Perfectly ripe avocados in a simple lemon juice/salt/cilantro dressing. Working venison together with pork and bacon for deer sausage. Cooking over dead-fallen branches for lunch on an old oven grate. Putting up garden bounty. Honey harvest from our bees, twenty-five pounds our first year. Salsa and more salsa from our prolific tomato harvest. Strawberry shortcake, need I say more?
“Why on earth would you want that?”, puzzled my husband with bewilderment in his face as I oohed and aahed over a manual washing machine. “Do you know how much work that would be?”
“Ah yes, dear, but it’s the sort of work I like best. And imagine the arm muscles I’d have. No gym needed, and we wouldn’t need to depend on electric!”
Can you hear him sighing?
We were at Lehman’s, a store specializing in all things old-timey and non-electric (though they do offer electric items too, like a kick-butt dehydrator that I covet). Dustin had surprised me on our way home from Montana with a trip to the store that I’d only encountered online before. I danced around the aisles of wood-burning cookstoves and kerosene lamps in utter glee. Everything in there is useful and well-made. I was in pioneer-wannabe heaven.
I settled on 5 yards of cheesecloth, a butter paddle (for removing buttermilk from homemade butter), and a rapid laundry washer (which is like a metal plunger that washes clothes, sucking the dirt up and out, very useful when my kids come in covered in mud!). My mother-in-law smiled as I happily showed her my washer. “I tell people all the time that you were born in the wrong century.” Yes and amen.
Dipping candles, working with my bees, gardening, canning, drying, sewing, and pinning out the laundry in the breeze; how do I have time for it? I get asked this now and then, usually by someone who is shaking their head at me. I turn the question around, “How do people have time to run their kids to five activities a week or keep up with a television show or work out in a gym or serve on committees and such? We all make time for life-giving work, whatever type that might be, work that feeds our souls and nurtures our families and communities, we apply our hands to those tasks.”
It is far from drudgery for me to pull weeds for hours. As my hands work my mind is free, free to think and dream and ponder and wander. Then there are the tactile delights, like digging my finger into honeycomb and feeling the wax give way and how the warm honey and waxy bits feel on my tongue. The feel of dough under my hands when it reaches that magic elasticity that means it’s done. The way cold water seems to permeate to my very bones on a hot day of garden work. Don’t laugh at me, but even the feel of the water slipping over my hands in sudsy glory while washing dishes holds a delight for me. It is the work I like best.
Today the cucumbers needed attention. So four quarts of refrigerator pickles are sitting on the counter cooling down on a folded tea towel while a 5-gallon crock of diced cucumbers, peppers, and celery sits in a salt brine for canning sweet relish. I love the sound the knife makes when slicing through the crisp, cold celery. I love the fresh scent of the cucumbers. I like this work. I am grateful that these tasks are mine to do, mine to teach to my children in time.
This is a rambling bit of gratitude about work. Of course there are rancorous and irritating things to say about the work of my hands, but those are nothing but common woes, weeds among the flowers. Will you perhaps think of what you love about the work God has given you? Will you share some thoughts below?
A smile and a wave from me.