Before I close up my week and slip into the long weekend, I want to keep my promise to offer a tip on productivity. For this one I’m sharing a childhood memory and a poem with you. May these two offerings enhance your celebrations of Labor Day. I'd like to focus on the beauty of summer and the power of being present in a productive moment.
One of my treasured childhood memories is of working alongside my grandmother at her clothesline on a summer day. Here is a snippet of memoir written back in 1995.
My Nana kept clothespins in a ruffled apron made of blue-green chintz in her laundry room. She’d tie that apron around my waist and then we’d go out together. She’d carry the big basket filled with wet laundry and I’d trundle along behind her, apron pockets loaded with clothespins bumping against my knees. I followed her out, out through the shade of the Linden trees and down a little hill.
There, behind the barn, was an expanse of yard where she and my Papa had strung multiple cotton lines across a wide span. My job was to hand her clothespins from the deep pockets of the apron. The sheets would take on the scent of grass and sun as she shook them out in the air. One by one I’d hand her a clothespin and watch how expertly she worked.
I reveled in standing next to her between layers of wide white sheets. We stood there together amidst a flutter of white, laughing and talking. I’d watch her every move as she stretched each huge cotton rectangle taut along the line and set the pin carefully in the corner. The order was important: sheets, then pillowcases, then the kitchen towels.
I loved everything about Nana and her clotheslines, and summer. Working alongside my Nana was like being inside of a hug.
And a poem . . . .
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
Naomi Shihab Nye