My spiritual exercise for today is to not do laundry.
Instead, I am sitting in the crisp Vermont sunshine, vegetable garden to my left, goat and chicken yard to my right, Wolfie baking slowly on the slate path before me, birdsong in the woods behind me. The California poppies against the back wall of the garage are exploding into bloom. They will look terrible in a week or so when the kleenex-thin flowers fade, but right now they\’re spectacular.
On a day like this it would be a sin to stay indoors. But I haven\’t always known this.
When I was a kid, it was all about delayed gratification, from waiting four hours between bottles as an infant to delaying sex until marriage. On this brilliant spring day, everything I was ever taught—by my parents, by the German nuns who educated me, by the Church in general—tells me that I should be in the house right now, doing laundry. I should be in the kitchen, freezing spinach before it bolts. And I should be making some effort towards preserving at least a portion of the rhubarb that refuses to stop growing. Not until all this is done should I go sit outside.
A recent article in the New Yorker talks about children\’s ability to delay gratification, and the strong correlation between this ability and the child\’s future success in life. In my case, I spent the first half of my life becoming a virtuoso of delayed gratification, and the second half trying to learn to grab gratification before it vanishes.
I find it much harder to learn to be a grasshopper than I did learning to be an ant. Right now, for instance, it\’s really difficult to distract myself from the thought that our supply of clean underwear is running dangerously low.
But then a half-remembered quote from the gospel comes to me, the one about the lilies of the field, who neither spin nor weave but are better dressed than even Solomon in all his glory.
So, no spinning, no weaving, no laundry, but instead, lily-gazing to my heart\’s content: that\’s my spiritual task on this Memorial Day.