these ordinary things


We’re settling into ordinary in between days, when we leave celebrations behind and find ourselves in the quiet again.  The endless variations of train tracks and castles and puppet plays.  Mending.  Handwork without Christmas deadlines.  The flexibility of impromptu projects.  “I think Opal needs new pants.  Yes, navy and that bright corduroy I picked up last fall.  Or maybe that pinafore that I’ve been wanting to make since she was a baby.  At last I can start on Lu’s quilt.”  Fevers and coughs and hot baths and early midday naps and horsetail tea.  The sound of the grain mill.  The crash of the flour bowl falling to the ground and the sweeping up.  Dishes.  Laundry.  Air the beds. Clear up the toys. Run the errands.

It’s this day to day ordinary that drove so many women out of the home once upon a time, to seek more stimulating work.  Women who left social traditions behind to follow their individual paths.  I am grateful for them, as I now have the opportunity to choose my work.  And I admit that, having been raised to follow in their footsteps, the homemaker hat has not always been comfortable on my head.  But I’ve found that my children thrive at home, with their parents, and so I find myself making the hat fit.  Slowly, the fallout of my feminist predecessors, the devaluing of the work in the home, has fallen away, and I’ve begun to see the gift that the homemaker can give to their family and community.

Still, there is a sacrifice in it.  Being a homemaker is not about being successful, or being recognized or revered.  It’s about creating an environment where human beings can become more human.  Where the human ideals of freedom, compassion, equality, justice, growth and transformation can grow within us.  Where we can rest from the tensions of modern life.  Where we can remember what is essential, and leave the inessential behind.

This creating is all done in the midst of these ordinary days, in which we must wake up from habit and see what lives behind the mundane long enough to find joy and meaning in dishes, laundry, airing beds.  I watch these days pass by and realize that a new project has evolved out of my New Year’s intentions.  Something I’ll call These Ordinary Things: the little things that add up to a lot.  Things that wake me up just enough to see the world more clearly.  Things that lift my ordinary work a little closer to my ideals, and remind me why this task of mine is so important.

I’m thinking Mondays.  Yes, the perfect way to start the week out fresh.  So, see you back here next week for the first installment!


new resolve

DSC01930Epiphany dawned warm and light-filled.  The natural world joined us in our Holy Nights–dark, cold, snowy days of frozen water buckets and a frost bitten rooster.  Our animals are not used to such adverse weather and so they spent many days hunkered down in the barn.  The Araucanas left their roost long enough to feed and fly back up to watch the hazy white sky shift to grey and back to black again.  And so did we pass much of our Christmastide, alternating between snuggling in and going stir crazy enough to bundle up and venture outside for 10 or 15 minutes.  At which point the youngest of us, who does not yet sense the value of mittens, sent us back into the warm house with red noses and “told!” fingers.  Mattheus stood apart in this, winter baby that he is, and rolled and frolicked and cavorted with a levity he rarely displays.  He even convinced John to bury him entirely with snow from head to toe – twice.

DSC01535DSC01647DSC01801DSC01793DSC01798DSC01807DSC01884DSC01876DSC01812DSC01709DSC01764DSC01788DSC01726DSC01710DSC01729DSC01677As we emerged from this holy slumber to the day to day, the world too, rejoiced at the arrival of the Three Kings, with rushing gutters and overflowing rain barrels, children up to their knees in mud and picnics in the sunshine.  Mattheus rejoiced specifically upon finding the King’s crystal in his slice of cake.  He is sort of ruler of all around here already, but for one day he gets to do it without any reminders that this family is an equal opportunity organization. Lucien did not lament the lack of crystal in his slice.  Instead he found a few specks of almond on the bottom of his cake and exclaimed, “look, I have TWO treasures in my cake!”  For once, Mattheus did not correct him.  I think he was too busy parading around in his crown and constructing his throne, palace and stables for the royal horses.  Opal just grinned at the supper upgrade from porridge to cake.  (Almond flour and agave cake, but still cake.)

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Underlying this revelry, there is a sincere reverence flowing from each of us in our own way.  Together with the Kings, we find gratitude in the fulfilled promise of love and light, of finding our own way, of transforming and forgiving.  It is with all of these forces that we look forward to another circle around the sun.

Truthfully, I always anticipate the Holy Nights with excitement, but as the days pass and all that I am questioning remains unanswered, I begin to feel a bit melancholy.  But then, Epiphany arrives and I realize that a change has happened, not in the clarity that is thought, but in the fuzziness that flows deeper within.  It is not in a resolution or in a richter scale realization (I’ll refrain from saying epiphany), but there is a newness that I can never quite pin down.  As the year passes I see the seeds planted during this time begin to unfold and become answers.  No wonder this moment in the year is such an exciting time for many.

And about those resolutions, well, I have seen others around me feeling a similar impulse as we welcome this New Year: intentions of how instead of what.  It seems I have a way of getting swept up in the what: cold weather gardening? bees? new paint? tree house? those slippers? that quilt? study this or that? woodworking workshop?  It’s hard when there are so many exciting things in life to pick just one to do at a time.  But all of this what often results in stress for me and losing sight of what is important, so I’m opting for how as I begin a new year.

As always, I look toward the family to tell me what qualities of self I have yet to develop, those which are still rough around the edges, what some might call shortcomings.  When I hear Mattheus dictating to his siblings in a scarily familiar voice, I realize that I still haven’t found that hairline difference between authority and authoritarian.  As I register the distracted nod of my head and mumbled affirmation of my voice as Lucien continues to rattle off part thirteen of a 20 minute story, I realize that I have neglected attentive listening again.   I encourage all three of my children to forgive the hurt feelings of a shove or unkind word, but lie awake at night while the imperfect moments of the day swirl round my head.  The next morning, when I look across the breakfast table I wonder how Opal can possibly be careening toward two.  Where was I when she stopped being baby and became toddler?  Not present enough, I guess.  More likely navigating the storm of often colliding people in this little red house, wondering how I will summon the courage to meet it all.  And there at the eye of it all, a partner who is patient, accepting, forgiving, striving.  A fact I have become so used to over the years that I all too often take it for granted.

Rightful authority, listening, forgiveness, mindfulness, courage and gratitude.  You could add patience to the mix too, I suppose, and with that the slowness that is the elixir of life for young children.  And, lastly, some semblance of accurate observation, both of myself and others, that I may continue to perceive the world and act accordingly.  I think that about does it.  Too ambitious, I know.  As usual, it is likely that my spiritual eyes are bigger than my spiritual stomach, if you will.  In fact, I may have just made about as many how resolutions as a person can work toward in a lifetime.  But, eight capacities, twelve months–maybe I need a few more!  Hmm, might actually be onto something there.

Settling upon some structure, some (blog) projects to help me cultivate these capacities, well, it’s still swimming around a bit.  They’ll surface soon enough, and then, what an exciting year it will be.

Wishing you all courage to embrace the excitement of the coming year, whatever it might bring.