Hands at Work

I’m working at home on a Friday afternoon when an email pops into my inbox from the librarian in town. He writes my interlibrary loan book is in, and would I like to come get it?

Indeed, I would. I pick up the book, wrapped nicely in a white paper bag, with my first name, Brett, written in black marker. I stand there in the sunshine, holding this book like some kind of present.

By randomness, I chose this book — Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.

Go read it, too. The book embraces the hammer and chalk line, the beauty of wood, the functionality and satisfaction of making things with your hands, all antidotes to this virtual world. Even more, the book embraces being a woman and a working woman.

Sacred Space

Although living with kids is as joyous and often as outright fun as I could imagine, like anyone else, I need at least small slivers of sacredness. Briefly today, I walked out to one of my favorite places, a little beyond my daughter’s elementary school. Like any resounding place, I’ve come here in all kinds of weather–radiant sun, sleet and mist and even the deepest of cold. I’ve come lightly with happiness; I walked that short distance so burdened with misery my heart seemed stone. But always, even a few moments yield me a tenor of stillness we human creatures crave.

For many years, I had a picture I’d torn from The New Yorker on the wall near my desk. It’s a photo taken of a miserable-looking Marina Oswald shortly after her husband shot JFK. Behind her, in this black-and-white photo, is a clothesline hung with diapers. Among doubtless many other things, in those terrible days Marina Oswald was washing diapers, because her baby needed the diapers.

As a female writer in a heavily patriarchical society, I know it’s particularly keen for women to continue doing what needs to be done to keep house and home and family together, but not to fall into the trap that a broom for the soiled kitchen floor is the same as paintbrush. This evening, making pickles, brine stung the cuts in my palms from a fierce weeding in the garden. Washing the salt off, I thought how a little running water can ease bitterness.

For those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality.

––– Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane