Sunday, July 26, 2009

Daily Life

While I made mental notes of the things I needed to do today, I was reminded of drying dishes in my grandmother's kitchen. Drawn to the warmth of their modest 1930s home, I often visited my grandparents in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I remember my grandmother turning to me after pulling the plug from the kitchen sink, sponging down the counter for the last time and saying, "If only life weren't so daily." And with the reflection, she quietly laughed and smiled. My grandmother was like that: she knew it was helpful to use humor in acknowledging life's little struggles.

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."

1 comment:

Mary said...

Hi Mary: I was scrolling down through your blog and saw what has always been one of my favorite pictures of Grandma Mort. And you are so right... she did create meaning out of daily life and chores. I remember the many breakfasts I had with she and Grandpa. We just throw a few plates on the table and some food. But she always had placemats and nice dishes and the food was served beautifully and with love. Of course, she was always willing to make something special and I always chose aebleskivers! Mary Evelyn