This I Believe

Paul - Orange, California
Entered on August 8, 2006

I Believe Two Katies Know my Dreams

I believe two Katies know my dreams.

The first Katie is my daughter. Several years ago, I sat with her and my son David in church. I expected them to get tired, being young, and they did. But they also paid more attention than I first realized. They also asked to hold the hymnal and follow along, sort of, as they were just starting to read words, never mind music. But they wanted to do what I was doing. Then an older man began to sing from the choir loft, above and behind our pew. In his rumble I heard heft and loam and years. Katie heard it too.

“Is that God?” she whispered.

The second Katie is granddaughter to Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry. He writes of a day with her doing no more — I say — than spreading a wagonload of dirt on a barn floor. Later, dead cold, Berry guided the wagon home, and thought Katie’s silence meant she had disliked the day, the weather — maybe the granddad.

Until she looked up at him and said, “Wendell, isn’t this fun?”

I believe children so strongly know, that it’s as heavy and deep as the man singing in church. It isn’t second nature to them — it’s first. My Katie thought God sings along — and she’s willing to ask. Berry’s Katie finds fun in cold dirt in a cold wagon on a cold day — as long as she’s next to a warm granddad. Meanwhile, I just know God couldn’t be in the choir loft, and dirt is, well … dirt.

I recall Wordsworth famously wrote, “The Child is father of the man.” He never doubted his heart would leap at the rainbow, or die trying. I don’t romanticize. Kids know — but they also get things wrong; one reason I see their beauty is that I’ve grown up a bit.

But as a dad, and a reader of folks like Wendell Berry, I’ve seen how kids know about faith, and stuff that is really, really fun — like dirt. My kids wanted to hug and kiss me, even when their fingers and faces had been in that dirt, because kids know cleanliness isn’t next to godliness — love is.

When I have sometimes feared I’d lost my way in a dark wood, and can’t see the rainbow for the trees, I remember the two Katies. I do want to put away childish things; I don’t think this is one of them.