Friday, December 11, 2009

Love and the things of this world

I'm having an English major day. I apologize.

I love this poem. It acknowledges the bad and encourages the good in trying and living and doing. It reminds me of my teacher. And I like housework things.

And I felt like setting out my meandering train of thought. At least enjoy the poem. I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,
``Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.''

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

``Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.''


This is one of the favorite poems of one of my favorite professors. During the Victorian era (which lasted about 3,000 years) section of British Literature II, when a lot of us were struggling to even grasp the point of poetry, he passed out a copy of this poem to us. The poem had great relevance to him. It reminded him that much of life was in the monotonous and mundane and that was fine. And beautiful. Changing diapers, grading papers, taking out the trash. This was life. The romantic, the intense, the tragic, the euphoric--the typically poetic subject matters? They're parts of life.

But they don't make up its whole.

Laundry, however......

Laundry is mundane. Laundry is boring. Laundry is a neverending, soul-deadening, tedious chore.

And yet there's something so satisfactory in making things clean and new. Something satisfactory about knowing I'll have things on hand for when I need them.

And darned if it isn't pretty when it's hanging on lines, clean and bleached in the sunlight.

The handout used to be in my laundry closet in our old apartments. Now we don't have a washer/dryer. Love calls me to haul myself to a laundromat and sit amongst strangers and stranger germs. Love calls Cody to carry stuff in from the car and say things like "No, I can go another couple of days without jeans. I have... more pants...somewhere." Love calls my mom to offer her washer and dryer some times.

Sometimes I put out a new towel for Cody so that it will be right there by the shower when he comes home. I tell him I gave him a fresh towel, and he tells me I'm the best. Love calls me to perform this small act of service, and love calls Cody to respond with gratitude.

The things of this world are small and cluttery and time-consuming and often frustrating. They can be annoying, unpleasant, or boring.

Love calls us to wipe noses, to give rides, to weed flowerbeds, to mail the card, to let that car in our lane, to work jobs we don't like to provide for those we love, to hold hands, to rub sore shoulders, and to do it with love. To keep a positive attitude knowing fully that we'll fall back into grouchiness soon enough. To find a transformative nobility and purpose in the the things that have to be done.

These things aren't beneath us, as trivial as they seem. They are not just to be suffered through while we wait for something poetic to happen. They are to be ..... done.

Like the laundry.

Which, in spite of all the hardworking things I just said, I am actually putting off until tomorrow.

Because love can call me to the things of the world, laundry among them, but I have assured they can wait






Cody says he has some more jeans....somewhere.


It is a very beautiful thing.

No comments: