Adair Lara, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote of her mother: "She was an indifferent housekeeper and an absentminded cook, and she carried calm with her wherever she went. She used to wash our clothes in a wringer washer and then hang them on the clotheslines outside. As she pinned up each garment, she said, she thought about the child it belonged to. She never wanted a dryer, even after we could afford one, because it would steal this from her, this quiet contemplation."
Lara became convinced that readers of her newspaper had their own stories and strategies for finding moments of meaning in the midst of their overscheduled and overburdened lives. So she put out a call for ideas. The material she received from men and women is divided into sections: By Hand, Seeing Deeply, and Taking Time. Henry David Thoreau once said: " To effect the quality of the day that is the real art of life." These short passages do just that and are spruced up with thoughtful quotations as well.
Here are a few of our favorites: A woman shines her leather shoes with mink oil and remembers some of the recent places they've taken her. A man who refinishes hardwood floors has a ritual of lying down on the floor before he has sealed it with resins and thinking about what might happen there: people will talk, love, and enjoy their lives together. Another likes to sit with her photo album and recall a pleasant memory as a stay against the confusion in her life. A wife whose husband is away on a trip finds it a lark to spend the night in a guest room; it makes her feel as though she's staying at a bed and breakfast inn. And, last but not least is the person who suggests that when you remove clothes from the dryer, take a moment to hug them or dump the pile on the bed and wallow in the warmth.
All of these are good examples of the spiritual practice of vision, seeing things from a fresh perspective and slowing down time to appreciate what is happening right now. Mary Botham Howitt expresses it this way: "True delicacy, that most beautiful heart-leaf of humanity, exhibits itself most significantly in little things."