Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Good Day's Work



“Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.”


Henri Matisse


I am a fan of Matisse, with his vivid colors and unusual vision of the world. A print of the painting here, The Red Room, has graced my living room for 20 years, and I’m not tired of it yet. It was a good day’s work for him.

You are what you do, not what you say, or even what you think, although I guess the thought is the parent of the action. I believe that my character is defined by what I do, not the fine words I say or the confused, sometimes brilliant, sometimes negative things that run through my brain.

So a good day’s work, for me, is something by which I can judge myself. If I make myself do something despite my fickle feelings, I am proud of myself. If I illuminate one other life besides my own for a brief time, I am grateful.

I got the only C I ever got in college in my Philosophy class. I was 16 years old and taking my first university course. The prof made us read cumbersome books by boring people who thought way too much and did way too little. I apologize for my ignorance of his fine points, but David Hume bored me to tears. He was far too smart for me.

I like painters and poets and novelists and revolutionaries and volunteers, who pursue passions good or bad. I like the Shaker philosophy: Hands to work, hearts to God.

I didn’t feel like writing a poem yesterday morning, but I wanted to work at my craft. So I sat down and made myself write a simple poem. I liked myself better for having done it, and it was a good day’s work. What I’ve learned in recovery, among other things, is not to be defeated by my feelings, but to derive happiness from right actions.

What’s a good day’s work to you? From what does your happiness spring?


Rain

After a three-year drought that turned to dust the riverbed, the fields,
Today the manna from heaven falls softly on the surface of the soil,

Which laps it neatly like a cat at the water dish, and the pores of leaves
Open like rosebuds to drink it. The mock orange shivers with raindrops,

The pine needles quiver, those brave narcissus bend their thirsty heads.
Rain patters like music on the roof, no longer creaking in the sunlight

But tooting like a piccolo in joy. Rain, rain, rain, a sighing in the air
Of satisfaction escapes the mouth of the ground beneath my feet,

Breath I feel on my cool skin as I embrace the raindrops in my arms.
The roots sing as their veins swell, and brown water begins to pool

In the dry riverbed. Small puddles reach out to other pools; they link,
Trickle gaily into low spots; and the river’s muddy blood awakens.
*****

19 comments:

Shadow said...

i see the doing as the proof (or evidence) of the words and even thoughts... and if they don't coincide, i have a problem...

Secretia said...

And the earth at last drinks her fill.

We are what we do, that is right.

Thanks.

Karen said...

This poem is, in my opinion, one of your best, Chris! A good day's work, indeed!

Because the work I do primarily affects children,I have many things that make me feel I've done a good day's work. The most recent was writing a grant(the "good day" came when I heard that we received the funding) to place after-school tutoring programs for at-risk children in all of the schools in our school district. We are able to provide snacks and instruction for children who need extra help. That's a good day's work!

Madison said...

You are blessed to have found your gift. Beautiful painting and beautiful post.

the walking man said...

It is the connectivity that refreshes the parched soul.

I am found of a good days work when sleep descends readily with no questions of what happened that was beyond me tearing at the fabric of night.

Tracy said...

What a thoughtful and beautiful post. Actions speak louder than words - that's true. Some words are more powerful than others - like your poem. Beautiful! Have a thrilling Thursday!

Brian Miller said...

i love hte smell of rain, especially after there has been none...the imagery of the connecting puddles is very cool.

a good days work...another life touched. it doesnt have to move, just be touched.

Enchanted Oak said...

I didn't realize the poem ends with connection between us until Brian and Walking Man brought it to my attention. Illuminating one life, touching another soul, is the lifeblood of our parched humanity.

Karen's good day's work is very touching... a pleasing, gentle pun, if I do say so myself.

Magpie said...

You do an awesome day's work..the poem is fluid and enriching. Your blog illuminates me daily. :)

TechnoBabe said...

One of the things learned to let go of in recovery was my hard core very strong hold on my belief that I did not accept what came out of peoples mouths; I only believed what they did. Example: My mother would sometimes tell me she loved me and then later would be hitting me with something. So of course that was confusing to me. I think that the fact you were able to discern what is true for you at age 16 was a blessing. I like your poem, I get the feeling you don't think as much of it as your readers do. Without meaning to you bring about the connection we all seek.

Akannie said...

Beautiful poem, Chris...mmm...I can see/smell/hear the rain...

Any days work is a good days work, when I've not hurt another, gotten out of myself to do whatever good I can, and had occasion to smile. It's all about peace, baby. lol

Margie said...

Hello Chris, thank you for your visit to my blog and your kind words.
(isn't TechoBabe wonderful! )
So glad you paid a visit to me from her blog.

Your poem is wonderful.
So enjoyed it!

Margie :)

Titanium said...

Happiness is...

...and also, a good day's work on every count. See the previous.

Monkey Man said...

Living in the Pacific NW, if you don't enjoy rain you are hopeless. I find it very sensual and you captured that sensuality quite well. Great post, Chris.

Syd said...

A good days work for me is having reached someone with my words and deeds. When I am a counterfeit person, then I have not done a good day's work.

Great poem Chris.

nsiyer said...

Lovely poem. And I agree - knowing is knowing and doing is doing.

Shoshana said...

I smiled when you started off on boring philosophers! I tend to stick to the philosophers who really know how to write: Plato, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard . . . they're entertaining whether or not you agree with them.

(Ok, Plato's Laws was pretty awful--but only because he died before he could complete it. Can't blame the man for dying before he could make it sparkle, I suppose.)

Meanwhile, thanks for introducing me to Matisse! I know nothing about art. (I really should do something about that . . .)

And thank you for a gorgeous poem--my eyes kept lingering over the phrase 'the river's muddy blood'.

Judy Sheldon-Walker said...

I love your poetry. It is so visual.

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