I recently found this poem by Marge Piercy:
“To Be of Use”
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
We all have those in our lives who are hard workers, dedicated to a cause, goal or even a paycheck and way of life. Work ethic is such an odd characteristic; one child may receive twice as much as the next from the same nature and nurture. It’s hard to come by if it isn’t instinct, and yet it is equally hard to lose for those who are constantly on the go and need to relax. To be the pitcher, crying for water to carry — I like to think the joy I find in working is also spent in fulfilling a greater purpose.
One of the characteristics I admire most about my father is his unwavering work ethic. He has worked hard, long hours his entire life and done so with a smile, knowing his family would benefit from his toil. He’s the type to trim the lawn and wash the cars before the rest of us were out of bed on Saturday morning. Then again, teaching his children that no job was too small was essential. I remember him making me write a thank you letter to my first employer when I had to leave to move away for college and insisting that if they asked me to clean the bathrooms, to do so with a smile. It was important we have the attitude and ability to take out the trash or to greet the most valued customer.
I’m still not fond of the cleaning, but I appreciate what he’s taught me more today than ever before. Being able to bounce between caring for an office, “lunching” with donors, schmoozing at fundraisers and running after the postman with the mail wouldn’t be possible if my dad hadn’t pushed us to work a bit harder. I am truly blessed to have such a great example. (Two, really. My mom was the original domestic engineer.)
I’ve recently been gifted two particularly useful objects. A pincushion ring from glorious Julia, created by Susannah Rodgers.
Nothing like a little useful bling while you sew!
And Amy Butler’s peeps sent over her new software with two dozen new patterns. Oh my goodness, what summer fun this will be. Friends, expect many a crooked seamed purse and pillow. They may not be perfect, but they will be useful.
- musing, poetry
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- Domestic Art, Journal
During a morning walk through the garden, watering the plants and thinking of the day ahead, I found myself wrapped in the words of Rumi.
Stay bewildered in God,
and only that.
Those of you who are scattered,
simplify your worrying lives. There is one
righteousness: Water the fruit trees,
and don’t water the thorns. Be generous
to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous
reason-light. Don’t honor what causes
dysentery and knotted-up tumors.
Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.
The spirit and the body carry different loads
and require different attentions.
we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey
run loose in the pasture.
Don’t make the body do
what the spirit does best, and don’t put a big load
on the spirit that the body could carry easily.
“Wherever you are, whatever you do, be in love.”
Or as my mom would say, “bloom where you are planted.” Today, I choose happiness.
I find it fascinating Rumi was Muslim, but spent much of his poetry discussion Christianity. He was actually from Italy, but once he landed in Turkey was given the name “Rumi” which means “from Rome.”
I am so enjoying the poems you’ve sent. One of my girlfriends is a librarian and she has a mad passion for poetry. She was explaining how she celebrates “poems in your pocket” day at her school. She hands poems out to students in the hopes of spurring their interest. When I found a Pablo Neruda sonnet in my planner as a meeting was drawing to a close yesterday, I read it aloud a colleague. He looked at me as though I’d lost my mind, but I doubt he’ll soon forget it.
- garden, poetry
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- Happy Hippie, Journal, Media
I read a book the other day that finished with an ee cummings poem. I’ve never read or studied poetry with any great interest, but something about his words grabbed me. Yesterday I picked up several copies of his poetry and spent my lunch break inhaling his descriptions of the emotional waves of life. A few that made me smile and think:
“maggie and milly and molly and may”
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,
Life would be delight,–
But things couldn’t go right
For in such a sad plight
I wouldn’t be I.
If earth was heaven and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I’d be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn’t be you.
If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,–
Yet they’d all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn’t be we.
“i carry your heart with me”
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
“it may not always be so;and i say”
it may not always be so;and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another’s,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not fara away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;
if this should be,i say if this should be–
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
saying,Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands
I listened to another “Speaking of Faith” podcast this weekend — discussing Rumi’s poetry in the 13th Century and how he expressed his faith in ways people had never considered. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by poetry, afraid I was missing the great point. But with words like these, I get the feeling that the meaning changes with each reader. I wish I’d had the chance to hear ee read some of these aloud, to understand what fueled his passion.
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- Journal, Media