For much of my life, I have felt the day was incomplete if I walked out of the house without making the bed. I wasn’t sure how that habit came to be deeply imbedded into my life or why it was so important. I just knew that it was.
Then I read the following:
Plumping the pillow. Pulling on the sheets. The bed reminds me that I am creating my future every moment.
If I leave a mess, I will find what I left sooner or later. I will not be exonerated from any of my actions — though knowing Your love, I will be forgiven much.
Those few sentences to open a meditation on making the bed are part of Being Home: Discovering the Spiritual in the Everyday (1991) by Gunilla Norris. These simple words are typical of how Norris looks at the tasks we do — from awakening in the morning to locking the door at nightfall — and puts them in the context of living in place. For “how we hold the simplest of our tasks speaks loudly about how we hold life itself.”
All of us have daily routines, and Norris posits that “as human beings we have a strong intuition that deep within our dailiness lies meaning, a huge dimension.” Her search is for how best to speak of that sense of the sacred, especially when it is both fundamental and beyond knowing. This book is an invitation to a process. It is also an invitation to realize that our memories and our prayers change over time.
Standing at the bottom of a stairway…
I remember going down the stairs on my bottom as a toddler. Thud…thud…thud… It was energizing. I want to reclaim bumping along again…
But life intrudes as an adult, seen every day in reading the paper.
The terrible fascinates. This reading the paper trains my fear. I can feel it. I want to know the disaster even as I recoil. I am not separate from the deaths, the demands, and the dealings, the disasters, the deceits, the demagogues, and the diplomats.
This is our incompleteness, our separation, our greed at work. Let me own my part. The world’s hunger is mine. The world’s helplessness is mine. The world’s failure to love is mine. Sober me to this connection in my life. Let the news be printed on my conscience. Help me bear it.
There is a pulse and rhythm to Norris’s words, just as there is to the locking and unlocking of the door each day. And those words speak to many on so many levels. When Bishop Desmond Tutu, Thich Nhat Hanh, Henri Nouwen, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Joanna Macy, Anne Bancroft, Brother David Steindl-Rast, and Madeleine L’Engle write your jacket blurbs, it suggests you have something profound, no matter how simple, to say. I am glad I chose to read Being Home. It was a crossing the threshold moment.
Many times today I will cross over a threshold. I hope I will catch a few of those times. I need to remember that my life is, in fact, a continuous series of thresholds: from one moment to the next, from one thought to the next, from one action to the next….
On the threshold the entire past and the endless future rush to meet one another….
Let me live on the threshold as threshold.
Life teaches us that not every threshold we cross leads to success, not every choice we make is a winner. There are instances when we step across and fall.
And sometimes your book group picks a dud.
I turned to Being Home for refreshment after slogging through a dud of a book.
Being There by Peter Keese is a short book of stories that came from the author’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) career. Our third stage group chose to read it with the hope that the stories would help us in expanding our knowledge of how to “be there” with others in our changing circumstances. Several in the group have left executive positions and moved into semi- or full retirement, with the changes in relationships that move can bring.
The book did stimulate conversations among us around being there for others. One of our members talks about his work toward being a “non-anxious presence” in others’ lives, which I find a worthy goal. There are snippets of good suggestions along that line in some of the stories, but not enough to recommend it. And the author’s approach to personal relationships — especially with women — made me think I was living again in the 1950s with a well-meaning but paternalistic father.
Simply put, there are much better works on the topic of “being there.” Such as Being Home.
For a sampling of other thoughts on the topic on More to Come, see:
More to come…
Image of threshold from Pixabay