I needed to be reminded of her today. The dailiness of life, the tasks and chores I do everyday and then turn around and do again tomorrow, felt wearing. Whether I clean the kitchen floor after five dogs and three pairs of cowboy boots travel through and know it will need it again tomorrow morning; or finish the laundry and know I will start all over in a few days, the work remains the same: it's done, it vanishes, and it needs to be done again.
Perhaps the question at the heart of any daily human activity is, "Does this have meaning? Do I have meaning if what I do simply disappears?" Whether I clean a floor or weed a garden, my efforts are temporary. Dirt will always gravitate toward my kitchen floor and weeds will always flourish in my garden.
Several years ago I came across a quote that went something like this, "It doesn't matter what you do, it matters how you do it." When I remember the thought, I always find it helpful in re-focusing my efforts when I feel as though I disappear in the dailiness of life's chores. If I focus on how I go about my chores, I slow down and begin to feel present with the reality of everyday life. Once present, I begin to value the order I create, whether folding the towels or creating a clean kitchen or pulling Canadian Thistle out of the garden. Yes, I do chores that disappear, but they also create an ordered existence in which I find comfort.
My grandmother created this kind of order. I know the warmth I felt in her home was due in part to her attention to life's daily chores. Whenever I was there, I felt a deep sense of grounding in what I realize was actually temporal order. Whether she was in her kitchen washes dishes, making rolls, or layering her crips sugar cookies in a tin, those simplest and most temporal of moments provided a hearth for me or anyone who sat at her small kitchen table.
To read more about my grandmother, click on this link and download the excerpt from my manuscript titled, "Mabe."