Tag Archives: work

Collis thinks on the land.

The author of The Worm Forgives the Plough finds that hoeing is a fairly pleasurable sort of farm work, writing of it, “I have never since had a combination of similar qualities for softening the blows of monotony.” And yet…

This job, and the previous ones, brought me up against one of the fallacies concerning agricultural work held by the citizen of our mean cities. It is supposed that ‘on the land’ you have ‘time to think’, and that conditions are such that the mind can indulge quietly in wise expansive meditations in the open air. Certainly the place to think is the open air. But not during work.

To be able to think consecutively about anything you must concentrate, and there are few jobs on the land that you can do so automatically as to be free to really think. Perhaps hoeing should be one of these. For a short time it is. Then the body interferes with the mind. The back begins to ache. You become physically preoccupied. You become tired. And then the mind, instead of being able to concentrate upon something consecutively, indulges either in fatuous daydreams or nurses petty grievances or dwells upon the worst traits of one’s least pleasant friends.

At such times I have often been appalled at my mind and wondered if others could have such rotten ones. And if a Great Idea does descend, well, I stop working to take it in, and rest on my hoe, and look across the land (as a matter of fact, I don’t: I carefully gaze on the ground in case anyone is looking — for he who gazes towards the earth presents a less agriculturally reprehensible spectacle than he who looks toward heaven).

–John Stewart Collis in The Worm Forgives the Plough

Man-witha-hoe Millet

painting by Jean-François Millet

Art and happiness flow from love and work.

Jeannette on her blog introduced me to #dangerdust, some stealthy design students who have taken chalkboard art to a new level. I browsed samples of their works, many of which are illustrated quotes, and this one immediately joined with the theme of design to start a new phrase, “designing my life,” floating around in my head.

dangerdust JessicaHische_DSC_9440_

Who is Jessica Hische? I wondered, at the same time knowing that I couldn’t in good conscience take her on as a life coach, a woman who would try to comfort me with quotes as I avoid housework. I’ve found that true comfort can only come from getting at least some of the put-off tasks accomplished.

She is a graphic designer, and perhaps she was just talking about herself when she made the statement quoted above. I hope so, because she’s a little young to be giving advice to the rest of us. But her website is so lovely and clean (those must be really passé descriptors in the design world!) that it makes me want to hang around… procrastinating?

I know that creative work is a tricky thing. Whether it’s a cooking project, sewing or writing, sometimes I dink around and putter about nervously, and even do some other kind of work until suddenly I feel that all my brain-ducks are lined up and I can get going. So which is the work that I should be doing — this is funny, old as I am — for the rest of my life?

Yos 05 G cook 2
camp cooking

At her age Ms. Hische can’t have known the variety and richness of a life like mine, full of so many kinds of work for art’s sake and also out of love for so many dear people. What they say about the breadth of education one can get, the amazing things one can learn and create and enjoy, when one is a woman at home — I’ve found it to be true.

I do know also about the great fatigue and all the interruptions and unfinished projects that are the bane of a mother, but as I look back I also see the clothing and costumes I conceived and made, the gardens I designed and brought to fruition, the realms of knowledge and culture I explored on my own and with my children: history, the arts, theology and literature, for a start.

There was ample opportunity to learn to cook, and I got my children started as well in that skill that can be a loving and reverent creative act. The simple labors of housecleaning go a long way toward making a home homey. I haven’t had to choose which one kind of work to do, thank God. And I thank my husband, who did engage in mostly one occupation, making it possible for me to have this good life.

haircut clip
42 years of barbering so far

I never thought about my life as something to design, so that little phrase that came to my mind doesn’t connect to anything real. Most of the kinds of work I’ve learned to do as artistically as possible can be seen as flowing from love for other people (housework and cooking) or love of the created world (gardening, reading and writing). I wish everyone could have so many happy and useful tasks to do, a long series of gifts that have almost fallen in my lap.

At this moment someone might accuse me of procrastinating, because it’s true, there are several (hundred) things needing done around here. But haven’t we all heard that A Woman’s Work is Never Done? No need to ever be bored! I think I’ll just rest in that reality and work at being thankful for it.

Thinking about work and smiles

If I am feeling scattered, might it help if I got one thing done, like writing one little blog post? I could just make it the Poem of the Week or the Quote of the Day or something like that.

Perhaps a quote about time, like this:

Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach. Barbara Crooker said that. It’s an interesting way of looking at it, but not really the way I myself feel.

Today I seem to be leaning more toward Oscar Wilde’s policy of I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after. 

Because I’m finding that Work expands to fill the time available for its completion, as anyone who has experienced Parkinson’s Law knows. (Switching to the Work theme now…)

If, as Bertrand Russell says, One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important, then I am showing no sign of a nervous breakdown. Thank God for that.

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs, said Henry Ford, and I know I DO believe that. Since my job description consists of about a thousand large and small tasks already, the small jobs I completed today must count for something. I made an important phone call, threw away lots of junk mail, figured out what to have for dinner and read some poems. Before that I walked two miles and thought a lot about some things I was reading while walking. I prayed a little, and did at least a hundred other little things. So how could I think I’m having a nonproductive day?

It’s probably because my list of tasks, which has gotten longer and longer as it also got buried while I was traveling and living in the Bright Reality of Pascha – Christ is risen! by the way – is just too daunting, not having been divided into enough small tasks that in turn could be assigned to more days.

He that despiseth small things will perish little by little, said Emerson. So I resolve to appreciate these little accomplishments, not to mention the huge things God does, such as, today He gave me life and breath and the ability to get out of bed.

I was talking on the phone to a friend who is very ill; she told me that some days she can’t walk very well. She also has trouble speaking. I was telling her about lying in the grass on the hilltop last week, and she started to cry out of compassion for people who don’t get to see the kind of beauty I was describing.

That reminded me of the movie I watched last night, about Mother Teresa, and how she emphasized the importance of love, and smiling. When destitute, crippled and dying people look into the smiling faces of the Sisters of Charity, they see a beautiful thing indeed, and feel the love. With all the kitschy smiley face stuff going around for decades now, it wasn’t until last night that I fully appreciated the power of a smile.

The smiles of the sisters in the movie were so obviously genuine, and flowing from the love of God, I couldn’t help laughing and crying all through the movie. A smile is another small thing I could accomplish today. My dear husband will be home soon, and I think I will give him one.

So, it has indeed helped me to write this blog post. As Henry Ford also said, Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.