Perceptions of Work

My children and I have been having an excellent week outdoors.  Despite the return of colder weather and snow.  We have been working to clean up the tree that came down in the Fall.  I want to salvage as much of it as possible.  We have been picking up sticks to use in the construction of our hugelkultur tomato beds (more on that later).  The children have really been enjoying seeing how high they can pile the sticks before we drag them on a tarp across the yard.

There was also a lot of sawdust created, which we raked and shoveled into some large bins for later use.  The boys have their own pint-sized spades and they have been using to blissfully scoop sawdust.  Once that job was completed, they began helping me shovel dirt into buckets and emptying them out into the divots in the lawn that the limbs made as they experienced the full force of gravity’s pull.

So what has made this ‘work’ so joyous for us?  Often when things seem like ‘work’ the children look for a hiding place!  I believe the success of the tree cleanup has been treating it as something to look forward to whilst I’m outdoors with my children.  Stacking functions.  While they happily go about their play, I have taken to the task of working on cleanup –  but without it taking over my attention to their worlds of play.  In the first few days, I was interrupted many times.  Sometimes only working for 5 or 10 punctuated minutes.  The beauty of picking up tree branches (and most tasks, although I have difficulty convincing myself of this) is that it could easily be interrupted and returned to at a later time.  Each time we were outside, I’d pick away at it a bit more.  The children started to take notice, and wanted to join in.  I was enjoying the activity, and so were my children.  There was no predetermined end goal, no timeline, no rush.  It started to become what we were doing outside.  My eldest is excited to plant the grass seed and rope off the area, but we’ll have to wait a week or so until it warms up a bit.

When I treat things like work and drudgery, that’s what they become.  I feel it, my children feel it.  It comes out in my words, tone of voice and body language – despite every effort to conceal it!  When I can accept what is, and do what needs to be done with joy in my heart, the task has potential to become tolerable, perhaps even fun, or if I’m really on top of my game, a meditative practice.  The feel of our inner landscape makes all the difference in our projected view of the outer world.


End of a Life

Yesterday we said goodbye to a well loved tree in our yard. The twin trunks supported a treehouse that was a favourite spot for play.  The shade from its leaves provided much needed refuge from the summer sun.  The branches have held my babies in swings since they were newborns.  Now it is in pieces all over our yard.

I knew this day was coming, as we saw its bark peel back, exposing its tender flesh below.  It became knobby and harboured more fungi than I’ve seen a tree sustain before.  Living cycles are natural, but the passing of something so dear to us leaves me grieving.  We loved that tree.  And we still do.

The boys have been having a great time with it still, making up stories about the cut logs and branches.  Working intricately with its pieces, still pulsing the fragrance of life.  We plan to make huglekultur raised beds of the rotten wood and branches, and use the upper limbs for mushroom spawning.  Our tree will live on in new ways, just as all things in nature do – earth to earth, water to water, air to air, fire to fire, ether to ether.

Thank you Earth, for the blessing of our giving tree.