The Value of Everyday Tasks

Bridge of flowers poppies, bigI used to chafe sometimes at my lists of things to do—sigh and say to myself, oh if I only had more free time to write poetry or organize, edit and tidy up my writings. It seemed to me that what I thought of as my daily or sometimes weekly drudgery took too much of my precious time and energy and I resented it.  However, that was before the onset of the pandemic and the seeming disintegration of all that has constituted daily life and living, both personal and for my country.

Now, strangely, the things that make up my lists–my duties, have become precious to me. While Stephen does his part in keeping up with the daily chores, I no longer mind doing them. They help me cope. The news these days is so terrifying that it does not bear thinking about. The future is cloudy at best. As I get older each tweak of an ache or pain could mean some kind of incipient illness. Life is fraught with pitfalls holding deep despair. When I focus on the feeling of the hot water on my hands as I scrub the egg from our breakfast plates, I am greatly comforted.

It’s such a little thing to make sure I get all of the egg off the plate, yet the task needs my full attention. There are other things that function the same way. Doing the laundry or watering my plants, for instance. Though I no longer have a garden to tend, I still have plants, and they require my full attention. Actually, my email is sort of like a garden these days. There are plenty of weeds to be removed: ads for goods I might have bought at one time; people urging me to vote for or contribute to a candidate; notices from organizations seeking my support—the list is endless and so are these pernicious, persistent weeds.

Then there are the garden’s plants to be watered and sometimes fertilized: my friends far and near need to be emailed and responded to. There are helpful articles or other information to be forwarded for friends’ edification and/or enjoyment. There is news to be shared of each other’s activities, and of course doctor’s notices to be reviewed. Once again, the list goes on. A garden of any sort needs daily attention. If I leave it for too long, it piles up to an impossible extent, and I can’t tend it properly.

As I move through my day, I keep my focus on these humble chores. They act as a kind of shield against all that I cannot control or do anything about, or that which has not happened and indeed may not. Again and again rather than think about an unknown, possibly dire future, I return my thoughts to what comes next on my list of tasks. And from time to time I gaze out a window at the lovely sunlight filtering through the green leaves and the pretty blue sky above, or even the rain, and I give thanks that in this present moment, all is well.

 

 

Thank you, Mom for Your Gifts

M

Mama Watering the Roses

My Late Mama Watering the Roses

This week I received a loving card in the mail from one of my three dear daughters. In it she expressed her thanks to me for what I had given her as well as for what I continue to give her. She lives at quite a distance from me so we do not see one another often. We do however do our best to keep in touch with mail and emails. It was a precious card and it was even more precious to read her acknowledgement of the little things I do for her as we continue to communicate and to share our lives together.

Although I cannot write her a letter or call her on the phone, I began thinking about what I might be grateful to my late mother for. There is a long list beginning with how she always insisted on my wearing a hat on the beach and cover up as well to protect my skin from the sun. Today, with the prevalence of skin cancer among my contemporaries and even those younger than I, I am especially grateful for her good advice. It is thought that the early exposure to excess sun is a precursor to skin cancer. She had a permanent tan on her back from her teenage years of sun exposure in Cuba where her German father was in the diplomatic service; later she had numerous bouts with skin cancer.

Though I haven’t thought much about this until recently, I realize that she was an immigrant, and what that meant especially in her early years in the country. Like many others who came here from elsewhere, she cherished her citizenship and was proud to be an American. She also contributed in many ways, from joining in the war effort as a civilian—I remember the brown uniform she wore for some kind of civilian women’s defense organization to the lovely art she created that graces the homes of many even today.

It was the outset of what became WWII that she married my father and came to this country from Germany. As a child I remember seeing a movie taken of part of their honeymoon showing Nazis marching. She had to endure suspicions and even dislike for her nationality, even from her in-laws. Fortunately she spoke perfect English and quickly became a citizen. She was herself very courageous, and she encouraged me to stand up for myself when I was picked on in school for not being athletic or slender. In addition she always supported me when I shared my grief at not being able to fit in.

She encouraged my creativity, keeping the little booklets I made for her even until I was much older and then giving them back to me. She applauded my early efforts to play the guitar and urged me to write my own songs. She pushed originality as a virtue, praising it above all in everything I did. I think of her often and wish her well as she makes her way through whatever is next for us all in the afterlife. I am sure her bright spirit is still learning and growing and perhaps she is in some way practicing the art she did so beautifully in this life to enhance the walls of the angels’ heavenly homes.