The Art of Life
Our peach trees have that leaf curl disease that will eventually kill them if it goes untreated. We didn't strip all the leaves last fall and spray it and it shows. Tons of little tiny peaches that drop before they are ripe and are rotten from the inside out.
But I grew up among frugal folk who don't let anything go to waste. So I picked up little peaches and peeled and cut and salvaged every bit I could out of them.
It took a whole afternoon to get enough peaches to fill one single pie.
I know I'm letting my frugal ancestors down when I say that I just let the rest of them fall after that. Because I just don't have hours a day to salvage small bits of fruit, and we're not hungry enough to need to.
But the whole time I was peeling and slicing peaches I was thinking of my dad's aunt Grace and the week one summer I spent at her house when we made dozens of peach pies and put them in the freezer for her to pull out and bake through out the year. We sat, paring knives in hand, on opposite sides of the table, talking through everything, while making those pies. What I remember most was that she wasn't in a hurry. She worked quickly, we took lovely breaks with refreshing drinks and sea breezes on the porch, and she got through what needed doing all in a calm and cheerful manner.
Mel at Actual Unretouched Photo wrote about how making potato salad connects her with an aunts memory the other week and I realized how it’s the small tasks, the domestic every day things that make me feel the most connected to some people.
I think of my grandmother every time I slice a squash, or wash tomatoes, or hang the laundry, how she would stand outside, her house dress flapping against her trim frame reaching to pin a sheet up just so. I think of her afternoon walk every day, how she knew her work so well that she knew when she was at a stopping place and took herself for a walk down by the river, stopping by the garden on the way back to the house to get the vegetables for dinner. She worked harder than anyone, and she knew when to rest as well.
Slicing a lemon is how I most often remember my maternal grandmother, and making toast.
When I fold laundry or make tea it brings my own mother to mind and when I fix something it’s most often my dad I’m thinking of.
The mundane matters. The very commonness of our everyday actions is what gives them such weight, because we repeat them so often.
In the end our memory will be held in the way our lives connect with another's life, in the most common tasks, and moments, that our children find themselves repeating again and again one day.
Some people may remember you for the great things that you accomplished. But for those who live with you and see you everyday, your children primarily, it will be the way you actually lived those every day moments that will stay with them.
Intentional or not the rhythm of our days winds itself into ritual that carries our memory with it. It becomes the framework in which those pivotal moments and conversations occur.
That cup of tea here, every afternoon while sitting down to work, this morning prayer, said together, this bedtime reading, that mealtime conversation, that point when work ended and rest began. They blur with time and what is constant is that which is repeated often.
It's on my mind again, as the start of another school year approaches, how to create that framework, that rhythm in our days.
I want to live these days on purpose. I want the ritual of the mundane to be helpful and strengthening. I want our default domestic routine to be peaceful, and full of meaningful work.
I want my kids to have those points of connection with me. I want to set an example of mindful work and play that are touch points for them in their adult lives.
So I begin my planning again with that in mind, trying to find my own rule of life that brings order to all that needs doing.
I don't know why so many despise common house work. Well, I know I once did as well. But that was before I realized how much of a unifying thread it weaves through every other part of our lives. I wash dishes along side all those millions of mothers washing dishes today. I brush hair back from small foreheads and plan our meals and the very sameness of it all, the basic humanness of this work we do is part of what connects us all to each other, and how those connections are formed in our children as well.
There is art in it, this keeping of a home, there is science too, something our grandmothers understood, something we have disdained, and something we as mothers must come back around to for the sake of those we are raising. It may look different, it probably will. But the intentional laying out of our home life is the only way I have found to turn drudgery into pleasure, necessary into art, and common tasks into touchstones.
What tasks do you find connect you with others?