Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, September 17, 2010


I can't remember the last time I scrubbed a floor.

No, really. Scrubbed and Scoured it. With a proper scrub brush. Hot soapy water. On my hands and knees like a regular scullery maid right out of one of Jane Austin's books.

I gotta tell ya. It's part of how I'm getting my groove back.

There's something about paying attention to corners and crevices and not just the big picture - which is what I'm more used to - that changes you a bit.

Something about watching the rhythm of your body in the repetitive motion of back and forth and forth and back, putting your shoulder into the effort occasionally, that releases something other than just sweat and body odor.

Something more about finishing a task, taking a few steps back and looking at the hard work you've done as you slowly realize that you're smiling back at a house that's beginning to acquire the shine of home.

There's something about the absolute freedom of these days that is positively exhilarating and yet cautionary.

The house is situated in such a way that, if I've just gotten out of the shower and discovered that I Really Need something in the laundry room, I can walk naked through the bedroom, living room, kitchen and into the laundry room without the care or concern of scandalizing (or horrifying) someone who might be "just passing by".

And yet, there is an order and a rhythm to the day that gives me pause in the fluidity of its structure. My day seems framed by the tides. I eagerly watch and wait to see the way it goes out and leaves parts of the marsh outside my window naked and bare. Then, I watch the way it comes in again, slowly and steadily filling the waters to overflowing, lapping and slapping the decking on a windy day.

I'm always amazed at how closely the tides conform to the predictions I find on the Weather Channel - which I watch with much more frequency here than I ever did in the Northeast Corridor. When you live by the water, you understand the wisdom in the adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

The gulls come in the early morning, looking for crusts of bread thrown out onto the water. I thought this morning of Ecclesiastes 1:11: "Cast thy bread upon the surface of the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days."

Some of my Jewish friends - who just celebrated Rosh Hashanah in which casting bread upon the water is part of the ritual - tell me that this is more than just symbolically casting one's sins into the water before the judgment comes. It is also, I am told, a biblical call to generosity - not because you expect a reward, but because you feel it is right. It is grounded in the belief that good deeds will also benefit those who do them.

It has become part of my morning ritual - to say my prayers and then cast some crusts of bread upon the water during the confession of sins, simultaneously repenting while trying to be generous in feeding the gulls.

It's a lovely ritual, actually. One that calls me to the challenge of tshuvah - literally, 'return' or what we know as 'metanoia' or repentance - as well as generosity. One that feeds and nourishes my soul as well as a few of God's creatures.

And that's part of how I'm getting my grove back after the transition - with its bittersweet combination of sadness and sorrow, anticipation and excitement - of leave-taking and moving and settling into a new home.

It's about simple accomplishments that bring simple pleasures which leads to paying attention to other simple things: The rhythm of the day. The beauty of nature.

It's about the exhilaration and responsibility of freedom.

It's about ritual and rhythm. Hard work and sweat. Repentance and generosity.

I thought I was transforming the house from a vacation/retreat place to a proper year round home.

Turns out, I'm the one who's being transformed.

And it is good. It is very good.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Dearest, you make scrubbing the floor absolutely beautiful!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, my darling, I can tell you it is not glamorous, but it does call up beautiful things, if you allow it.

susankay said...

Hanging clothes out to dry and then bringing them in smelling of "outside" is a form of meditation for me.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, susankay. Amen.

C.W.S. said...

You probably know about Phebe Hanaford, the fourth woman ordained in the US (as a Universalist). She wrote a hymn based on that passage from Ecclesiasticus:

Cast your bread upon the waters,
Do not think it thrown away;
God has said that you shall gather
It again some future day.

Cast your bread upon the waters.
Wildly though the billows roll,
They will help your work to prosper,
Truth to spread from pole to pole.

Cast your bread upon the waters;
Why do you still doubting stand?
Bounteous God will send the harvest
If you sow with liberal hand.

Give then freely of your substance,
O'er this purpose God shall reign;
Cast your bread and work with patience.
You will labor not in vain.

Hanaford also lived in a same-sex relationship for more than forty years. Her contract with her first Jersey City congregation was not renewed partly because she refused when asked "to dismiss the pastor's wife." (So she started a new congregation not far away.)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, CWS. I didn't know about the poem or its author. It's very powerful. Thanks again.