AUGUST, 25, 2014
Our home was built by our son, Cameron, and daughter, Mary, when they were young adults, a warmup for them both to become licensed contractors. It is beautifully built and was a kind of ultimate project for a pair of Waldorf students. But that was 27 years ago and even a beautifully built deck has a finite life span and it was time for a new one. It has been a special delight to have Cameron’s sixteen year old son, Nathan, be the one, (with Dad’s tutoring) to build our new deck- a second generation of builders at White Feather Ranch.
We wanted it to last as long as possible and gave the same attention to detail in this endeavor that went into building the first one. That meant painting wood preservative on the bottom side of the boards. I took on the job, it is messy and smelly and I felt the boys would do better with the tear down and building part of the project. I still actually could do it, though it was a stretch, and in my age bracket when you still can make something happen it’s time to get up and make it happen. I do love building. I love being part of the process of creating almost anything. Always have.
Yet I pondered as I turned the ten foot, two by six boards, placed on the saw horses in groups of eight for me to paint, “Why do we hold to a high standard here? No one will ever see this. And me? I will be long out of the picture when this deck needs replacing again. My particular benefit of this extra effort? Won’t be here to know about it one way or the other!”
Then I thought, “Actually this is one of those jobs that’s like so much of woman’s work on this earth! It will be unknown, unremarked, and unacknowledged. The part that doesn’t show. The underside of things, the unseen extra effort. But the truth is it is a just that sort of thing that helps keep things ‘preserved” and held up. Keeps everything going forward, attended to, so to speak, so it will be strong to withstand the elements, so it will endure. Oh, yes, that is a metaphor for Mother’s work.
We perform the deeds of wife and mother over and over again, cleaning, washing straightening , cooking, nurturing and consoling, never finished, ever and ever the same work to be done over again and rarely acknowledged. My husband, too, has literally held the household together with the never ending repairs to everything with a motor, hinges, batteries or electrical cords and more. For all repeated effort to keep order there no permanent rewards – none except the very finest kind of fulfillment. Because it does matter. Because it is a most important kind of work, that of making devoted contributions to the environment of a home – the living space for a family, for people to thrive because care has gone into the surroundings. The striving physical work, the soul effort and warmth that creates nurturing space for the vibrant, burgeoning, messy life with growing children. The children witness a standard of care and learn.
So the mind-set for this small painting task and the greater ones in life is the same. For this unseen deed to help things last and be there for the long run. We are going for the long term here, for maximum durability for a long life. The ethic of doing one’s best, not what we can get by with. The best you can do with what you’ve got to work with and the time and money available. Whether it can be seen outwardly or not.
I shall always remember, with quiet mother’s joy, the time my son sold a little utility trailer ‘as is’ that happened to have a broken tail light. The buyer was okay with that and was coming back the next day to pick it up. But that evening my son went out and replaced the tail light, unasked, unexpected, unrewarded nor nor compensated on the material plane for his efforts.
But the internal one that counted? The fulfillment of a a job well and honestly done. One giving respect to earthly materials and at the same time honoring the inner soul by using those materials as skillfully and artistically as possible. So do we leave our sign, our mark on life through our work, just like a signature on a painting. It is a piece of human art created and signed with our best integrity our best workmanship, for durability, and grateful respect for the gift for creative possibility, for beautiful materials and beautiful people in our lives. We can love our work, even the never ending work that is ever to be done anew, because we are creating by our efforts space and surroundings of beauty and nurturing for good living for all involved.