I must remember, there’ll be days like this. – Van Morrison
Today I spent hours putting branches through our chipper-shredder. This involved four separate items of apparatus on my head: ear plugs, headset sound mufflers, a face mask like the kind people wore during the SARS scare, and safety goggles, which kept fogging up. I feel daunted by loud whirring blades – I’ve used chain and table saws a few times, and while I was comfortable while actually operating the tool, it was years between uses and each time I had to work through my apprehension all over again. But the chipper-shredder turned out to be no big deal, just a giant blender, and I was happy to be outdoors, doing something outside my normal routine.
It was slow going. Sometimes I fed a couple of small branches at a time, nice and even, and sometimes I got impatient, shoved in way too much, and had to work it for awhile, which made for a challenge: adjusting the pressure, pulling some branches back, pushing others down harder, advance and retreat, levering from the left and right until the whole thing gave way like a logjam, the primal satisfaction of release.
Today, I performed a noisy, tedious chore I’d been dreading, and had an extraordinary day.
It was warm for early April, and my mind wandered like a grazing cow. Often my experience of being alone with my mind for extended periods of time is like shaking a pot of anxiously popping corn, but it was as though the earplugs and sound muffler worked on the inside as well, suspending me between past and future, unconcerned with either. Instead, there was the stand of fir trees keeping watch over our back yard, the cool air brushing the back of my neck, my sturdy boots and capable arms.
Afterward, I felt pleased and mildly virtuous, reminiscent of the time I changed the spark plug on my lawn mower. You’d be amazed at how often you can work that piece of information into casual conversation on a Saturday afternoon. “Yeah, I finally mowed my lawn. Was gonna do it yesterday, but I had to change the spark plug.” Or, “I better hurry home, I need to mow before dark, and I still need to change the spark plug.” The variations are nearly infinite. This is not my favorite part of myself.
A forest of branches, hailed down during winter windstorms, is now a tidy pile of stuff we can use. Is there any better definition of a good day? I think of all the times I’ve tried to make an experience or event feel special and emotionally satisfying – to create a memorable moment or hour or weekend. Today, I performed a noisy, tedious chore I’d been dreading, and had an extraordinary day.
I had a good day today because I wasn’t impatient to go on to the next thing, or to transition from work to leisure.
Dancer, musician and author Gabrielle Roth wrote in “Maps to Ecstasy,” that the position of the mind is the most important sexual position, and I would have to agree – the mind calls the shots pretty much everywhere, including while operating heavy machinery. I had a good day today because I wasn’t impatient to go on to the next thing, or to transition from work to leisure. I didn’t stand over myself like a stern parent supervising a distracted child. I wasn’t watching the clock for the end of a workday, or longing for more favorable conditions for my life, or to be a better person. I just wanted to persuade the twiggy branch to tuck down enough to get caught by the rotating blade, and each time, eventually, it did, and I was grateful, and that was all it took to be happy.
Julie Quiring was overjoyed to discover the practice of gratitude can shift her focus from an inexhaustible list of insecurities and anxieties to an inexhaustible list of the gifts and privileges she experiences every day. She lives and writes on Whidbey Island in Washington’s Puget Sound.
We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”
Please log in or Create a Profile to post a comment.
Your lovely story reminds me of a secondary quote from Broken Open, the story of Craig Hamilton (an Australian sports broadcaster)’s struggle with mental illness. He liked the definition of happiness as “the sense that you are moving forward” and it works for me too. Whether in your work, your home, your relationships, your garden….. You give us a lovely reminder that even a wood-chipper can be an instrument of joy!
I so enjoyed reading this, Julie. I love the ‘down to earthiness’! And the pinch of salt in the little bit of self awareness/criticism.
Thank you, Liz! You’re very kind.
Julie, you are such a natural, beautiful writer. There is an ease and flow to your words that somehow puts me at ease too – in my body as well as my heart and mind. “I wasn’t watching the clock,” as I read the piece, or watching my thoughts float away onto my next task/obligation or even the next fun thing to look forward to. Keep letting your mind wander like that “grazing cow! I spend a lot of time watching cows grazing here in the paysage & it always lowers my blood pressure. So many hours spent in the Zendo on zafu pillows and thinking about “attention” – now I see I just need a wood chipper! Bonne Continuation xxxRA
Ruthanne! I just saw your lovely comment. Thank you so much.
I was caught by the line “days like this,” which I recognized at once as a great Van Morrison song I know well so of course I had to stop and give a listen to what you had to say.
Pulling up a reflection of a moment or experience of how the energies of gratitude and joy and love is difficult to latch onto on the fly….today was one of “those days where everything falls into place like the flick of a switch.”
Thanks, Robert, yes, I wrote about this because it so often doesn’t happen that way. A flick of a switch indeed!