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Guest Post: “Chores”

Good morning. 

I asked David if he would post a guest entry from me on his blog. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with so many of my virtual friends in a space and a community that inspires me. So here we go…

Chores by Haley Nahman inspired this. 

First, some background.

I have six months left on the right side of 50. This makes me Generation X. My Father is from the Silent Generation. My Mother is a Baby Boomer.  The Silents and the Boomers built this world we live in. They ground it out. They stood it up. They worked. And while their blood flows through me, my body, mind, and soul roam in a new era. The pace can’t be maintained. The planet can’t sustain it. It is time for a fine-tuning of the approach for our way forward. A re-setting so to speak. Everyone from all generations now needs to Learn, the learning that requires lots of unlearning to take place. That needs slowing down.

I took a two-year break from Social Media. It’s difficult to explain why, but I just had enough. There was too much mindless scrolling. It was very noisy.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, I quit a professionally fulfilling job in August, with a preeminent institution that I highly respect…I’m sure most would say, “Wow, impressive.” Hours were long (very). But, I loved the work. The pay was good. I was told that I was highly effective at a job I dreamed about — but…I needed to move on.

Team members (friends) continue to call to chat. They call to understand why I left.  Why? They call to ask what I’m doing now, so I explain.

“I’ve been walking to the grocery store daily to get what I need to cook dinner.” The work friend suggests: “Why don’t you plan for the week and go to the store once.”  It’s hard to explain to those of us on the treadmill, but I find joy in walking to the grocery store. I take the long way. I walk through alleys. I then meander up and down the aisles in the grocery store to find what inspires me. And then I walk home. All of this can best be explained as finding peace and joy that I had not felt in a long time.

Chores.’ English is not my first language. Ever since I started learning English, my brain registered chores as work people did not want to do.  It does not feel like a synonym for a task, errand, or something I need to do or would like to check off my list as I put my beautiful day together. 

Taking a sabbatical from Social Media in January of 2021, and then resigning from my job in August 2022, have enabled me to control how I spend my days. Because “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” Annie Dillard said.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Just because I am good at something is not reason enough for me to do it for a living. And I acknowledge it is so hard to stop!
  2. I am a gas guzzler with low miles per gallon. Or an electric car. I need to make frequent stops for fuel. 
  3. To refuel or recharge, I need to disconnect FULLY.
  4. My center of gravity is not my work life. Toni Morrison said it best here in “The Work You Do, The Person You Are:”
    • Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.
    • You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
    • Your real life is with us, your family.
  5. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.

There was an ache akin to a pain only she who has breastfed knows. The ache a nursing mother feels when something stands between her and nurturing her infant, what matters the most. Work was the adult with a tight grip on my wrist, a little girl being dragged along, weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. I could not keep up. And it hurt. And I felt small. I felt a need to just stop to pull myself together.  So, I’ve traded long hours and a few bucks each year, and then I took those few bucks and invested in Me. Yet, I acknowledge the Grinders, building the rails that we ride, while others, me included, contribute in our own way, and watch the sunrise above the din.

The Pandemic slowed our world down. What got away as background noise, became loud and disturbing as everything else paused. It’s like my world was saying, “please, stop, get down on your knees at my eye level and pay attention to me.” I am still at its eye level paying attention, and I will be down here for some time.

Thank you,

Sawsan


DK: Note. This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh reminded me of Sawsan living his guidance: 

“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”



Walking. In Twilight.

Twilight.
Both ends in the last 24 hours.
9:04 pm last night. (Top photo.)
5:34 am this morning. (Bottom photo.)

This is our neighbor’s Oak tree. I wrote about it in “Walking. And Ranting.” Let’s say it’s ~200 years old. This tree has seen 146,000 evening and morning twilights. Now, That’s Something.

I’ve been in search of a quote, in search for 6 months now. Something I recall reading but can’t find. I’ve been scouring my archives. My old posts. Trying various word combos in sweeping, google searches. OCD, much? Haven’t been able to find it. Words shared by a famous author who doesn’t need to travel the world to find beauty, as he finds a new world each morning, in a five mile radius around his house.

His words float to the surface this morning as I pull into the driveway returning from my morning walk. And there she stands, peacefully, witnessing yet another quiet, twilight morning.

This scene right outside our front door.

A wind rose, quickening; it invaded my nostrils, vibrated my gut. I stirred and lifted my head. No, I’ve gone through this a million times, beauty is not a hoax… Beauty is real. I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it. ~ Annie Dillard

We have nowhere else to go…This is all we have.” — Margaret Mead.

I stare up at her giant limbs.

Thank God I have nowhere else to go.


