“The only credit we claim is for the use we make of the talent we are given.  That is why I urge young musicians:  Don’t be vain because you happen to have talent.  You are not responsible for it; it was not of your doing.  What you do with your talent is what matters.  You must cherish this gift.  Do not demean or waste what you have been given.  Work — work constantly and nourish it.”
— Pablo Casals

“Work helps prevent one from getting old . . . The man who works and is never bored is never old.  Work and interest are the best remedy for age.  Each day I am reborn.  Each day I must begin again.”
— Pablo Casals


“The truth is that man needs work even more than he needs a wage.  Those who seek the welfare of the workers should be less anxious to obtain good pay, good holidays and good pensions for them than good work, which is not so much to make objects as to make men.  A man makes himself by making something useful.”
—  Mahatma Gandhi

On a building in Pioneer Square

On a building in Pioneer Square

“In a laboring life, ideas percolate up through the routine of a working day.  Mental space opens and allows for inventive thoughts.  Call it daydreaming if you wish, because it does proceed from a freedom of movement of the mind.  Or call it meditation, because it also entails a form of focused concentration.  Whatever the name, it’s where mental play and physical work coalesce.”
— Dan Snow, Listening to Stone

Work is one of the paths to finding meaning and satisfaction in life.  This is the concept of right livelihood, I think.  I feel fortunate to be working in a library, providing free access to information, and thus supporting democracy.  When the routines of work lose their luster, as they sometimes do after six or seven hours in the public eye, it helps to remind myself of my part in the wider picture.  It’s good to feel that one’s work is important.

I wish you the same this Labor Day.

“The way we support ourselves can either allow us to live by our real values or it can distort them.”
–John-Paul Flintoff, How to Change the World

” . . . work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.”
— Stanley Kunitz, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden

Tractors in the fields, Skagit Valley

Today’s quote is food for thought on this Labor Day holiday — work as a manifestation of gratitude.  I do believe that some of the most fortunate people are those who have found work that offers meaning and pleasure.  The kind of work that you never want to retire from.

Parenting is that kind of work.  As is farming and gardening, teaching and construction.  Nurturing life.  Creating beauty and usefulness.  How lucky are those who have found work that feeds the soul.

Harvesting lavender, Lavender Wind Farm

At work in the flower fields, Jello Mold Farm



As Labor Day Comes to a Close

September 5, 2011

” . . . the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task.”
— David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea:  Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

The perfect book for reading on the Labor Day holiday

The United States established a Labor Day holiday in 1894 in tribute to the contributions of workers to the nation’s prosperity and well-being.  I have been slowly cleaning out my bookshelves, and today by chance pulled out David Whyte’s book about the meaning of work.  It was the perfect book to read on Labor Day.

I liked what Whyte had to say about reinvigorating and reimagining our work so that it does not starve our spirits.  He says, ” . . . work is not a static endpoint or a mere exercise in providing, but a journey and a pilgrimage in which core elements of our being are tested in the world.”  He urges us not to settle for anything less than work that wholeheartedly engages us.

I also liked Whyte’s acknowledgment of the contributions of those workers who came before us.  He says, “We would stand barely a chance in the world if we did not rely from cradle to grave on what has been handed down from those who have lived and worked before us.  From agriculture to health care, from education to sanitation, we are the recipients of generations of toil. . . . Whatever our success at work, in the financial markets, or in the virtual worlds now being born, we are all in the gift of much older work.”

I think I’ll take a few minutes to think, with gratitude, of all those whose work has shaped my life to this point.  Happy Labor Day!

Celebrating Labor Day

September 6, 2010

The Labor Day holiday has special significance this year coming on the heels of my furlough week.  I am more appreciative than ever to be employed and have the opportunity to work in a library, the perfect environment for a bookworm like me.  In this troubled economy, you cannot take your job for granted.  I wish everyone happiness in their work.
by Henry van Dyke
Let me but do my work from day to day,
     In field or forest, at the desk or loom,
     In roaring market-place or tranquil room;
Let me but find it in my heart to say,
When vagrant wishes beckon me astray,
     “This is my work; my blessing, not my doom;
     Of all who live, I am the one by whom
This work can best be done in the right way.”
Then shall I see it not too great, nor small,
     To suit my spirit and to prove my powers;
     Then shall I greet the laboring hours,
And cheerful turn, when the long shadows fall
At eventide, to play and love and rest,
Because I know for me my work is best.

Tractor repair (photo August 2008)

Field work: baling hay (photo August 2008)

Handwork -- knitting to pass the time on the ferry

Honor in Work

September 7, 2009

Old farmer at a farm auction

Old farmer at a farm auction

Here is a poem in honor of Labor Day.

To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.