Discovering the Joy in Purposeful Work by Darla Barrows
A few years ago, a hummingbird that made daily rounds in our garden flew past a slender bloom and directly into our picture window, bouncing off the glass and falling several feet into the bowering leaves of a hosta. The time passed with no sign of him and so we peeled back leaf upon leaf until he was freed and flew away. After that close call we decided to replace the sparsely bloomed hosta with a more robust banquet of flowering sage and bee balm. To our surprise, as the hummingbird made his daily rounds, he continued to dine at the phantom hosta, flying to the exact spot where it had bloomed, hovering for a moment or two before dipping to the new flowering herb beds.
As I meditated on the quiet devotion of the little bird, it reminded me of my first Waldorf Parent Child class years ago. Like the bird to his daily flowers, we learned to approach the daily tasks of the home in such a way that they become rhythmical activities that we did naturally and instinctively. Even the most mundane of household tasks could become a source of joy and the secret was three-fold: a consistent daily and weekly rhythm, a beautiful toolkit and a mindful presence.
We learned that we should work with tools we love: from the bowl you fill with warm water, to the herbal soap, to the cloth you hold and finally to the line where you hang your cloth to dry. For our class, that meant absolutely no red plastic pails hiding beneath the kitchen sink, but beautiful white enamel bowls, peppermint and lavender Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap and a hand crocheted yellow cotton wash cloth that we made together in our handwork circle.
With warm sudsy water, a room could be transformed with these simple and treasured items. It created a Babette’s Feast for dishwashing and counter scrubbing. And in this manner, the children were drawn into our work and soothed by it, for who can resist a warm bowl on a soft towel, filled with the gentle aroma of the garden? From the happy feelings that accompanied this, one could transition easily into taking the washcloths outdoors to dry or baking bread on the freshly clean kitchen counter. This was the daily rhythm, and the weekly rhythm was born out of the meaningful activities that this led to.
The third tool, being present and mindful, came surreptitiously as we continued to build on this purposeful work to create a beautiful home for our families. Many years after that first Parent Child class, it continues to inform the way I parent, teach, and maintain healthy rhythms in our home.