Notes:

  • Update since posting: Valerie pointed me to Thoreau. She was right! (again) “Wanderlust: A History of Walking” by Rebecca Solnit – “Henry David Thoreau, who walked more vigorously than me on the other side of the continent, wrote of the local, “An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness, and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or three hours’ walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of ten miles’ radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.””
  • More photos from this morning’s Daybreak walk here and here.
  • Annie Dillard Quote: “The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New (Ecco, March 15, 2016)” (Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels)

Come to the woods, for here is rest.

tree-cold-winter

To Fight the Winter Blues, Try a Dose of Nature by Florence Williams (excerpts):

Wintertime is rough on those whom the 19th-century hiker-philosopher John Muir called “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.” But we have an obvious cure for our doldrums: go outside. Though we are months away from the flowers and leafy foliage of spring, a dose of nature can still calm the mind and solidify human bonds. The real question is why we don’t partake more often of this easy balm…

After crunching the data, Dr. MacKerron and Susana Mourato…found people were significantly happier outdoors, especially in natural settings, than they were indoors…But there was a catch: Most of the participants didn’t behave as if they knew this, because they were rarely outside. They were indoors or in vehicles for 93% of their waking hours.

The study reveals our epidemic dislocation from the outdoors—an indictment not just of the structures and expectations of modern life but of our self-understanding. As the writer Annie Dillard famously said, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Why don’t we do more of what makes us happy? Part of the answer is that we’re flat-out busy. But even when we have free time, we’re not always smart about how we spend it…

Because we don’t spend enough time outside to notice that it makes us feel good, we spend even less time outside, replacing it with shopping, social media and so on. We especially “devalue nearby nature,” she says, such as small urban parks and tree-lined streets, because we tend to think they aren’t impressive enough as destinations. Scientists are quantifying the effects of even small doses of urban nature not only on our moods and well-being but also on our ability to think—to remember things, plan, create, daydream and focus… [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Stalk it!

annie-dillard

We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – even of silence – by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting.

I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.

– Annie Dillard, Living Like Weasels


Notes:

Bubbles came up on the water. Then blood came up, and the water stilled.

annie-dillard

A writer named Lorne Ladner described it. Bubbles came up on the water. Then blood came up, and the water stilled. As the minutes elapsed, the people in the crowd exchanged glances; silent, helpless, they quit the stands. It took the Seminoles a week to find the man’s remains. At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then—and only then—it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way, on two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball, you’d hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s. One line of a sonnet, the poet said—only one line of fourteen, but thank God for that one line—drops from the ceiling.

~ Annie Dillard, from “The Writing Life


Notes:

Lightly child, lightly

art-bird-lightly-ribbon-wings

I cannot cause light;
the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.
It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind.
Light, be it particle or wave, has force:
you rig a giant sail and go.
The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind.
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail,
whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Beth for your ongoing inspirations: Alive on All Channels
  • Art: Silvia Angelova (Bulgaria) (via The Sensual Starfish).
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related posts: Annie Dillard
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

What made me look up?

among-trees-photography

Michael Goldman wrote in a poem,

“When the Muse comes
She doesn’t tell you to write; /
She says get up for a minute,
I’ve something to show you,
stand here.”

What made me look up at that roadside tree?

~ Annie Dillard, The Present, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Image: AMCH-Photography

Sunday Morning: Spring

tree-forest-tall-up-sky

So. I have been thinking about the change of seasons. I don’t want to miss spring this year. I want to distinguish the last winter frost from the out-of-season one, the frost of spring. I want to be there on the spot the moment the grass turns green…But it occurred to me that I could no more catch spring by the tip of the tail than I could untie the apparent knot in the snakeskin; there are no edges to grasp. Both are continuous loops. […]

I don’t want the same season twice in a row; I don’t want to know I’m getting last week’s weather, used weather, weather broadcast up and down the coast, old-hat weather. But there’s always unseasonable weather. What we think of the weather and behavior of life on the planet at any given season is really all a matter of statistical probabilities; at any given point, anything might happen. There is a bit of every season in each season. Green plants— deciduous green leaves— grow everywhere, all winter long, and small shoots come up pale and new in every season. Leaves die on the tree in May, turn brown, and fall into the creek. The calendar, the weather, and the behavior of wild creatures have the slimmest of connections. Everything overlaps smoothly for only a few weeks each season, and then it all tangles up again. The temperature, of course, lags far behind the calendar seasons, since the earth absorbs and releases heat slowly, like a leviathan breathing. Migrating birds head south in what appears to be dire panic, leaving mild weather and fields full of insects and seeds; they reappear as if in all eagerness in January, and poke about morosely in the snow. Several years ago our October woods would have made a dismal colored photograph for a sadist’s calendar: a killing frost came before the leaves had even begun to brown; they drooped from every tree like crepe, blackened and limp. It’s all a chancy, jumbled affair at best, as things seem to be below the stars. Time is the continuous loop, the snakeskin with scales endlessly overlapping without beginning or end, or time is an ascending spiral if you will, like a child’s toy Slinky. Of course we have no idea which arc on the loop is our time, let alone where the loop itself is, so to speak, or down whose lofty flight of stairs the Slinky so uncannily walks.

~ Annie Dillard, Untying the Knot. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 


Photo: jaimejustelaphoto

Now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do.

lamp-light-bird-design-conceal

Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven; the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These disappearances stun me into stillness and concentration; they say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say of vision that it is a deliberate gift, the revelation of a dancer who for my eyes only flings away her seven veils. For nature does reveal as well as conceal: now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do.

