Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meaning in Daily Rituals

* I don't sing "Sweet Nightingale" while I wash my dishes. Housework is drudgery much of the time. But in occasional moments of introspection, I think about the meaning behind these many tasks I devote so much of my time to. And they become more beautiful.

Sometimes my life feels like an exercise in futility. And repetition. Laundry doesn’t stay folded. Dishes don’t stay done. Drawers don’t stay organized. The fridge doesn’t stay full. And dinner time comes every. single. night.

No one’s a stranger to that story.

But there are secrets in the daily continuance, treasures for the seekers. They sparkle in an alternate mindset.

And ritual is born of tedium...

Soothe. The warmth and sniff and soft of clean laundry.

Satisfaction. The gift of nourishment in a snack-time bowl of rinsed and stemmed berries.

Connection. And trust in a nightly ritual of touch.
A little body dried out by the constant hum of the furnace and the dehumidified winter air.
It’s almost bedtime, his crooked smile meets mine in the space between us as my lotion-covered hands pass over the tickle spots.
Love rubbed in with the moisture; matched ounce for ounce.
I think about the healing powers of both.

Surrender. Frenzy mellows with the strokes of the hairbrush through her curls after an evening bath. The ritual of touch smooths more than tangles.

Catharsis. Kneading warm, wholesome dough.
Coaxing the bubbles out.
Working anxieties in.
They must bake out.
There is only calm in the first honeyed bite.

These could be my words:
I wish they were

B a k i n g B r e a d
Carol Lynn Pearson

There seemed more accusation

Than admiration in Vivian's voice

When she said,
"Well, I wish I had time To bake bread!"

And so sometimes when

The loaves were in the oven

And Vivian was at the door

Louise mumbled something about

Another bake sale again

And never even tried to explain
Her near-religious ritual:

How the flour on her fingers

Was the sun and the rain

And the earth

How the thump of her palms
On the dough

Was the dance of women

On the ancient threshing floor

How the smell of baking
Leavened her

And left her believing that

We rise, we rise

How the cutting

Of the first warm slice

For the first child home

Made her a bounteous goddess

With life in her hand

I like that phrase: “near religious rituals;” they are changing me into someone more bounteous. More goddess.
Connecting me with generations of women. And with myself.

The result thick with irony, that so much wholeness comes of so much giving.



Astyn said...

This is a beautiful post. I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mother and the journey to motherhood. I believe it is more that just having a child. It is the 'rituals' in our lives that persistently mold us into 'mothers'. Those daily experiences help us to love others (our children) more than ourselves and more than our own existence.

Diana said...

This is beautiful...and SO where I'm at these days. With 5 years into motherhood, I'm finally really getting that these "ordinary" moments in my life are the richness that it's all made of. Not that there aren't certain goals and dreams for me to still fulfill, but that part of that dream is my everyday, if I can only remember to to see it for what it is.

Rachael said...

I really love that poem...thanks for sharing it. This was a good post for me to read on a definite "glass half empty" morning.

Bloom said...

I'm happy to read this this morning, Em. I have been rather fitful at times this week. Thank you for your powerful words.


Natalie said...

Beautiful Em, thank you for sharing your soul. Love you!

Joan said...

Eloquent Em. As in that's my new name for you not as in, "That was eloquent, Em." Although both are true.
Thanks for sharing your insightful mind treasures with us.

Michelle said...

Hi! I am a long time lurker and first time commenter. Just wanted to say thank you for this post. Sometimes it does feel like drudgery, (especially when you are SO PREGNANT and you just want time to yourself!!!) Thanks for the reminder of the great treasure children are and the blessing of being a mother...

Jenny said...

i've been thinking a lot about this recently. it dawned on me that by doing my seemingly mundane daily chores with a pleasant attitude and smile on my face, i can send the message to my family that i am happy in my role as a wife and mother. i don't want them to ever think i dread doing the things that help our family run smoothly or that serving them is just another check on my "to-do" list. thanks for the poem.

Melissa said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this reminder. I am so happy and full of love when I serve others. I realized I can be service-minded when I take care of my family. It helps my outlook a lot when my heart can be filled with more love as I go about my day-to-day routine. :D Love C. Pearson too! Thank you for your beautiful post.

Jesslyn said...

Beautiful post and lovely reminder. My twins turned 1 yesterday, making me revel this week in the fact that I have THEM and not just the opportunity to clean their high chair trays 4 times a day. My 2 year old was so sweet singing "Happy Birthday" to them all day yesterday that I smiled and chuckled while picking up the chaos trail she leaves all over the house.

Abbie said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful. I'm getting there. I'm starting to enjoy the dinner making madness more - the creating and the serving my family something I put so much time and planning into.

Trina said...

That was so beautifully written. Every mother should have a chance to read it!

Lindy Johnson said...

Em, this is so beautiful and such an important reminder to me to live in the present and to find joy in the daily routines. Thank you!

Heather said...

Loved it! Thank you for sharing.

lori said...

Beautiful, Em. Very. And true, too. Makes my heart swell.

jenjamin said...