My End of the Bargain
January 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
We do chores twice each day, seven days each week, 365 days each year. Where we live, there’s nothing unusual about this; many of our neighbors adhere to similar schedules, and have for a half-century or more. I sometimes wonder what it’s like to have spent nearly a lifetime doing chores twice daily, to have the patterns of this work as engrained in body and mind as sleep or wakefulness. I suppose someday I’ll know.
I think of chores the way I suspect some people think of a practice – meditation, or yoga, or prayer. Maybe aikido or a musical instrument. Chores are physical, and frankly don’t require great skill, but they’re also emotional, intuitive and, I think, somehow artistic. I find this to be particularly true of chores that involve animals, which most of ours do.
I get up most days around 5:00 or 5:30. I do not set an alarm. In the summer, when it’s light or near enough so, I head straight outside. This time of year, I start fires, make a cup of coffee, sit for awhile and let myself adjust to the day while the rest of the family goes about their slow rousing.
If I’m to be honest, there are mornings I don’t much feel like doing chores. Of course, I do them anyway and I can truthfully say that I have never been sorry it had to be so. In part, this is due to the sheer physicality of the work, the way it gets the blood moving on a slow day. There’s something honest about greeting the day with sweat, as if offering something for the simple good fortune of being alive.
There’s another part to it, and I think it’s that chores are an assumption of responsibility in a world that can sometimes feel devoid of such a thing. In a sense, chores are an homage to the animals and crops under our care, the fulfillment of a silent promise not only to them, but – perhaps selfishly – to ourselves.