Well, I found her. Kate Braestrup, that is.
After my ridiculous week thinking about her, my husband and I went on errands Saturday morning that brought us right by a Barnes and Noble. “FINALLY!” I crowed, telling him we Absolutely Must Stop, even just for a minute, so I could grab this book. “You know what book it is? You know the author?” My husband knows me well; let me loose on a bookstore (any bookstore) and I’m prone to emerge several hours later, many dollars lighter, and a bag full of books heavier. “Yes, I even know what section it’s in.” (Biography, I realized after perusing the entirety of that used bookstore last week).
I strode purposefully into the Barnes and Noble and REFUSED MYSELF the pleasure of looking at any other books, any other author, anything else. Torturous. I did, however, break the rules a little—I bought Kate’s memoir, Here if You Need Me, but I also picked up her second memoir, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity. What can I say; I’m a sucker for interesting books on marriage. I got scolded for my rule-breaking, but it was worth it. The rest of Saturday was a blur of other errands and activities, but I woke up late on Sunday, and Wes slept in, and I thought it was as good a time as any to crack into my new book. I ignored our messy kitchen, I avoided starting the Wedding Recaps for the blog, and I didn’t clean the bathroom as I should have.
Instead, I brewed tea, ate breakfast, and curled up on the couch with Here If You Need Me. I made it through the first chapter without much fuss, diving in to her stories of life in the Maine woods. And then I proceeded to weep for the next fifty pages. After the first chapter eases into Braestrup’s style and rhythm, the second chapter starts to talk about her story. It talks about her husband, about their relationship, about his death. So, here I am, barely six months married, reading about losing your spouse. So I sat, and I wept.
It was immensely powerful, and definitely a little hard to read. But it was wonderful, and uplifting. I kept plowing through the book, page after page. The search-and-rescue stories, her reflections on ministry of the people and woods of Maine, the anecdotes from a non-parish ministry. And her stories about her family, her life after her husband dies, her relationship with the world. It captured me.
I did go through it pretty quickly, so I’m still digesting and thinking about the book; I’ll probably re-read it soon, to really take note of the things that make me stop and think. I loved Braestrup’s style, and it reminds me of the kind of writing I do- where random anecdotes somehow relate to Real Big Issues, and how our lives intertwine with the world so quickly and naturally.
As we (I say we, because it felt like I was tromping through the woods with Kate, so we were in it together) got to the end of the book, I couldn’t help but notice that it was all a love poem to the game wardens. The whole book was infused with her affection and devotion to her service; how important her work is, and how much these people mean to her.
I hope to enroll in divinity school, but I’m not entirely sure that I want to be a parish minister. I’m more inclined to want to do something like Braestrup has done- minister to a community that isn’t necessarily specifically about religion or faith, but needs a little ministering to. I’ve been thinking about becoming a college chaplain, and I feel like chaplaincy is a good mix of my skills and interests. And exploring these ideas and plans are itty bitty baby steps on my way to getting my degree.
I guess Kate was following me because she had to tell me something. I’m still working out what it is, but I’m glad she got to tell me.