brace against the sill as they kneel at her window.
They carry questions, fears, or alms, all worn and
worked to the smoothness of a river stone. They ask
her what she thinks, ask her to pray. Her prayer’s
changed—no longer something that begins and ends,
now a structure in her, time’s new measure, constant
song of breath and blood. She writes it down. She writes—
her quill ’gainst calfskin, praise. With every page, her
praise leads her further out onto the water. Her book
a bridge to God writ in her own language, sweet salt-
stained close-spun language of the everyday, mother
tongue she was used to holding, now she uses it to say
the things she means, what God has shown her—
her God that speaks so often in the things around
her. God’s blood raining from the crown of thorns,
blood patterned thick as herring scales. A hazelnut
in her palm: the smallest thing God loves, by loving
keeps from falling into nothingness. Then her friend
the friar tells of Matilde of Saint Peter’s, dragged outside
her anchorage and will for teaching as a woman—
brought into the company of others to be less alone
in thought and deed, to be taught a simpler faith—
Father, how do I say these things?
Julian to the priest.
In her palm: the hazelnut.
Julian of Norwich, c. 1342–1416
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.