All That Jazz

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Dawn cracked the sky on Saturday, the first morning I was home alone in the house. I was up at 4:15 and awake well before that. Like the exhilaration of anticipating a trip or the giddiness of a child on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to begin this next part of my journey. The early sky was grey, it had rained all night; but it didn’t stop the sun from rising to the mountain and cracking open the darkness.

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On the Verge

New post on Daughter on DutyDaughter on Duty.

Have you ever had that vague feeling that you are on the verge of some new life force that you can’t quite pin down? It’s been a long time since that force has lurked in my body. And then, these past days, there it is.

It’s both exciting and frustrating—the latter because I don’t know what’s coming, and there’s a powerful urge to figure it out. Experience has told me to just sit with it. It’s pointless, even detrimental, to rush it. My dear friend and writing mentor says: “Move at the pace of guidance.”

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Chop Wood, Carry Water


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You’ve probably heard the Zen parable:

The novice says to the master, “What does one do before enlightenment?”
“Chop wood. Carry water,” replies the master.
The novice asks, “What, then, does one do after enlightenment?”
“Chop wood. Carry water.”

I suppose it means different things to different people. To me it means it doesn’t matter how my life changes or what happens in the world, there are still tasks to be done. And sometimes those mundane tasks are meditative and cathartic.

These past four years are the longest I have ever gone without a fireplace. Even my dorms had fireplaces. And, well, there are two in this house, but my mother declared a moratorium on their use some thirty years ago. I have scheduled a chimney cleaning next month. I’m ready to fire them up.

Today I moved wood. It was stacked in the trees at the edge of the meadow last summer when I had 35 dead Douglas fir cut down. I hired a team of mostly non-English speaking Hispanic workers to do the job. They were amazing. They did everything I wanted, including taking care not to trample the tiger lilies along the path. Including some branches on big trees that weren’t in the quote. I didn’t expect them to stack the wood (and they would have moved it to wherever I wanted it). I really didn’t expect them to practically sweep the forest floor.

I didn’t expect that the whole crew, including the foreman, would give the entire payment for their day’s work to one quiet one among them, whose wife had been killed in a car accident that spared his infant daughter. I am worried about what will happen to all of them.

That’s really what I wanted to say. Except for this: there were other things I wanted to accomplish today, but it felt good—after the second wheelbarrow load across the meadow, down the driveway, through the woods to the rack I had assembled—to let the other stuff go and just breathe the air, discover the fungi, listen to the wind in the trees, observe the deer at rest under the apple trees, and move my body. I only moved a fraction of the stacks. More enlightenment for another day.

Chop wood, carry water. Life goes on.



Over and Next

New post on Daughter on Duty

Perhaps every blogger in the land should be using this forum today to encourage hope, urging reconciliation. I’m finding it difficult to say much right now. My mother is nearly despondent, and my heart is heavy for her. Every generation mucks things up, and every generation has those who fight for good. My mother has been one of those fighters in her own quiet way. This election was to have been a culmination of that courage at the end of her long life.

On to the ongoing story of being the daughter on duty.

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