Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daily Life as Art

I got home yesterday around 10 PM completely exhausted. But in an unlikely turn of events, I didn't want to go to sleep right away. Instead I stayed up, surveying the mess my projects have left all over the living room and kitchen floor. Hardware cloth and wire lay waiting to be put away in the living room. Two full compost buckets stood awaiting a trip to the garden compost pile. I full bucket of ashes called to be spread over the winter rye growing fast and furious in otherwise sleeping vegetable beds (ashes help to neutralize acidic soil, like lime). When I get home at 5:15, it's already dark out. These things take convincing to do once the sun is down, and there simply isn't enough time - there's a reason why we buy things ready-made!

Instead of cleaning, which I was too tired to convince myself to do, I oiled the kitchen island I made this summer. It's easily the most beautiful thing I own, and I glow with pride when I look at it, or chop veggies on its attached butcher block. I marvel at how it's perfectly built for my height.

In the process of working through the small daily aspects of life, building instead of buying, growing and making from scratch instead of buying, cooking instead of eating out, I am coming to appreciate the artistry of daily life. Cooking has come into vogue over the course of the past few years. The utilitarian, fully mundane act of feeding oneself has become art. Art in the sense that it is practiced simply for the joy of creation and beauty for its own sake.

In the day-to-day tasks of life I am finding that living itself is art. Life is not simply the act of doing tasks to get them done. Life's daily tasks, in their simplicity and necessity, can be done simply for the love of creation and beauty. Why make an island beautiful if it takes more time and energy? Why oil it to bring out the glow of the wood? I do it for the sake of that illusive project of art - the goal of an impossible perfection and the need to create. And so, too, I create the little things that I would otherwise buy - jam, a shelf in the kitchen cabinet, dried apples, cider, a garden bed, boxes of vegetables and sawdust. I do these things out of the desire to live a beautiful life of my own creation.

Is it too silly to think that my calling in life is life itself? Not anything more complicated or grander than the act of feeding myself, my family, and my friends, building, etc.? That I'd rather spend all evening building a dehydrator or putting food by or starting the stove and carrying wood than buying jam and using the extra time to chat with friends online or find the perfect outfit or one of the other million little things we fill our live with?

Today, as I push through 9-5 (which I do not treat as art - I'm not a Buddhist. I practice attachment and I have favorite activities), I can't help but dream about this evening's "chores." I'll get home, start the fire, take out the compost and the ashes, put the veggies in their sawdust (I'll do this outside - it's too messy for the indoors), I'll set things up in the root cellar, make a thick veggie stew from the less-than-perfect carrots and parsnips that won't make it through the winter in the cellar, and then, if there's time, I can go one of two roads - build a dehydrator for over the stove made of window screens, or set the sunchokes and some carrots and parsnips in brine to ferment in the cellar, slowly, surely, and for a long time. I will also clean (I promise!).

1 comment:

  1. yes, you are an artist of life! hello from paris with love from your summer jam-making apprentice.