy interruptions always ends in blessings.