our hands’ daily labor
I bless our hands’ daily labor
by Marina Tsvetaeva
I bless our hands’ daily labor, bless
sleep every night.
Bless every night.
And the coat, your coat, my coat,
half dust, half holes.
And I bless the peace
in a stranger’s house– the bread in a stranger’s oven.
* * *
When winter storms and arctic temperatures visit the entire Midwest, life is not exactly normal. For two and a half days we did not really go anywhere. That was fine. We started back to homeschool this week. As if to reiterate that we are living a counter-cultural lifestyle, we started back to school on the very Monday that all the schools in our area were canceled. Most everything that could be canceled in our city was canceled. I, on the other hand, was chomping at the bit to get back to something like a rigorous work schedule.
The resultant mood in our house was what I hoped for and mostly expected: good, normal, all restored to relative balance. I was a youngest child in my own family but I am coming gradually to understand the needs of an oldest child: the need to be challenged; the need for structure and discipline, new information, expectations placed upon her. When she does not have these for a long time (i.e. the long stretch of irregular time surrounding Christmas), her behavior goes haywire, squirrely, and yes, bratty. So this week has been about getting things back into line– any kind of line– preferably a straightish one. The discipline works wonders and turns her sweet again.
And so things around here are improved and I feel good about life right now. What amazes me is how, when we are stuck inside the house, there is still so much to do, so much to stay occupied with. If all you do is make the beds, wipe down the bathroom surfaces, put in a load of laundry, keep the dishwasher loaded and unloaded, there is a lot to do. Pick up the toys and books that the girls scatter; fold and put away clean laundry (never catching up). Dissolve a packet of yeast in water in the stand mixer, twist in some flour and oil, let sit. Later: homemade pizza creates a floury mess all over the table. Eat, clean up. Get children to bed in the hopes of some free time. Squander that time online; remember that book you were reading and read. The day is filled with undone things leftover tomorrow. And this without ever leaving the house.
The house, your world. And I can be happy this way.
Granted, my reserve of patience did run out at the end of two and a half days inside. Thankfully by that time the temperature outside was up in the twenties and my husband (who was working on a card table in the bedroom because there was no parking at the snowed-over university campus and his basement desk area was too cold), suggested throwing in the towel of duty and calling time out on all the grumbling and pointless parent-child and child-child quarrels erupting indoors and all going sledding. And that was good– what we desperately needed, even though I was pretty grumpy during the process of getting on all the requisite snow clothing, and grumpy still when we arrived at the idyllic sledding hill in front of the art museum. But by the end we were all cured of grumpiness and ready to start another day of being indoors.