Saturday, November 21, 2009

Being Home

I am home from travel, from teaching and speaking for a while. I am treasuring, savoring this notion that I do have to go anywhere. That I can sink back into this lovely space that is my home—even my soul's home—for I love this nest along the Bay with all my heart. It is my heart.

But because I have been gone so much this fall, I've fallen behind on the housework. Dust bunnies play under the beds. Spiders commune in corners. It is time to clean it up a bit. And, today, my husband and I are even going to paint a long-neglected bathroom, whose ceiling and a wall are peeling in pain. They call for refreshment.

Often now when I think of tending to my house, I do not think of it as a chore, but a blessing. This was not always so. I used to hate the thought of housework—tedious, a waste of creative time, never ending. I no longer hold housework in this regard primarily because of Gunilla Norris, author of Being Home: Discovering the Spiritual in the Everyday. I love this book. It changed me.

Her book is a beautiful offering of poetry around everyday "boring" tasks, with black and white photos to match: sweeping, making the bed, doing laundry, taking out the trash, ironing, and more.

This weekend as I begin to tend to the sacred cobblestones and corners of my home, I am keeping Ms. Norris' thoughts in mind:


Time to dust again.
Time to caress my house,
to stroke all its surfaces.
I want to think of it as lovemaking
...the chance to appreciate by touch
what I live with and cherish.

The rags come out—old soft pajama legs,
torn undershirts, frayed towels.
They are still of use.
It is precisely because they have exhausted
their original use that they have come
to this honorable task.

Rag in hand, I feel along each piece
of furniture I live with, and luster returns
to the old sideboard, to the chair legs
and the lamp stands. It is as if by touch
they are revealed and restored to themselves.
Strange that in the dumbness of inanimate things
one can feel so much silent response.
What then of us animate creatures?

We are so many-surfaced: bumpy, smooth,
prickly, rough, silky, hairy, spiny, soft, scaly,
furry, feathery, sharp, and on and on.
And don't we all want to be stroked in some way be restored to ourselves by touch
as much as by sight or smell or sound?

I want to be a lover of surfaces all day today.
Let this be the prayer:
that my hands not be ashamed
to give and to receive a passionate exchange luster and be lustered...
and so come to feel Your inward touch.

(Excerpted from Being Home by Gunilla Norris)

I wonder ... how do you feel about your home and housekeeping? 

Are you able to find the sacred in everyday tasks as Ms. Norris suggests?

I'm eager to hear ... 

And give yourself a break from any chores that might be calling by listening to the author read a little bit from her work. Delightful!


Angela Recada said...

Welcome home, Jan! This post is a lovely reminder of how important tending to your own nest is.

All the little creatures outside know how important their nests are to their very survival, especially with the cold winds of winter just around the corner.

Sometimes I'm lured into the modern notion that these everyday tasks are unimportant and of no value. But when I really listen to my inner voice, I realize how much comfort and satisfaction it gives me to tend to these creature comforts.

I really enjoyed reading the poem in your post. It truly can be a sacred experience to really focus on the tactile aspects of a thoughtful, thorough cleaning.

Happy cleaning!


shiny mamaof6 said...

Oh, Jan. I definitely do NOT like housework right now. Actually I never have. I have never thought of using poetry to open my heart to cleaning. I am going to check out this book, because it could be just what I need to finally view house cleaning as house blessing. This Shiny Wanderer is sending you a great big thank you.

One Woman's Journey said...

Jan, guess this One Woman is odd. I love doing housework. Especially when nothing can be done outside. I have to have everything in order before I write, read or run errands.
I run my swifter almost daily on my beautiful new hardwood floors.
The sun is shining and it is beautiful outside. When my home was finished in June I strung a line between 2 trees. This morning hung my sheets out in the sun. I will add that none of my daughter's are like their mom!!
Remember I am probably from a different generation then your follower's.

Cheryl Wright said...

I willingly admit that most days I don't see "sacred" in any household chores. However, I enjoy keeping house.

Even on those days I must rush through them, I focus on how clean and orderly everything will be and that helps to up the ante on the pleasure.

Jan said...

Love the notion of creating our nests, all creatures great and small. :-) I think it is the tactile element for me which is quite alluring, along with the gleam and sparkle, and oh, so fresh smells. I'm not a clutter bug. Don't do well with too much stuff around me. A Zen-gal.

Funny--it's late Fall here in MI and I feel as if I am in a full blown Spring. Creativity-wise, too.

Well, I don't know if I can get as far as seeing housecleaning as a blessing (can anyone?) but I do see it as a "ritual" of sorts, to keep myself in tune with the sacred that can be found within a home. I am sure you would enjoy the book...

One Woman,
We do have much in common. Love to hang out the sheets. I just bought clothes pins on sale the other day to use next spring. (Cold here. Afraid the sheets would not dry these days if outside.) I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to home. I spent much time growing up with my two grandmothers who enjoyed making a house gleam and shine. I even enjoyed helping them by using the wringer washer!

I understand about tidiness. It does set the stage for openness and creativity. I think you might like the Umbria Red we painted our front door today. Yum! Oh, yes, the bathroom is being painted "Cucumber." Another yum, as the theme is beachy. :-)

Gayle said...

I don't enjoy housework, but what I find most discouraging is knowing you have to do it all again next week. And the laundry never seems to end. But since I'm trying to make my house into my sanctuary I will try changing my attitude. There is a bird that constantly digs around my front entryway and messes it up. While I find this irritating (and I love birds), sweeping it is the one chore that gives me the most Zen-like feeling (isn't that word overused these days)? And I agree, I love to travel but There's No Place Like Home (I think you touched on that in a previous post).

twila said...

