Today I learned what a centering activity was. After arriving at work at 5 am to answer mail, I left at 7 am to spend the next 6 hours running between hospital, doctor and clinics with mom, who was undergoing some tests. By the time we had lunch, I was beat. By the time I got home, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, falling asleep several times behind the wheel on the quiet highway that was my 45 minute drive to our country home. I napped briefly in a recliner, then forced myself to rise and feed and water the llamas in the sticky humidity of an unusually hot June day, one made into a steam bath after the passing of a brief summer storm.Fortunately, my husband was in charge of dinner that night. That freed me up to start the enormous pile of laundry that was overrunning our closet. After getting a load started, and preparing the next, I knew my next job for the evening was to chase down a problem in a database I was working on. With a weary mind, I just couldn’t bring myself to stare at a computer screen that evening. Instead, I began the process of cleaning my closet of clothes I no longer wore.
I had once emptied out many outfits that I had found out of season, or just wasn’t wearing any more. These had taken residence in a closet in a spare room. I was soon sitting on the floor in the spare bedroom, folding old oxford cloth shirts that had been my mainstay in the office, trying to make them presentable for their next life with a new owner. As I folded, I ran across blouses and fancy pullovers that, I do believe, I had left from college days; and even high school! I reacquainted myself with some older flannel and chambray shirts, three of which had been hand sewn for me by my mother. I had saved these time-worn, honored friends of simpler days to perhaps one day piece them together into a heavy quilt, their soft textures and faded colors reminiscent of times past. But I could see the quilt would never come to be. I sadly folded the friendly flannels and added them to the memories that were stacking, one by one, on the bedroom floor beside me.
I found myself immersed in this activity. While it was another of those “priority B” items that I had put off forever, once started, I found I was content to keep working as long as their were old clothes that beckoned to be rediscovered in the back of the closet. Here was serenity, solitude, and a dividing wall between the clattering TV downstairs and omnipresent email awaiting my attention. Each of our five housecats had visited the room in turn, but now only two remained. Ringo sat kushed in a meatloaf position to the side of the pile of clothes, watching intently from one good eye, trying to understand the meaning of all this. Peepers took a more active role, alternately lying with head on paws, and then suddenly grabbing at a passing flannel sleeve that waved to close to her whiskers to be ignored. She, too, seemed content to idly share my reverie.
I have always read about doing a centering activity to relax and draw ones thoughts inward in a sort of meditation. Any activity, even doing dishes, would suffice, according to the experts. Not for me! Dishes were something I did in a hurry, either to quickly clean the kitchen before company came, or because we were out of silverware. The next best chore, cleaning manure, was too hard of work to stimulate meditation, at least for me. And even feeding the llamas took more concentration than you might think; trying to be sure everyone gets their fair share of grain, and feeding females, weanlings, young males, and studs in different areas, did not make for a relaxing activity, especially with thirty some faces all watching and waiting on the next course of either grain or fresh, sweet smelling hay. So my daily routine did not allow for much “centering;” what a delight to find this closet cleaning was providing that which I could not find elsewhere.
I finally, and almost sadly, finished the chore, and had all the clothes sorted into piles. I broke the silent meditation with a phone call to my mother, first to inquire how she felt after the day of uncomfortable hospital visits, and second, to ask a favor. She agreed to act as the coordinator to find the old but usable clothing new homes. She would either send them to “The Sharing Place,” a church sponsored outlet that distributes clothing based on need, or to AmVets. We talked about the many articles made by her, that still held her love, woven into the fabric by her hand stitching of many years past. My reluctance to give away these memories led her to agree to save these special clothes to make into a quilt! While no promises were made of when this effort would begin, I at least knew that the “special pile” would not have to be resorted to give away to those who not appreciate the source of my time-honored textiles. Indeed, the very thought of the soft fabrics, woven together as memories of my youth in a patch-work quilt, was almost as good as having the genuine article there before me. The thought of the soft flannel and warm denim stitched once more with my mother’s love, gave me a respite of thought, a tangible object, even if only in my imagination, to center a quiet meditation that would bring back memories past, and bring perspective to my hurried life.