Dusk Night Dawn
By Anne Lamott
Reviewed by Betty Ann Dean
I’m not sure how I discovered Anne Lamott–perhaps one of her early novels. I was hooked on her delicious combinations of words from the beginning. While I have loved her novels, I find her writings on faith to be the most thought-provoking. Reading Anne Lamott is always a bit like savoring your favorite meal. What is it that makes up that delicious dish? Is it the combination of perfect ingredients, the spice that brings out the flavor of the recipe, or is it served up and presented in just the right way? Whatever the combination, Anne Lamott always delivers just the right message through her humility, her honest take on real life, and her unconventional and poignant words about her deep faith. I am always left with a great deal to ponder…and feel hopeful about... after reading one of her books.
In Dusk Night Dawn, Lamott sets out to help us restore hope and joy in our lives after the last few tumultuous years. How do we navigate our way out of the darkness and the events of the last few years when our view of life was shifted to a very different lens? Life has changed for us all in many different ways and made most of us ask a lot of questions about what we value and how we go about securing those values.
“Where on earth do we start to get our world and joy and hope and our faith in life itself back? Where can we again find belief in redemption and confidence that our new grandchildren will have breathable air and dry land on which to thrive and raise their own families? Will our great-grandchildren need gas masks? And is anyone in charge here anymore? If so, we’d like to know how to rise up, how to help restore all that the locusts have stolen–the earth, the oceans, democracy–even with our sore feet, hearing loss, stiff fingers, poor digestion, stunned minds, broken hearts. We are ill with shock and awe…Yes, these are times of great illness and distress. Yet the center may just hold.”
In this series of short essays, Lamott guides us in ways to recover our faith in life and in our futures. She suggests we begin in this way:
“We start in the here and now. That’s why they call it the present. We start where our butts and feet and minds are. We start in these times of incomprehensible scientific predictions, madness and disbelief, aging and constantly nightmarish airport delays, and we look up and around for brighter ribbons.”
Lamott has leaned heavily on her own faith to overcome challenges in her own life. In recovery for a number of years, she has raised her son as a single mother, cultivated a close relationship with her grandson, married later in life (“I got Medicare three days before I got hitched, which sounds like something an old person might do, which does not describe adorably ageless me.”), and now finds herself, as she says, “being in the third third of life”. She now shares that faith with the teenagers she teaches in Sunday school, helping them to navigate the world also.
“Why are they here in the world? To grow up, to learn about life, who they are, to come to understand what is real. Others will teach them how to get ahead, mask fear, push past fatigue, and pretend to be doing fine at all times, but here in Sunday school, we can help them discover who they are, how to be fully human, warts and vulnerability and all.
Why am I here? To love this dumb old day. Oh, if only I could remember this.”
As I have always found to be true of Anne Lamott, the writing in this book is so delicious that perhaps it’s best to offer you a few of my favorite lines from the book. Here are a few of my favorites:
~~”Even now we aren’t in charge of much, and it is exhausting to believe or pretend we are. The best we can do is help the poor, get some rest, help the pets at mealtime, observe the rules of health and safety during the virus. Watching the ways we try to be in charge can help us get our sense of humor back, and laughter is a holy and subversive battery charge.”
~~”The earth is faith. It will hold. Rooting ourselves in the earth that supports us leads to one being rooted in the faith that we are not alone, that we are connected to all of this, to the fabulous humus underneath us, the nourishment of our best if paltry love.”
~~”Love is giving away what you have been so freely given, no matter if you have little opinions on the recipients’ personal hygiene. Giving away fills the well.”
~~”Love is the gas station and the fuel, the air and the water. You might as well give up on keeping the gas cap screwed on tight, keeping love at bay, staying armored or buttressed, because love will get in. It will wear you down. Love is ruthless, whether you notice this or not.”
~~”Trust me on this: We are loved out of all sense of proportion. Yikes and hallelujah. Love reveals the beauty of sketchy people like us to ourselves…Love is being with a person wherever they are, however they are acting. Ugh. (A lot of things seem to come more easily to God.)”
The answer, of course, is that there is always love, even when we forget that or when it seems so very far away. It is the basis of our ability to hope and our ability to adjust to our new world in a different way. I can’t say it any better than Anne Lamott does in these final words of the book:
“But because one-winged love teems and lurches around us, we can always be hopeful, if not effusive. The hope is knowing that this love trumps all, trumps evil, hate, and death. It makes us real, as life slowly sews us our human shirts. We are being shepherded beyond our fears and needs to becoming our actual selves. This sucks and hurts some days, and I frequently do not want it or agree to it. But it persists, like water wearing through a boulder in the river. Hope springs from realizing we are loved, can love, and are love with skin on. Then we are unstoppable. This hope is from a deep, deep place that somehow my parents seeded. Love is not a concept. It’s alive and true, a generative and nutritious flickering force that is marbled through life. I can hold it in my hands whenever I remember to, stroke its ivory belly, hear its crunch, its rustle.”
Betty Ann Dean, R.N., B.S.N., has worked in various settings as a registered nurse. In 2008 she began to explore energy medicine as taught by Donna Eden as a way of healing the body in addition to traditional medicine. She is certified as a practitioner of Bowenwork, a hands-on healing therapy, and brings a rich background of corrective exercise to her healing modalities as a result of her ten years of experience as a personal trainer. In 2020, Betty Ann was certified at the Masters level as a medical intuitive. She continues to mentor with her teacher, Tina Zion, and is a recommended practitioner on Tina’s website.
Her practice, Vibrant Bodyworks, is located in Liberty, MO, and Parkville, MO.