Monday, March 23, 2009


When I am up to my elbows in poo, life can feel a bit ho-hum, a series of jobs to get through rather than an experience to be fully lived. The tasks become ends in themselves; I get grumpy with the kids when they get 'in the way' of the washing, the dishes, the cooking.

Yet when all is well, these seemingly meaningless tasks can become a joyful interaction, a form of play. My three year old loves to load the washing machine, and to turn it on. Our machine trills cheerfully when you press the buttons, and the pretty sounds and flashing lights delight her. She washes dishes, splashing in the sink for an hour or more, measuring, pouring, mixing and occasionally even cleaning the bowls and cups. Both older daughters garden with me, digging and weeding and watering. We look at garden books together, and dream of jungle vines and walnut trees; then we go plant beets. My kids shell peas, and peel potatoes, and press the button on the food processor and watch the food whizz round. On Sunday mornings, my five year old makes pancakes from scratch, measuring flour and milk and cracking eggs carefully into a bowl.

We draw up shopping lists, sometimes with pictures, and my daughters pick out apples, carrots and beans. I read out the list at the supermarket; they check off the contents of their baskets, and get what we missed the first time round. They hand over the money, and claim the change.

Living so intentionally, making games out of the daily round and inviting my children's participation, certainly takes longer. It's part of a bigger choice to live slow, very slow; I couldn't do this and work a job, too. And this slow life is not at all showy. It's no glamorous movement.

Then again, living so slowly, so attentively, means finding beauty in surprising places, appreciating the here and now. We were created to work and play; it is part of our nature. Why not claim it, and turn our work into play? We need to cook, clean, and launder; why not find ways of celebrating these tasks? Like monks, our lives too might be graced by the dignity of doing small jobs well; like children, we too could be delighted when we hear a happy washing machine trill, or when we fill a sink with opalescent bubbles and splash the dishes clean.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, to go slow, that's the challenge... frickin' hard work one moment, and a joyful letting go, the next...


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