Feb 17, 2021Liked by Leah Libresco Sargeant

My friends and I call it "Studio Ghibli-ing our lives". A pile of greasy dishes is slightly less dreadful when you can imagine it lovingly animated with each item plunging into a wobbling cloud of soapsuds. If you can imagine it this way, you find the steps to bring it to a shining sparkly-clean reality become a little easier.

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Feb 16, 2021Liked by Leah Libresco Sargeant

The last lines of Middlemarch are a reminder of what good a quiet life can do: "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

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Feb 15, 2021Liked by Leah Libresco Sargeant

Long time reader, first time commenter. Newman's sermon called "The World's Benefactors" comes to mind.


"Our lesson, then, is this; that those men are not necessarily the most useful men in their generation, not the most favoured by God, who make the most noise in the world, and who seem to be principals in the great changes and events recorded in history; on the contrary, that even when we are able to point to a certain number of men as the real instruments of any great blessings vouchsafed to mankind, our relative estimate of them, one with another, is often very erroneous: so that, on the whole, if we would trace truly the hand of God in human affairs, and pursue His bounty as displayed in the world to its original sources, we must unlearn our admiration of the powerful and distinguished, our reliance on the opinion of society, our respect for the decisions of the learned or the multitude, and turn our eyes to private life, watching in all we read or witness for the true signs of God's presence, the graces of personal holiness manifested in His elect; which, weak as they may seem to mankind, are mighty through God, and have an influence upon the course of His Providence, and bring about great events in the world at large, when the wisdom and strength of the natural man are of no avail."

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I wrote this last month, it feels like a very January poem to me. The time of year after the excitement of the Christmas season, when I'm downshifting to maintenance mode, looking at the long slog of winter remaining and hunkering down.

The way the olive oil pools golden as

you pour it over the fish’s firm flesh

and then the soft squish as your fingers

rub it in, feeling the cold, wet slickness.

The way you pinch the mixed pepper and salt

to carefully sprinkle them— and the way

the salt finds the inevitable cut

on the tip of your thumb and stings.

The way the oven breathes its friendly heat

into your face as you open the door

to pop the tray in, and it feels like the warmth

you should have felt watching the sky turn rose,

purple, and gold behind the stripped maples.

But instead the wind was icy sharp

and you fled back to the kitchen’s retreat

to fill pots with water, to trim green beans

and seed acorn squash and slice crusty bread.

The way not even sunset’s smoldering

glory supersedes the necessary

rituals of dinner.

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Yeats’ “Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop” contains the line (probably I am misquoting) “Love has made His mansion in the place of excrement.”

It’s about the incarnation, but I often meditate on that line to remind myself of the sacrality of the everyday. We’re all making our mansions in the place of excrement.

I figure God wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t also supposed to do it, heh.

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"[maintenance work] tends to fall particularly to women (and to be valorized least when women do it)"

I don't mean to be combative but I am not at all convinced this is true. We all do things no one else sees--some ministerial, some not. What makes me so sure that I (or women) am doing more of them than he is (or men are)? Knowing what I know of myself, I find the assertion a little too comfortable to believe.

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Instead of placing my attention on recognition or encouragement for the work I do– the work of the everyday maintenance of my family– I place my attention squarely on the task of the present moment. There is no need to remember the importance of small acts of diligence, because that's all that life ever is. Everyday routines with my family members and friends are absolutely sacred rituals, though I doubt they share this perspective!

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I always think of the end of Candide, when after weathering all the absurd buffeting of the world and the grand historical figures and forces it contains, and trying to find some semblance of meaning and coherence, they settle down to chop wood, bake bread, and "make our garden grow." It's quite a conclusion, coming from Voltaire. (And the song from the operetta is beautiful).

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“Are there images or exhortation you return to in order to remember the gravity of small acts of diligence?”

A clean kitchen, a made bed, a sanitized bathroom.

Hygiene = infection control and even its elimination

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Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren is a great book on this topic!

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