~ Annie Dillard, Seeing. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (HarperCollins. 2009)


Credits: Lamp: ronbeckdesigns – “Perch Light :: Umut Yamac” via Your Eyes Blaze Out

 

TT*: Hear the playing cards slap in the spokes

bicycle-memories-ride

The child is riding her bicycle up the hill. I stand and look around; the thick summer foliage blocks the road from view. I turn back toward the river and hear the playing cards slap in the spokes. They click and slap slowly, for the hill is steep. Now the pushing grows suddenly easier, evidently; the cards click and slap. At once, imperceptibly, she starts down. The pace increases. The cards are slapping and she is rolling; the pace speeds up, she is rolling, and the cards are slapping so fast the sounds blur. And so she whirs down the hill. I can see her through the woods downstream where the road evens out. She is fine, still coasting, and leaning way back.

~ Annie Dillard, “Aces and Eights.” Teaching a Stone to Talk.


Notes: TT* = Throwback Thursday. Image: Maurizio Raffa via Sensual Starfish

Sunday Morning: The inrush of power and light

wave-gif-ocean

wave-ocean-gif

wave-ocean-gif-power

Share Inspired by Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

“We bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous…”


Image Source: The Coast by NRS Films via vimeo.

 

The whole show has been on fire from the word go

Colored-Water-Drop-High-Definition-HD-Wallpaper-Desktop

“We bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous. About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building. It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star. The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there…

We don’t know what’s going on here. If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite? We don’t know. Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. [Read more…]

Floating on their backs and saying, Urr.

sea-lion-close-up

I was catching on to sea lions. Walk into the water. Instantly sea lions surround you, even if none has been in sight. To say that they come to play with you is not especially anthropomorphic. Animals play. The bull sea lions are off patrolling their territorial shores; these are the cows and young, which range freely. A five-foot sea lion peers intently into your face, then urges her muzzle gently against your underwater mask and searches your eyes without blinking. Next she rolls upside down and slides along the length of your floating body, rolls again, and casts a long glance back at your eyes. You are, I believe, supposed to follow, and think up something clever in return. You can play games with sea lions in the water using shells or bits of leaf, if you are willing. You can spin on your vertical axis and a sea lion will swim circles around you, keeping her face always six inches from yours, as though she were tethered. You can make a game of touching their back flippers, say, and the sea lions will understand at once; somersaulting conveniently before your clumsy hands, they will give you an excellent field of back flippers. And when you leave the water, they follow. They don’t want you to go. They porpoise to the shore, popping their heads up when they lose you and casting about, then speeding to your side and emitting a choked series of vocal notes. If you won’t relent, they disappear, barking; but if you sit on the beach with so much as a foot in the water, two or three will station with you, floating on their backs and saying, Urr.

~ Annie Dillard, “Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos.” Teaching a Stone to Talk.


Notes:

It will hush if you give it an egg

egg-over-easy

“It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.” Wallace Stevens wrote that, and in the long run he was right. The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, and God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy. The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel. And, incredibly, the simple spaniel can lure the brawling mind to its dish. It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg.

~ Annie Dillard, Total Eclipse. Teaching a Stone to Talk


Image: Photobucket


Believe. In Verbs…

sunrise

Sunday mornings evoke childhood memories. Our cousins are off fishing. We dress and are dragged by our Parents to the sobranie for the Sunday morning molenie (service). Bread, salt and water sit on a spartan wooden table separating the men on one side, the women on the other.  Prayers are read.  Psalms, are led by the Elders – their intonation climbing and falling – lyrics incomprehensible. This is followed by the chanting of Otche Nash by the entire congregation…Our Father in Heaven...I’m yanking on my turtle neck, stealing glances at the clock, and at my Brother.  When will this end?

I haven’t been back.
To our religious services.
Or to any other for that matter.
In more than thirty years.
Yet, Sunday mornings return.
With their quiet Grace and Peaceful easy feeling.

Two men, both bloggers, are workmanlike in their daily postings.
Steve Layman posts after midnight. I’m posting at dawn.
He’s a Believer.
And like Friend Brenda, Belief comes from the Center, the Core.
There is Confidence. There is Conviction. There is Peace.

And there I sit.
A Bird on the fence.
Anxious. Restless. Hurried. Searching.
Flitting on and off.
And Leaning in the wrong direction. [Read more…]

You work hard? Sorry. Not close to these work horses.

Trees by Lichtyears.wordpress.com

“Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn’t make one. A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.”

Annie Dillard


Credits: Thank you Susan @ Licht Years for another wonderful photograph.  Quote Source: Thank you (yet again) WhiskeyRiver.

Related Posts:

Stalk the gaps. Spend the Afternoon. You can’t take it with you.

“Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock – more than a maple – a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

–Annie Dillard. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


With thanks (again) to Crashingly Beautiful for quote via Whiskey River. Image from A Collection of Things.

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