The Unequal Hours
Moments of Being in the Natural World, a book by Linda Underhill
A new friend in rural Allegheny County, New York, has sent me a wonderful gift; a quiet book of impressions, feelings, intuitions, and observations about the natural world that she has discovered in her 'own back yard'; a chronicle of a 'way of being'; an intimate examination into the complex and vivid world of color, time, ritual, belief, season, life, death, and resurrection.
This wonderful woman, Linda Underhill, has been on a 'vision quest' for years; she notices and reports in inspiring prose on such a variety of experience that to categorize this book in any way is to overlook its prime significance.
I've always felt that we treat ourselves and each other the way we treat our environment. Ms. Underhill treats herself and others very well indeed, and she doesn't confine this serenity of spirit to any one area of life... she seems to approach each moment as special, unique, to be treasured.
If life is a series of moments, some will surely seem more important than others, yet it is not always the moments we THINK are important that cast lights (or shadows) on our lives. She reminds us of this, somehow. I'd like to say she says it, but she has this gift of saying things without saying them. Like a great musician that plays in the 'less is more' school, that's exactly how she writes.
Ms. Underhill speaks softly and coherently. More than anything, this is a book about the many moments of our lives; and how the simplest of those moments can change us forever without us even knowing it.
The unequal hours are, in one sense, the disparity between the length of the days and nights that changing seasons bring. The deeper meanings are there too, varied and different for each of us who read her words, for our hours and moments are surely unequal and unmanageable and very fragile and very fleeting.
To me it is also a book about magic; about history, science, religion, politics, conservation... my 'review' here suggests that it is one VERY BIG book! It is, but not physically. It's just that all of these things... the fields of violets, the snowbound sculpture of the nymph by her husband Bill, the balloon rides, the invention of a candle that can tell time, the little girls in white and the shades of white, the planting of the seeds, the long winter nights, the colors of summer skies, the path of the sun and the light and the darkness and the cold and the warmth and the wind and the ice and the fire...
It's life, and she captures it in words in ways I have never experienced before. It makes me want to plant a garden, it makes me want to write, it absolves me of the strange guilt I feel when I can't sleep in the long hours of winter.
It's impossible to read this book (or any part of it) and not feel the passion for living and life. It makes me want to live a long time so that I can see and feel and hear and touch and taste all the things that are here with us on this beautiful planet. It's been a long time since a book has moved me in such a curious way. It is like a chirping cricket. At first it's just a cricket. After awhile, it's the sound and the song of the earth.
(This is my third review of this book. Everytime I reread it, I have different impressions. That is somehow very mysterious and magical to me.)
Everyone should read this book.
The Unequal Hours by Linda Underhill - University of Georgia Press, 160 pp. Hardcover, ISBN 0-8203-2040-4 (cl.) $24.95
Call the phone number for the University of Georgia Press, which is 1-800-BOOK UGA (266-5842)
You can e-mail the authoress, Linda Underhill, at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a recent personal letter from my friend Linda Underhill:
'P.S. I thought you might like this from Eckhardt Tolle's wonderful book, THE POWER OF NOW:
'Through forgiveness, which essentially means recognizing the insubstantiality of the past and allowing the present moment to be as it is, the miracle of transformation happens not only within but without.
A silent space of intense presence arises both in you and around you.
'Whoever or whatever enters that field of consciousness will be affected by it, sometimes visibly and immediately, sometimes at deeper levels with visible changes appearing at a later time.
You dissolve discord, heal pain, dispel consciousness - without doing anything -simply by being and holding that frequency of intense presence.''
'That's what you do in your music. Love and light, Linda'
And another letter from my friend Linda Underhill that made my day:
A Creativity Prayer, Adapted from Marianne Williamson's book 'Illuminata'
Let the illusions that hold us back as individuals and as a society now disappear.
Let me have new energy.
Let me have a new sense of purpose.
Let me know that I am on this earth to serve.
Let me not feel guilty about the expression of my power.
Let me no longer play small, regardless of other people's reactions to me when I play big.
I am willing to receive an expanded set of options and accept the work of miracles in my life.
May I receive a future unlike the past, for myself and others.
For now I open my mind to possibilities I have not dreamed of to forces of life I have not allowed in and to realms of joy I have hardly imagined I let go.
I release everything that blocks me in this endeavor from my past, from my present, and from my future.
May I awaken from the dream of my inadequate self.