There are two things that help me to enjoy housework. One, I am a list maker, so I make a list of what needs to be done, then I get a little zap of happy when I cross each item off. Second, I try to remember the "when you sit, sit" really be present when dusting, say. To experience it sensually, to feel the cloth in my hand, to slow myself and really be present with my table as I touch and carress it with lemon oil. To try to make each thing I do a practice in mindfulness. It can change the whole experience! Thank you for that poem, it was a lovely reminder to practice love and kindness even towards "things".

Cheryl Wright said...

Umbria Red door and cucumber bathroom walls. Sounds delicious.

I'd like to paint my front door a lovely red one of these days. I just might consider your Umbria Red for that project.

Well, you know about my love affair with green. I bet I'll love that cucumber hue.

Jan said...

I completely understand. One of the tricks I use to get me through housework (when it feels less than sacred) is to use the opportunity as one to rearrange, redecorate a bit. Pull out some new linens, put a new picture in place, etc.

And that creature of yours sounds very pesky! Glad to hear that you are making peace with it.

You certainly ARE experiencing mindfulness through housework. Good for you! I find I do too as long as I am not feeling hurried. I'd rather go slow and linger. And the list idea can be quite satisfying. :-)

Well, the door may be too pinkish. ARGH! It does not quite look like the paint chip. We will see...

And the cucumber is going to have to grow on me. It is a might lighter hue than I am used to. I am sure all will be well in time...

Wilma Ham said...

When I was in my twenties and married and doing all the housework in the weekend, I noticed I started to resent it and I used to love tending to my 'space of love'.
For me it is time to indeed treasure my nest. So, I worked one day less and that day became my day for my space of love.
That was a very good move, resentment gone and everybody was happy.
When life gets busier and I tend to feel overwhelmed, I tend to not choose what I am doing, I tend to come from I have to do this, like a slave. Then joy goes and I know it is time to pull back.
We are here to enjoy whatever we do and nothing should be a chore.
I loved how the poem describes the dusting and cleaning.
Love Wilma, she who looks beyond.

Julie G said...

Doing housework is such a wonderful break from my regular day job. I love being home. As I'm folding clothes or ironing for my family, I say a prayer of blessing for each of them, thankful that they are alive and well.
I love the Dusting poem and the idea that shining the surfaces brings them back to "life". Sometimes if I shine enough, I can see my own reflection shining back at me. I feel like I'm bringing Joy back into my house when it's clean and shining.
Thanks, Jan, for this beautiful reminder to be thankful for our homes.
Welcome Home and Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your loved ones. :-) Julie

Nina P. said...

I tend to be overly sensitive and feed my dust bunnies too long before I finally chase them out of their favorite hiding spots. I so needed your words here and the poem is magnificent. It places a whole new meaning on the tasks that need to be done. I tend to "put off" cleaning as the last thing I do, yet now, somehow, I have a new respect for it. Thank you. I really needed this to help with my spring oh I mean Fall cleaning. Thank you dear Jan. As always, you've touched my heart and soul. Love and light, Nina P

Sharon said...

I like the word "homemaking" because that's how I feel about cleaning and putting things in order. I have enjoyed housework since I was a child, starting with standing on a chair to feed laundry through the wringer washer and later learning to dust, iron, and vacuum. It's also true for me that when life feels out of control it helps to have something to do, and by doing a bit of cleaning I have something to show for my efforts.

see you there! said...

Thanks for reminding me to enjoy the process, no matter what that process may be.

I have a poem by G. Norris framed and hanging by my kitchen sink. It is the one that begins "My life will always have dirty dishes...". I'm one of those people who actually likes to wash dishes so I have plenty of time to contemplate her words.


Carolynn said...

Wow! Gunilla really does have a way with words. I'm feeling a strange desire to dust!

All kidding aside, I do love a clean home and I set myself to cleaning it this past weekend. It had, by force of neglect alone, been transforming into a wee bit of a pit.

It used to be my chore, as a child, to do the dusting and the vacuuming to earn my weekly allowance. It felt like a chore at the time, but now, as I clean my own home, I find that I'm silently grateful for all that I have to care for. All the modern conveniences that make my life easier and more comfortable. It truly is a blessing to have things that require dusting and washing and sorting through and a home to put them all in.

I do feel that I have too much of a good thing and seek to downsize a bit, but that's another topic.

Jan said...

I like your thinking here, that it is up to us to notice how we are responding to a certain task, and then choose a new relationship with it. You sound very much like the Dalai Lama when you say we are here to enjoy it all. May we choose how we engage --wisely!

Lovely image. That as you polish the table you see your own reflection in it. :-) I am sure you do create a Light-filled home for your family.

How nice to hear that this post and Ms. Norris poetry inspired you. As a poet, I do think you would love her book. Here's to dancing a sacred dance with those dust bunnies!

I've always had a penchant for "homemaking" too, literally. There is such warmth and hospitality in the phrase. The act of tidying one's space can settle you down, I agree. If I am feeling upset, I often find myself cleaning. Just harnessing that physical energy allows me to let go of what ails me.

How interesting that you have a quote by Gunilla in your kitchen. :-) I'm with you that dishes (I handwash) can be a savoring moment, as long as there are not too many to do!

What a beautiful perspective you offer here. Even though housework is not a favorite for some, to view the whole process with gratitude for what you have is quite profound. Thank you for sharing this.

Lynn said...

Anyone who can find poetry in a dust cloth has something huge to offer us all. Thanks so much for sharing this perspective. I may need a copy of that book.

Welcome home!

B. Lynn Goodwin
Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers