Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
The temperature on the farm this morning was 21°. Every outside hose, water trough, bucket, and dish was frozen solid. I did not want to get up and do my chores. But on the farm, every day, the animals need to be fed. And even more importantly, every day, they need their water.
Normally I enjoy this rhythm of daily chores. It gives structure to my time and assures by the end of it that at least I have done one useful thing. By the time I leave to catch the ferry into Seattle, I have been up for at least two hours, and am ready to engage with whatever comes next.
But when the weather turns this frigid, the relentless need for carrying water, every day, becomes grueling. It is dark when the alarm rings, and my bed is so warm. I know that I will have to put on several layers of jackets and coats, and a hat and gloves, just to open the door. And even then, the cold will seep through, and my hands and face will be numb before my work is finished.
And carrying water, instead of just turning on the faucet up by the house, is also hard work. The buckets get heavier every year. If I fill them too full, they slosh on to my pants, making me even colder.
So up at the house I fill the buckets half full, and carry them carefully down to the lower pasture, and pour them into the water bucket, and return for another load. Freezing weather pretty much doubles the time it takes me to finish my morning chores.
Still, as I sit writing about doing my morning chores in 21° weather, there is something that feels solid and faithful about the work. Caring for my flocks in warm weather is one thing. remaining faithful to the tasks in this cold season takes me to a new level of my daily chores” spiritual practice.
God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
I am reminded of the bigger picture of daily practice- that no matter what might be happening in the wider world, there are some tasks I am called to do, every day. Every day I am called to do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.
Every day I am called to show up, no matter how cold the world has turned.