I swept the downstairs this morning before going into the studio to paint, and was aware that this simple act was not separate from painting at all.
I used to see housework as a distraction from my ‘real’ work. But lately  I am sensing the different parts of my life as an interrelated whole. And the meditative centering and tending qualities of cleaning are wonderful to bring with me to the easel.
When I was working as a free lance graphic designer and artist, work came first- accomplishing, creating, completing on time, striving for excellence were the dominant values.
Tending fell to the bottom of the list-  tending friendships, our home, the garden, my own inner life.

Easter at the home of my mother-in-law, brings tending to the level of an artform

Tending takes time and attention. We are egged on by the society  to ‘realize’ ourselves and our dreams. In our recent email correspondence about transition, Cat wrote:

Tending. What I’ve been thinking about tending in the last few days is that it fundamentally ‘gets’ that whatever you are tending to already knows what to do, how to grow in its own way. What the tender does is gently meet any needs needed to help that growth along (like watering plants in the summer), but mostly it’s just about paying attention and making a space, big enough and constant for growth to happen.

That the tended whatever-it-is is thriving by our regard and encouragement, not our active intervention. The ‘realization’ thing is much more about pushing, isn’t it? Assuming one knows best and can step in to make the growth happen in the way one thinks it ought to.

I notice, with the falling away of outside work demands, after the initial months of resistance and disorientation, my days are finding their own rhythm. It still feels like an in between time because up until now, my life has been a pendulum swinging from long incubation periods to ones of 100% engagement. But this summer there is no urge to fill this time. I don’t pick up my crafts projects, I’ve put aside my current writing project, and there is no motivation at all to seek outside work. In fact when I do get asked to do something, it often feels like an intrusion on this tending time.

I am painting though, the work is inspiring me and is a source of joy and challenge.

But after the intensely concentrated 1-2 hours per day in the studio, I sit, look, and read. Even the push to declutter and organise is at rest.
I sit, look, read, walk, cycle, garden,tend. And I still judge myself from long years of habit, as  being ‘unproductive’.
But I have time to tend. And the quiet attention for things asking to be done.
For the moment it is just fine.

One thought on “Tending

  1. Hello Sarah,

    There’s a fine coincidence for me with these beautiful summer days, which seem to call out for doing to be put aside, as quiet, diffuse, shade-seeking attention is plenty! To find one’s own rhythm of enough, as a compass, is the treasure of such indolent times.

    Recently I came across this passage in Gary Snyder’s essay ‘On the Path, Off the Trail’, in The Practice of the Wild, which helped shift for me that feeling you describe of housework as a distraction from real work, into seeing, precisely, that everything we do is interrelated:

    “Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms. Changing the filter, wiping noses, going to meetings, picking up around the house, washing dishes, checking the dipstick – don’t let yourself think these are distracting you from your more serious pursuits. Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties we hope to escape from so that we may do our “practice” which will put us on a “path” – it _is_ our path.”

    This brings me to notice also the repetitive nature of tending and how this is an aspect of its value, dare I say virtue.

    Looking forward to more from your tending side.

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