This morning I took a few moments to stand at the window looking out at the rosy morning. The day was silent because I hadn't yet put in my hearing aids. The sky held a silvery rose and the low sun painted a pink tinge on the trees. The snow put a silver smoothness on the expanse of the yard.
I looked out past the chickens milling about, waiting for their breakfast, waiting for their gate to open so they can begin their day of scratching and exploring: their work. I looked past the little row of peach trees, with their hopeful buds reaching into the cold sky. I looked past the yard into the corn stubble that lay in regular irregularity. Rows of old stalks stick straight up in the air a foot or two, but some of them have fallen, or half fallen, leaning to one side or the other, like lines of writing in an ancient binary code. I look past the shadow of the house, where the snow turns from blue to a rose gold and see the grass waterway, like a tawny river passing over the land.
Something catches my eye in the still landscape. A bird rises from a tree in my yard. A crow. It flies west in sturdy strokes. In the space of two slow breaths, it is past the corn stubble. I try to imagine the crow's vantage point: the field rolling out beneath it. Its eye on its target. If I were to run as far I would be severely winded before I could reach the shadow of the house.
And yet the crow flies on in a straight, purposeful line. Where is it going? I look out to try to imagine. Now it has reached the grass waterway. I keep my eye on it and the black shape grows smaller.
Now it is over the bean field and harder to keep in sight. It has become a small dot pulling westward. Just when I think I will lose it, the crow reaches the treeline and takes a sharp left turn. Then I do lose sight, but I imagine it settling in a particular tree on our fence line. I imagine its flight changes as it banks and circles to light in the tree. I imagine it calling its sharp, guttural warning, surveying the field beyond ours for something to eat.
Then I turn from my window to begin my day. I hope to be blessed with such strength and purpose as I do my own work.
And what is my work? Is it meaningful? I want my work to enrich me and my community in some way. My work should, of course, compensate me so that I can pay my bills and live a quiet life and be able to save for my retirement. It should enrich my soul in some way, either tickle my creativity or keep my mind and body active in healthy ways.
What do you do for a living? What do you do for a paycheck that allows you to keep body and soul together, but also what do you do for a living? What keeps you alive in a spiritual sense? Is work deadening? Or enlivening? What parts of my work can I get excited about? How is my work a practice?
A practice has a rhythm; that rhythm can become a dance. If I don't like doing the dishes or sweeping the floor why not let it become a dance? I once dabbled in a yoga practice. One pose I never could do well. No matter how I stretched my back and pulled up my kneecaps, I felt nothing like the picture in my book. I felt instead like a fat little pig, puffing and blowing and trying to force something that would never come.
Then I played a trick on my mind, telling myself that this was my favorite pose. I think it started as a joke. "Oh yeah," I would say to myself, rolling my eyes, "get ready for your favorite pose," and my mind and I would share a chuckle.
But I said that every day, and one day I forgot to roll my eyes. And then I started to notice how even though my nose would never in a million years touch my knees like it should, I was feeling a nice stretch in my spine, in the backs of my legs.
I began to appreciate that stretch, and then one day I caught myself looking forward to that stretch. Somehow my most hated pose had turned into my actual favorite.
Why not pay attention to what we don't like about our work, and begin to notice the rhythm the work is asking of us. How can I be more in the moment? How can I enjoy the stretch? How can I begin to enjoy the dance?
Fly in beauty; dance in peace; blessed be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland, near White Heath. She is interested in work that nurtures her and her community. You can read more of her writing at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail care of this newspaper.