the cartoonist that helped me pray

It's August now but I'm still a little shaky from our July.... I'm thinking most folks who visit here know about this, but in case you don't or if you are new around these parts (welcome! btw) My husband, Sam, spent a week in the hospital and another homebound being treated for bacterial meningitis. We found out recently that he actually had a special kind of viral meningitis that looks like bacterial (tricky bastard). I am unspeakably thankful that my husband is almost completely well. He just went back to work for a full day today (it's been 2 and a half weeks) When we were in the hospital, Sam told me several times I needed to leave (I chose not to be offended!) He really wanted me to take care of myself too. So one evening I ate my dinner outside in the hospital courtyard. It had been days since I'd breathed fresh air and being there was a peculiar kind of peaceful, feeling relieved that Sam seemed to be doing much better, listening to the sound of falling water from a fountain next to me, but with the reminder of frailty still all around, especially when the helicopter landed on the roof of the emergency room transporting another person in desperate need, undoubtedly loved beyond words also.

That evening I had a little book of prayers that good friends let us borrow from the Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig. The book When I Talk to You is a collection of Leunig's images and prayers created for the Sunday Age, a newspaper in Melbourne. Leunig was originally asked to draw cartoons, but he felt as if there was a glut of humor and satire at the time, so instead he took on the challenge of creating a kind of public prayer. In his words:

It seemed to me that newspapers might carry some small spiritual message of consolation as a tiny reparation for the enormous anxiety and distress I believe they create.

The prayers themselves along with Leunig's view of prayer seems open enough to welcome people who aren't  religious, along with folks who are..(sometimes I wonder how much semantics plays into those divisions anyway, as someone whose learned so much about spirit from folks who don't consider themselves religious)...that's a big mountain of worms that I don't want to climb today, but instead, I'd like to share with you some of these beautiful prayers:

I like this one especially because it reminds me of my tool wielding, practicality loving Sam, who also has a deep respect for the intangible:

We give thanks for the invention of the handle. Without it there would be many things we couldn't hold on to. As for the things we can't hold on to anyway, let us gracefully accept their ungraspable nature and celebrate all things elusive, fleeting, and intangible. They mystify us and make us receptive to truth and beauty. We celebrate and give thanks.


We pray for the fragile ecology of the heart and the mind. The sense of meaning. So finely assembled and balanced and so easily overturned. The careful, ongoing construction of love. As painful and exhausting as the struggle for truth and as easily abandoned.

Hard-fought and won are the shifting sands of this sacred ground, this ecology. Easy to desecrate and difficult to defend, this vulnerable joy, this exposed faith, this precious order. This sanity.

We shall be careful. With others and with ourselves.


We give thanks for singers. All types of singers. Popular, concert singers, and tuneless singers in the bath. Whistlers, hummers, and those who sing while they work. Singers of lullabies; singers of nonsense and small scraps of melody. Singers on branches and rooftops. Morning yodelers and evening warblers. Singers in seedy nightclubs, singers in the street; Singers in cathedrals, school halls, grandstands, backyards, paddocks, bedrooms, corridors, stairwells, and places of echo and resonance. We give praise to all those who give some small voice to the every day joy of the soul.


God be with the mother. As she carried her child may she carry her soul. As her child was born, may she give birth and life and form to her own higher truth. As she nourished and protected her child, may she nourish and protect her inner life and her independence. For her soul shall be her most painful birth, her most difficult child, and the dearest sister to her other children.


God bless our contradictions, those parts of us that seem out of character. Let us be boldly and gladly our of character. Let us be creatures of paradox and variety-creatures of contrast; of light and shade; creatures of faith. God be our constant. Let us step out of character into the unknown, to struggle and love and do what we will.