What Simple Tasks Bring You Joy?

Tenth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this series of essays. I love the simplicity of this shot. Each element — the bygone style of shirt, the wooden pegs, the rough-hewn boards — speak of another era. Martin snapped this at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, MI.

When the quarantine began, I was still making to-do lists. There was so much I was going to get done in this stretch of time! Write a new draft of a children’s picture book text I’ve been working on; paint every day; exercise; read all the unread books on the shelf in my office.

I was frustrated each day when I didn’t accomplish everything on my list. Just as frustrated as B.C., before Corona. Our patterns accompany us everywhere, even in lockdown. Midway (or what I then assumed was midway) through the lockdown, I fell apart. When would this end? I wasn’t getting as much done as I’d set myself to accomplish. I had no attention span to read. I painted one abstract that could only be titled Corona.

Now, with an additional 15 days added to seclusion, I find this time is generating its own kind of simplicity and normalcy. Certain intentions — getting to bed earlier — have created time and space for meditation, exercise and prayer from a place of quietude not list making.   We are eating dinner earlier, watching less TV. I find I don’t really want to binge (except for the rice pudding I made last week!) Martin and I are faithful about a daily walk. Checking in with friends is a balm as we  navigate Zoom, curbside birthday celebrations, and the kinds of food trades that were once commonplace — eggs for apples, lettuce for lemons, flour for challah. It feels like the world children’s book author Elsa Beskow created for her book Pelle’s New Suit. Pelle, in need of a new suit, traded chores for each neighbor whose individual skill contributed to his suit. 

We are finding our way with our granddaughter, reading to her on FaceTime and playing the orchestral music videos she enjoyed with Martin when they still lived nearby. I have begun to write Olivia letters (she’s only three so these are very simple.) She now writes me back — a picture of a birthday cake, replete with yellow pipe cleaner candles; a drawing of an ice cream cone cut into puzzle pieces for me to reassemble. Perhaps when the world returns to, and even expands, its virtual connecting, Olivia and I will still retreat  to our anachronistic island of letter-writing.

Quarantine. Lockdown. Seclusion. No matter what you call it, every day brings tasks and pleasures that offer joy. What will yours be today?


P.S. I did rework a new draft of the children’s story. From my bookshelf, I recommend David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous and Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.




Keep the conversation going. What simple tasks bring you joy? Have you begun, or set aside, to-do lists?  Learn more about Picture a Conversation here

8 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Jeff says:

    Yes, these are strange times. I am getting tired of the news saying the “New Normal”, so I am borrowing your BC for some future facebook posts, and other conversations. Who know what or how things may be once stores, businesses, temple, restaurants, tour companies, and attractions start to slowly return.
    Hugs from Cottonwood/Sedona.

    • What is so unnerving is that we don’t know anything.
      This pandemic has usurped our ability to imagine our future.

      Hugs received and returned from Birmingham.

  2. Louisa Judith (Judy) Bardach says:

    Every child has a fantasy of a day with nothing you have to do. Of course, number one, no school. No homework,No clothes to put away (especially those that need hangers). No music to practice, no thank-you notes to write. No records ( or cds) to return to their jackets. No dishes to wash or dry. No canary cages with bottom liners to replace.
    No toys to put away. No errands to run for your parents.
    Now, at 85, in the age of corona virus and living alone in a Senior Complex, I recall what it was like to be a child. School was an opportunity to meet new challenges and to be with friends. Homework was seldom difficult and once I had a room of my own, I had my own closet and dresser. No piano but Alexa plays anything I want to hear and my aging bones and tendons are comfortable when I don’t push them too hard.
    Thank-yous are usually given and followed up with texts immediately. My toys : iphone,
    I pad, PHONE SOAP, (didn’t know l needed it but have started sanitizing with UV light anything that fits) surround me, along with multiple remotes).
    I wish I could have a way to show my parents my appreciation for how much I still enjoy access to all the arts they provided for me and my sisters.
    I am glad I can still sort and launder my own possessions.
    I love the moment when I can welcome each new day with a prayer and then let the light into my home.

  3. Ilene says:

    Approaching my ninth decade, I did not think I would be able to return to the simple chores of housekeeping.
    Now, living in a senior apartment and being on lockdown, I found I am capable of changing bed linens, vacuuming carpets and even making potato latkes What use to take me a short time to accomplish, now takes hours, but I get it done. I feel great knowing I am still capable of taking care of my home and my life and my finances even though it is easier to have outside help.
    Thank you, Debra, for starting this conversation. So nice to hear about your constant communication with your sweet granddaughter.

    • Ilene, Thank you for such a beautiful response. There is a wonderful
      feeling of satisfaction caring for our own homes and spaces. Yes,
      it does take longer yet the satisfaction might be even greater.
      You are a shining role model for me and so many others.

  4. Iris says:

    Thank you, Debra, for another refreshing visit with your words and Martin’s art. This is the season for sleeping in sun-dried sheets. More than 21 days to form the habit of “certain intentions” with Olivia to your “anachronistic island of letter-writing.” And I’ve just ordered Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous. I know by heart page 55 of L’Engle’s Walking on Water. And one painting is one painting. Just look at what you’ve accomplished!

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