An Ordinary Work of Art
The little sacraments of daily life performed, again and again, become the metronome of a life well lived.
There are seasons of feasting and fasting, celebrations, of expectancy and celebration, of swings and lulls throughout the year and throughout our circumstance that set our days apart. But these days in the fall are often noted by their routine,steeped in the mundane. They are truly ordinary days for what is known in the church calendar as the season of Ordinary Time.
And nestled among them, I find the need to fill my soul with the sweetness of earth, the scents of the garden, the work of the kitchen floured across my knuckles. These practices of ordinary living are becoming a necessity for anything extraordinary I long to produce, for any art I want to create. Somehow, without the normal, physical work of daily life, I find it impossible to create anything at all. I might even say, I find it impossible to create a true and real life.
When I write, I always prefer pen and paper, instead of plucking away at keys with eyes on a screen. It connects me to the rhythm of words as they release in cursive across a sepia page, and its the very same way I am connected to the crisp I have baking in the oven right now or the flowers I've cut myself from the vines in the yard. Fresh paper is always expectant, in want of each stroke to link together beauty and meaning. I think my counters are expectant too- for the art of dicing an onion, of kneading bread. My laundry room on occasion waits for me too, and we begin the swoosh of clothing piles churning in the big washing machine, the spritz of stain remover here and there, the tumble of the dryer, the scent of warm socks and towels and the rhythm of folding.
There is art in it all.
We've forgotten something grand, if we don't believe that ordinary work and mundane tasks repeated again and again, don't nourish our souls. When in fact they form our hearts and teach us, ever slowly and day by day, how to pour our life out in a vocation of love. They teach us how to be self governed, how to choose small spiritual acts of worship and faithfulness.
A vocation of love must be what motivates all our work, and all our art.
Sometimes I think I can skip that part. I try to rush ahead and strive for words to produce and appear, but I'm realizing that it is not possible without possessing a soul nourished on ordinary feasts.
The sacraments of a slow, genuine life change our creativity and more so, bring us into community with the Creator. When we slow to breathe in His work, we take in a bit more of His likeness and personality, and He works a way into our center, and from there spills over onto all our work. When we see the art in preparing food, in the washing of linens, in the care of small children, in all the ways we bear light to others, we become tied together, and the rhythm of our relationships, of being a family, of being the Body comes to define our art too. The gift of the high feast as well as the ordinary ones are a beauty never intended to be experienced alone, but are made sweeter and whole when we discover what we have to offer one another.
Whether I prepare gifts at the table, or in the words I spill across a page, may I never dismiss my normal and ordinary, and the great art that defines anything else I attempt to fashion.
"I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. " -Vincent Van Gogh