Kathleen Hirsch is the author of Songs from the Alley and At Home in the Heart of the City. She has taught at Harvard and Brown University and lives with her family in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. In this fascinating and beautifully written memoir, Hirsch at midlife begins a quest to get in touch with lost aspects of herself sacrificed to the pursuit of success and achievement in the public arena as a writer: "The clay pot that has held my life is cracking. . . . My life seems in shards, not a bulwark for my soul but a driven taskmaster of my will. . . . Suddenly, it isn't power or recognition that I want. It is wisdom."
Linda, Hirsch's best friend for 20 years, inspires her to open her soul to beauty: "I am asking: Can the basic work of my life be made beautiful again? Can beauty, which makes possible in some mysterious way companionship with my deepest self, become the medium of my days, one of the keys to a lost wholeness?" The author takes up pottery and begins working in her garden. Pregnant with her first child, Hirsch begins to see how important the spiritual practice of nurturing can be.
Another crucial element in her midlife transformation is silence. Hirsch begins to savor this meditative calm as an antidote to her compulsive need to work. A head person, the author now makes time to listen to her heart. Then, as a final stage in the search for wholeness, she finds some fellow travelers women who are also making a place for beauty, creativity, and silence in their lives.
Hirsch's midlife journey inevitably involves death in her case, the demise of her 35-year-old brother and Linda, her earth mother friend. The author weathers these losses and learns again to find solace in the writings of Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Hirsch concludes on a note of optimism and hope: "To begin again is to honor the fact of impermanence. It is to acknowledge and accept death, alongside regeneration and rebirth. This is the place in us where creativity and responsibility meet, where women can begin to learn what it means for us to live Sabbath lives.