Living alone in the country brings the meaning of work into a very different light from the one I was bathing in as a young adult. Relationships structuring the day are for the most part within a naturally abundant world that, even with a history of human intervention, continues to dominate the landscape. The concrete world of large city and complex combinations of human with built environment no longer court me the same way. Where once I was dazzled and inspired to work and live and love in such a place, it is the complex combinations of stone, water, wood, and plant working to be seen in the light at the brook that now inspire me every day…
I’ve had a young houseguest for the past ten days. She is a gifted artist and very sensitive. We talk a lot about being in relation to other people and how hard it is to stay open when we feel hurt as keenly as joy, how easy it is to bury ourselves into creative work that absorbs us so much that time suspends. I found myself reminiscing with her the other day, sharing that when I was her age (seventeen) I had spent my summer at a career discovery program for architecture. When I arrived at the campus where I was to study, I didn’t even know who Frank Lloyd Wright was. By the time I left, I had already visited his famous home of ‘Falling Water’ and was completely in love with this work of making architecture.
I have a favorite expression. I say, “Everything I do is work, and I just happen to get paid for some of it.” My youth in the city was filled with the hubris of being a builder of dreams on every level and my focused passion was consumed by a profession I was paid well enough for. Now, my middle age in the country is filled with the consequence and ripple effect of every choice made, understanding that if I am to be sustained moving into my elder years, I need to trust the full range of all my abilities. This is not news I think. I’ve simply discovered that the ‘work’ of stacking wood, mowing the lawn, growing food, cleaning the house or preparing a meal happily holds the same weight as the creative work I so covet, which now includes yoga practice, quilt-making and writing in addition to architectural practice.
Like my breakfast soup today. There is just a bowlful left in the bottom of the pan from dinner last night. The soup was a thrown together affair, a couple of cups of chicken broth, the leftover half can of diced organic tomatoes, the last half cup of homemade bean soup with garlic and parsley, a small bulb of fennel and two potatoes just picked fresh from the farm, and a large dollop of leftover pesto. I bring this last bit of dinner to a boil, crack a large egg into the pot, and watch it poach in the soup. Delicious! So satisfying. Containing a weeks worth of work and the energy of being connected in the rich complexity of where I am.
Sustained by these complex relationships, I think survival depends on this balance. As does maintaining the balance in relation to the human community of which I am a part.
Interestingly enough, my young houseguest does not share my enthusiasm for the charm of being in the woods and watching the beauty there. I have already fallen into the assumption that this place I call inspiring would be so for everyone! Of course this kind of assumption serves no one. She is figuring out her own balance in her own way. So it was a gift yesterday to slowly stroll the edges of the sacred brook, alone, seeing the brilliance of color on the water in the light, swirling in and around a world of variety, connecting to the passion of the seventeen year old that still lives in me.
The difference is that now I can so clearly see how this passion is part of a much larger web than what I could understand back then. It’s taken me a long time to really see and live this truth. I think, maybe the best way to serve is to continue to hold my passion just this way. And I am heartened when I watch the new generation of ‘workers’ coming in, living in a global consciousness that lights the palette of choices for working in a very different way, defining a very different kind of balance in work that might be necessary for their survival too…