on car rides and kate rusby (a letter to preston)

Some of you know that last year, my friend Preston and I started pondering theology out loud in letters. He writes on Tuesdays, I write on Thursdays, and we wander through Gossip Girl and workloads and grace and mystery and espresso. Won’t you join us? You can read his last letter to me here.

Dear Preston,

Thank you for your letter this week. I’m glad for the PhD, the active cooking life, the moments where you pause and realize you are in graduate school in theology, doing many of the things you once claimed on your front porch you believed you would do. I’m glad, too, that you are keeping the doors open and allowing the Holy Spirit to move freely.   You write about writing in a way that reminds me of Rilke, and all the many voices that I imagine whispering that if you see beauty, you must share it somehow. Perhaps it’s through writing or a good martini. Perhaps it’s through volunteer hours in the nursery, or long walks with friends. But we are called to share what we have been given. And I’m glad you share so generously with us.

I have been sick this week, a cold rambling through, and today I slept and listened to Kate Rusby and watched Gossip Girl (I cannot make up my mind about Blair and Chuck and Blair and Dan). And as I was listening to Kate, it rained outside, and I drank tea and remembered.

I remembered how my dad and I used to listen to her. My high school was half an hour away, near to where he worked, and so in the mornings through the year we left the house at 7:01 am. I’m a horrible morning person, silent and wrathful at being dragged out of bed, and at first we drove in with NPR Morning Edition. When Dad’s friend introduced him to Kate and her beautiful, haunting voice in form of the CD Ten (a compilation of her most popular songs), we abandoned the news to travel to England. We learned the words, and learned the space. We bought her other CDs, had specific songs that we skipped and others that got a second play.

We stopped at the same Dunkin’ Donuts every day for coffee and two doughnuts, one for him, one for me. We would sit with the car on in the parking lot, and the whole first year of middle school I would make him wait until 7:35 to pull away for the last ten minutes of the car ride. I was scared. I loved it, breathed it, believed in it, but I was also scared of it. School wasn’t home. I didn’t know how to be me. I didn’t know how to trust others or myself.

I wanted to stay close to my dad, in that silence, the car and Kate Rusby. That space helped me carry home with me when I slammed the car door and walked into math class. Her singing, and his quick hug each morning are among the greatest treasures of all those years at my beloved school.

I think this makes me a homebody. I want to steady the world, for myself and for others. I want the sweetness of routines. I want Kate Rusby in the car every morning driving to school, skipping track 11 as we round the last 3 minutes and trying to time it exactly. I want the space Dad and I made for each other with her singing and our coffee and doughnuts. I want to carry that kind of space with me, offer quick hugs and regular coffee and familiar music, my hands held out to steady others.

I think that might also be why I haven’t written about the edgier things on this blog. Part of me really wants to, wants to write about women and work, write about politics or controversial theological problems, and I find myself writing about the steadier things. The things of home, of steady hands. I remember when Anne of Green Gables is talking to Gilbert, and she says, “But I went looking for my ideals outside of myself, I discovered it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.” I think I often do this – go looking for ideals outside of myself. But my ideals are the things of home, of car rides and Kate Rusby, of stillness and steadiness. And I think, for the first time, I’m beginning to love that.



6 thoughts on “on car rides and kate rusby (a letter to preston)

  1. So much to love about this, Hilary! But my overriding thought? I’m so glad someone else likes Kate Rusby’s music! I don’t know anyone else who knows her, outside of the friend who bought me Kate’s CD several years ago after living in England for a few months. I haven’t listened in awhile and now I’m feeling the urge.

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