Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Always Getting Ready


Photo courtesy Flickr user elPadawan
Historian Susan Strasser’s housekeeping trilogy starts with the blockbuster Never Done describing the history of European-American domestic responsibilities. In her subsequent volumes, Strasser goes on to explain the evolution of consumer culture, now capable of considering just-in-time supply via a thirty minute wait for a drone air drop.

I find it both heartening and unsettling to contemplate Strasser’s history of life support as we know it. A recent visit to the home of a dear friend struggling with the multiple demons of chemo, an avalanche of heirlooms, paperwork, and establishing a live/work situation reminded me of a showing of aboriginal culture that a local gallery presented some years ago.

I knew Cape Dorset prints from a beautifully printed card a painter friend had sent me. The card was designed by the woman who brought her village to the attention of the arts community. The gallery titled its display “Always Getting Ready”. The printmaker explained that traditional Inuit life progressed through the seasons, taking advantage of the bounty and challenges of each.

As a young adult, I loved and reveled in the seasonal rhythms of private local life. Matrons of European descent gathered the same berries as the Squaxin and Suquamish. Unusual for her cohort, my mother worked outside the home. She was no chambermaid. I learned young to run a tight operation, forgot it as soon as I was free to do so, and went over my notes as fast as I could after the baby arrived.

With a long and hard-earned perspective, I can finally say that getting ready is far more than half the fun. With the right ducks in the right rows, labor simply disappears. The trick is to lighten up and simplify. I find it helpful to ask myself if I would value a thing if I had to carry it on my back for three hundred miles. Since anything I carry in inventory does sit on my back in effect, the question has knocked many an unproductive artifact into the Goodwill bag.

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