by Rachael on April 21, 2016

the mess at my deskI dream of the perfect container, or holding space, for my idiosyncratic, freelancing poet’s life. This container would comprise a spacious, orderly home and predictable routine, and (I imagine) it would grant me a more placid soul.

The dream makes sense, given the chaos in which everyday life typically plays out in our home. I neither sleep nor write as much as I need, my desk is a mess, and most days I just barely get the kids to school on time. And the kids! Who, after a day of obedience at school, tear into each other the moment they come through the door.

What doesn’t make sense about my dream, though, is that I imagine that one day, after a lot of hard work, it will actually come true. When I wrote in September that “everything in me could unravel” in exploring the meaning of housekeeping, it was this fantasy that I wanted unraveled, that if I only I could work just a bit harder or smarter, I could find a way to contain our chaos completely.

In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, “I don’t know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you’re never going to get everything together.” I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head. But I’ve always remembered it.

— Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are


Three Views of Housekeeping

by Rachael on March 24, 2016

Net of Indra

1. When one keeps house, what is kept is a boundary between society and nature. Inside is civilization and order; outside is wilderness and chaos.

Thus when I say that I want my family and I to take better care of our home, is it because I want to disavow the parts of myself that are wild and chaotic?

2. Gustave Flaubert once wrote in a letter, “Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire comme un bourgeois, afin d’être violent et original dans vos œuvres” (Be orderly in your life and ordinary like a bourgeois, so that you can be violent and original in your work). In this view, a boundary is still kept between order and chaos, but the purpose of maintaining order is to create a holding space for what is wild and unexpected.

This is my aspiration. I often consider Suzuki Roshi’s words: “To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him [sic].”

3. But what if there is no inside or outside, no need to contain anything? What if my home, family, work, and I are each, like everything else, jewels in Indra’s Net? In this view, when I take care of any small part of the world, I am taking care of the whole thing.

Photo credit: “Net of Indra” by Renate Dodell,
via Flickr Creative Commons


To Keep Me from Forgetting

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Though I love the sunlit evenings of spring and summer, the adjustment to Daylight Savings Time is always more exhausting than I think it ought to be. This year the change wore me out, and on Sunday I greeted spring with a head cold. As I often do when I’m feeling overwhelmed, last week I […]

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February 23, 2016

His birthday was yesterday, and he’s already asking when he will be five. Five years old! I can hardly imagine that one day my littler boy will be so old.

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The Right Dosage

February 12, 2016

“A short story collection works best for me when I read a story a day until it’s done,” writes Sarah at Edge of Evening, and so I have been doing, or trying to, with Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno. I started reading it two weeks ago and will read the last story (of […]

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My #FridayReads: Bright Dead Things

January 29, 2016

This year the gap between the end of L’s school day and the end of the Gnome’s is long, so most days L has about an hour to run around the playground. Sometimes I bring work to do, and sometimes I space out, but usually I have some time to read. Lately I’ve been reading […]

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Signal or Noise?

January 28, 2016

Although I did enjoy the coziness of staying indoors on Saturday as snow buried the city in its temporary beauty, I’m otherwise cranky about this past weekend’s storm. Trying to get a three-year-old over the barely passable piles of soot-and-trash-encrusted snow that accumulate at the corners of every block exhaust me, and I’m enraged at […]

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And Then Comes January

January 7, 2016

The return to ordinary time used to disappoint me, but every year now I love the beginning of the year more. January may be colder and less glittery than December, but it brings more light (already noticeable in the evenings) and relief from the bustle of the holiday season. Even with work deadlines pending, I […]

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O, Christmas Tree!

December 24, 2015

My favorite addition to the home! May you enjoy a blessed holiday, however you celebrate it (or don’t) . . .

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Both And

December 17, 2015

Though it is true that housekeeping may be taken up as spiritual practice, I certainly don’t want to do all of it myself or be seen (by myself or by anyone else) as the one responsible for getting it all done. I keep trying to resolve this tension, at least in my mind. However, perhaps […]

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