Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Ramble - Work

The word work has been around since before 900 C.E. and comes to us through the good offices of the Middle English weorc and wyrcean, the Old English worc (or weorc), the Old Frisian werk, Old High German German werah and werc, the Greek ergon, the Old Norse verkja and the Gothic waurkjan. All these words mean (for the most part) simply "to do something", and that definition covers a multitude of activities: meditating, wandering in the woods, doing the dishes (or the laundry), digging in the garden, cooking a meal, painting a canvas or taking a photograph. Sweet or onerous, the word work covers it all.

Kindred words include include the English wrought and wright, the Greek organa, organon, organum and ergon, the modern Norse yrkja. All are testimony to the requirement of sentient beings to be actively engaged or truly involved in something from time to time and focused on that something, whatever it may be.

Trees, web spinners, bees, birds, sheep and wandering humans - we all have our work and our need for it, and work well done makes a sweet life. It is tempting to ramble on for many paragraphs, but nobody speaks (or writes) of life's work more beautifully than Mary Oliver, and her "Messenger" says it all for me, particularly in this Earth Day week.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird--
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever

Mary Oliver
(
Messenger from Thirst)

4 comments:

Delphyne said...

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
~Kahlil Gibran

Anonymous said...

"Standing still and learning to be astonished" is one of my favorite pastimes now that the earth has warmed, and the trees and birds and flowers are giving their gifts with total abandon. Their work is to unfurl with joy, mine is to receive and bow deeply.

Feithline said...

Thank you for sharing Mary Oliver with me today. I needed her mothering a little. :)

Laura Hegfield said...

absolutely perfect poem for honoring our sweet mother earth and the work we are here to do/experience while passing through life.