The other day, I sat beside a woman who was breastfeeding her baby, and I remembered just how physical were those early years, so much milk and baby holding, so much need and so much affection. Mothering growing girls remains remarkably physical, too.
Who ate all the strawberries? Braid this girl’s hair, race down to the mailbox, rule on which friend is now taller than me. Sweep dried mud from boots, bake chicken legs with sage scavenged from the garden, whisper good night.
No wonder mothering can be so exhausting. Like writing, parenthood is something we take in, our very bodies forever expanding with this dimension.
Only after the writer lets literature shape her can she perhaps shape literature. In working-class France, when an apprentice got hurt, or when he got tired, the experienced workers said, “It is the trade entering his body.” The art must enter the body too. A painter cannot use paint like glue or screws to fasten down the world. The tubes of paint are like fingers; they work only if, inside the painter, the neural pathways are wide and clear to the brain. Cell by cell, molecule by molecule, atom by atom, part of the brain changes physical shape to fit the paint.
– Annie Dillard