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Transactions with Beauty.
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- Shawna

 

 

On Being Busy

On Being Busy

Today’s post is in honour of a busy world, and those who are busy in it. I’ve been thinking about the background sounds we all have and which sometimes become overwhelming and the ways in which we do and do not speak about them. 

There is the sort of person who out of nervousness and possibly anxiety needs to list off all that they’re doing. A sort of mantra maybe. I know that there have been a lot of articles about the glorification of being busy, but I think sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism and that sometimes life just becomes complicated in ways that are difficult to talk about. It’s not always glorification but a call for a life preserver, or a friendly ear. 

Another kind of person might keep their busy-ness entirely to themselves. They have difficulty talking about it, asking for help, expressing emotions about it, but just carry on. They certainly don’t post their state of busy-ness or tiredness on Facebook. They have loved ones near and far with serious health concerns, errands to run, freelance work calling, a novel on the back burner, unexpected tasks, a day job, a lovely family swirling around and in and out. (I might just be mostly this type of person though sometimes I also feel the need to tell you about my errands). 

So this post is for someone juggling her life. In other words, it’s for everyone. 

 

Poem for someone who is juggling her life

by Rose Cook

This is a poem for someone
who is juggling her life.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.

It needs repeating
over and over
to catch her attention
over and over
because someone juggling her life
finds it difficult to hear.

Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
Let it all fall sometimes.

– from Notes from a Bright Field by Rose Cook

 

roses and purse

I originally found the above poem on Anthony Wilson's site, where he collects a series of what he calls “lifesaving poems.” I think this is a brilliant idea – to copy those poems which save your life, into a notebook, or maybe onto a blog. You never know when you’ll need to refer to one of them again. Each person’s book will be different, of course. Much like the idea of a commonplace book.

This blog is very much a commonplace book. I use it to remember things, to dash down this snippet or that, to remember how the light was some afternoon in May. To remember where I put my car keys, my favourite lipstick. To remember what I love. To remember to be still. To remember that I don’t necessarily need to go on that one errand today. 

roses and purse

I was thinking about how the busy life is sometimes a poem. And that it has always been this way, the way the ordinary life, the everyday, is so jam-packed with the poetic that we hardly see it any more. 

Mary Robinson, all the way back in the 18th century wrote about they busy-ness of a morning.

 

London’s Summer Morning

by Mary Robinson

Who has not waked to list the busy sounds
Of summer’s morning, in the sultry smoke
Of noisy London? On the pavement hot
The sooty chimney-boy, with dingy face
And tattered covering, shrilly bawls his trade, 
Rousing the sleepy housemaid. At the door
The milk-pail rattles, and the tinkling bell
Proclaims the dustman’s office; while the street
Is lost in clouds impervious. Now begins
The din of hackney-coaches, waggons, carts; 
While tinmen’s shops, and noisy trunk-makers, 
Knife-grinders, coopers, squeaking cork-cutters, 
Fruit-barrows, and the hunger-giving cries
Of vegetable-vendors, fill the air. 
Now every shop displays its varied trade, 
And the fresh-sprinkled pavement cools the feet
Of early walkers. At the private door
The ruddy housemaid twirls the busy mop, 
Annoying the smart ’prentice, or neat girl, 
Tripping with band-box lightly. Now the sun
Darts burning splendor on the glittering pane, 
Save where the canvas awning throws a shade
On the gay merchandise. Now, spruce and trim, 
In shops (where beauty smiles with industry) 
Sits the smart damsel; while the passenger
Peeps through the window, watching every charm. 
Now pastry dainties catch the eye minute
Of humming insects, while the limy snare
Waits to enthrall them. Now the lamp-lighter
Mounts the tall ladder, nimbly venturous, 
To trim the half-filled lamps, while at his feet
The pot-boy yells discordant! All along
The sultry pavement, the old-clothes-man cries
In tone monotonous, while sidelong views
The area for his traffic: now the bag
Is slyly opened, and the half-worn suit
(Sometimes the pilfered treasure of the base
Domestic spoiler), for one half its worth, 
Sinks in the green abyss. The porter now
Bears his huge load along the burning way; 
And the poor poet wakes from busy dreams, 
To paint the summer morning.

{source}

What if we started our morning off by listening, and listing, what we hear and see (before we scroll through social media....). The neighbour’s children heading off to the bus stop. A dog barking in the distance. Wind through the tree boughs. The sound of a book rolling off the bed and hitting the carpet. 

I think what I find so soothing about Robinson’s poem is that she is listening to others. She registers the hard work and busy-ness of those around her. (Obviously there are some class things we could discuss here, too). Her poem says to me, we are not alone, that there is some elegance and grace in all that we do, in all the loads we carry, and the work that we do, some for love, some for money. We are all doing our work, and taking care of all those things that go on in the background, and trying to keep our head above water, and trying to juggle, and holding on by a thread. And mostly we do, and we keep it together, and what a miracle that is, isn’t it? 

 

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