Practices that sustain life
“After a day of too much information about almost everything, there is such a blessed relief in the weight of wet clothes, causing the wicker basket to creak as I carry it out to the clothesline. Every time I bend down to shake loose a piece of laundry, I smell the grass. I smell the sun. Above all, I smell clean laundry. This is something concrete that I have accomplished, a rarity in my brainy life of largely abstract accomplishments…So is digging in the garden, cleaning the chicken pens, washing the potatoes, doing the dishes. I know there are people who would give anything to do these things, people whose bodies have become so numb, too busy, too old or painful to do them. These are the practices that sustain life – not only my life and the lives entwined with mine, but the lives of all human beings.” — Barbara Brown Taylor
One recent morning I began by doing a load of laundry. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it was a perfect way to start the day. As I went about the task, I thought about how fortunate I was, to be able to go as slowly as I wanted to go while doing it. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy doing the dishes, and for the same reason.
Somewhere around 20 years ago, Jeff grew impatient with how infrequently I did the laundry (he couldn’t stand letting it pile up too much) and rather than nag me about it, he took over that particular chore by his own choice. There were times when I offered to take back the responsibility for getting the clothes washed, but he always refused, and now I believe he probably enjoyed it. So, apparently, does Taylor.
How mindful of her to point out that many people would give anything to have the time, resources, or physical ability to go about these simple but necessary tasks. In a world where humans are increasingly fragmented into special interest groups and adversarial factions, it’s refreshing to engage in an activity that unites us with others all over the world, through our common necessary chores.
Next time you are feeling blue, perhaps a movie or shopping trip or similar escape might be less fulfilling than giving yourself the gift of as much time as you want to accomplish a seemingly mundane household duty. With awareness, it can become an act of meditation, a chance to sing your heart out with only yourself to hear, or a time to ponder and pray. What humble assignments await your creative transformation today?