I have this new love for Betty Smith. She is a brilliant author, best known for her book, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Reading this book has actually made me kind of bitter at my high school English teachers for witholding such a masterpiece. But moreso it’s made me have a greater appreciation for the beautiful things in life, like the center character Francie who would stare at a fallen leaf in her hand and wonder “if she would ever see something so beautiful again.” Anyway. More about the book later.
Betty Smith wrote an essay called, “Fall in Love with Life” – you can find the whole short thing online if you just Google it (or try clicking here), but I’m going to excerpt most of it:
“As a listening child, I often heard older people say, ‘Oh the plans I made!’ And ‘What dreams I had!’ And the inevitable: ‘If only I had my life to live over…’ I reasoned that these men and women had missed the fullness of life somehow.
“But I wasn’t going to miss it, I decided at the age of fourteen. I planned. In a slightly used copy book, I made a full list of what I wanted from life. I vowed to attain those things, one by one.
“The plan never worked out. Most of my adult life I had to work to support myself and others…I, too, began to think, ‘If only I had my life to live over again…’
“Zola had said: ‘To have a child, to plant a tree, to write a book.’ That, he said, was a full life!
“A great stillness grew about me as I realized I’d had a child…I’d planted a tree…in fact, I’d even written a book, though when Zola said ‘book’ I am sure he meant it as a symbol for any constructive job, honestly done.
“And so, according to the tenets of a great man, I had a full life.
“…No one of these things had been set down in the notebook, because they were part of me – things I took for granted. For instance: When I was first aware that I would be a woman, I knew I’d have children. When I wept childish tears as they cut down the only tree in our tenement yard, I knew I would plant a tree everywhere I lived. And when at the age of eight, I got my first ‘A’ on a school composition, I knew I would write a book someday.”
I was going to comment more on her essay but instead I’ll just leave it at this. May we not waste our lives wishing for the next place, the next job, the next opportunity, the next moment. Instead, may we see more beauty every day. May we live, struggle, and be in love with all that life holds. Because Betty says, “The fullness of life is open to all of us.”
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”
– Henry David Thoreau