I was going to write and post this week about what we did last Sunday morning, another one away from any sort of indoor faith community, a group hike in a nearby state park which was not the leisurely amble that was advertised, but a kind of a “speed hike,” hardly my kind of recreation, as purposeful and almost grim as it felt trying to keep up with those FitWit obsessives.
I came home muddy, dirty, and exhausted, feeling like I was coming down with something — that vaguely sickish state: maybe a slight fever, maybe not. The beginnings of a sinus headache. A decidedly slightly sore throat. What might have been a temporary and somewhat embarrassing wipe-out from a way too challenging walk in the woods — and along a creek — has turned into the second or third late winter/going on spring bout of yuck. Feeling foggy and weak, craving more sleep and diet ginger ale.
And despite this state, there is the work I want to get done almost more than needing to get done. Paid or badly paid, it still calls to me.
I always have a book on writing or creativity at the top of the stack of books I keep nearest our dining room table, the place I have taken to setting up as a mini office: my laptop, boxes and file folders filled with clippings (or “findings” as the late theologian Howard Thurman called them, the source of much of his preaching and reflections). The yellow markers, the left handed scissors (must blog about that condition), the sticky pads, my date book.
This past month I have been reading Life Work by the poet Donald Hall, referenced by Dani Shapiro in her wonderful Still Writing, which then led me to her memoirs and so on. He describes his life as a rural writer, son and grandson of farmers turned businessmen, with a New England work ethic that he describes as Emersonian, to the point that our Unitarian forebear almost completely detached himself from people in the service of his daily labors — which Hall calls “proses,” the tasks of churning out a variety of intellectual and creative product by pen, typewriter, Dictaphone, or computer.
I read a chapter-like portion each morning, capturing quotes in one of many speckled wide ruled composition books: transcribing quotes, pithy and otherwise, and highlighting the ones that might become sermon fodder, the titles or first lines of poems, or just sources of inspiration torn out and affixed by magnet to our most plain white refrigerator. Quotes (this one taken by Hall from D. H. Lawrence) “The final meaning of work is human consciousness.” Or this one: “Contentment is work so engrossing you do not know you are working.”
Or this one: “Get done what you can.”
Today this will be my mantra, even if it means getting done just these few tasks: half-reading the morning paper, still the newsprint version; clipping a recipe for Dal out of the food section, noting that I must buy turmeric and perhaps sour cream; finishing a book due at the library in order to avoid a fifteen-cents-a-day fine; skimming the weekly (Jewish) Forward, always a rich source of writing fuel; washing my hair; drinking enough tap water.
Not looking at this as a wasted day, but a day during which I did what I could. And that was more than enough.