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Possumhaw: Meditations on home


Shannon Bardwell



"When I went to school they asked me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy.' They told me I didn't understand the assignment. I told them they didn't understand life." 


John Lennon  




There are few opportunities I love more than being quiet at home -- sometimes if only for a short time, maybe doing nothing at all but staring into space or out the window and thinking all those thoughts that, in the busyness of a day or week, I've had no time to think. 


Last week, Sam left hours before daybreak to go fishing. I turned and flipped off the alarm and allowed myself the pleasure of waking without the annoying bedside jangle. I used to fish with Sam, only I spent my time watching nature, the trees, the water, the sky and the clouds while thinking. 


Sam would say, "Why don't you fish?" 


"I'd rather think," I'd answer. "All week long I've cataloged my thoughts for a time when I can pull them out again and think them through." 


"I don't see why you don't fish," he'd say. 


So early that morning I got out of bed, taking the sheets with me for washing. I gathered from the laundry basket and carted it all downstairs. Coffee poured, cats let outside; then into the sunroom for quiet thinking, meditation and devotional reading. Ah, what glory. The sun through the trees danced like water rippling across the tile floor.  


They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but more often than not, I do. A favorite I keep continually displayed in my sunroom is "Being Home: Discovering the Spiritual in the Everyday," by Gunilla Norris. 


Inside the cover reads, "Beginning with the first stirrings of consciousness in the morning, passing through the ordinary tasks of a day at home, and ending with bedtime benediction, Gunilla Norris gently reminds us that nothing is too common to speak to us." 


Gunilla has written meditations on 71 home activities we unthinkingly perform almost daily. The accounting of activities alone made me feel successful. I thought of the three loads of clothing and linens washing while I was meditating, of the morning dishes soaking in the suds of the kitchen sink, animals cared for and fed before I sat down with my cup of coffee. I had been busy, without even thinking. 


My list for the rest of the day lay on the counter while I read Gunilla's meditation on lists: 


"The lists grow -- sometimes on lengthy strips of paper. How easily my life becomes a list -- a long scroll of duties. Sometimes the lists break down into separate memos, a batch of yellow memory scraps each with an injunction. Do this! Do that! 


"I can't get rid of my lists. ... Why do I put this 'have-to-do-it' burden on myself? It only makes me righteous, artificially safe and soul-tired. 


"Help me to sit here quietly. Help me not so much to plan but to listen. Help me to be informed, as in 'shaped from within,' by Your will. My burden is so heavy. Yours is always light." 


At the sound of the buzzer I folded clothes, dressed for the day, grabbed the list and left home contented.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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