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Posted: June 17, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Summer lived simply and vicariously

Ah, Summer!

Well, almost. Our spring has been a hot and dry one, a foretaste of a typical Georgia summer. We know what we're in for: endless heat, record-breaking temperatures, drought that's more and more a seasonal reality.

But then there are blessings such as the bounty of fruits and vegetables our local farmers are producing for us, freedom from the classroom, freedom to indulge in purely pleasurable activities like swimming every day, camping, the cool of a dark movie theater, daily trips to the ice cream shop, watching fireflies, concerts on the square.

And of course, summer, more than any other season, means vacations and travel plans.

For other people, that is.

We've not got the first notion of a vacation get-away for the summer but, instead, are living vicariously through friends with their own ambitious travel schedule.

We have friends who jetted off to France just this week for two weeks in the countryside with children and grandchildren, a lifetime's dream. They included a stopover of a few days in Paris, and I begged to be a stowaway. (See Woody Allen's new movie "Midnight in Paris" for a decadent taste of what there is to love about the City of Lights. You'll be hooked if you aren't already.)

Other friends are packing their bags for two weeks away in Hawaii, a seeming world away to me.

Two weeks anywhere is the most luscious thing I can think of.

Goodbye, stress!

I might never return.

Another has planned a long weekend in New York with her daughters for shopping, seeing shows and visiting the museums. A month or so later, she and her husband will head to Maine for their annual mid-summer stay on the coast of Maine.

Oh, take me with you!

I am curiously content this year to stay close to home. The travel bug just hasn't bitten. Matters of home and hearth seem uppermost, and I can't explain why. Perhaps it is that with all the disorder in the world, putting my own house in order seems to be a way to claim control. My husband will be laughing his head off at this point. "Order?" he'll snort. "What's that?"

OK, OK. My desk and workspaces exist in notorious disarray. I cannot see over the pile of ironing to be done. Files are piled around my chair, waiting to be filed away. Overstuffed cabinets and drawers have spilled their contents onto every flat surface to which I lay claim. Some projects never advance beyond the half way point. Something could always use a good cleaning, rather than waiting for the once-a-month cleaning help. Something seems always to get in the way of my good intentions, but "something" tells me this isn't the way it has to be - or ought to be.

Author Kathleen Norris delivered a speech some years ago that was turned into a book: "The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work."

"Quotidian" means "recurring daily, every day and commonplace," those things like making the bed, preparing meals, feeding the birds and the pets, stocking the household, doing the laundry, paying the bills, washing the dishes, dropping clothes at the cleaners.
Normally, we gloss over such work as mindless and, therefore, of no value.

Duties are just something that gets in the way of what we'd really rather be doing. We usually see no worth in doing that which has to be done every day and over and over and is not exactly classified as "fun."
N
orris, however, wants us to consider our daily and seemingly "mindless" tasks as acts of love, not unlike prayer and worship. She suggests that there is an inherent beauty in those activities that are required to maintain and care for the homes where we abide and the lives lived in them. She wants us to view the dutiful things that are required of us as gifts we freely give to the spaces and people who fill our lives.

We are admonished to give thanks that we have homes and lives that we require our tending and not to diminish their value by denigrating the work it takes to have them in our lives. She wants us to see blessings, not burdens.
We seem to value multi-tasking far more than single-minded attention to simple duties. In my experience, multi-tasking means that lots gets done but not done well and you don't half-remember what it is that you did.

And so I am intent this summer on establishing order in my life and abode, instead of planning escapes to parts unknown where the guilt over what's left undone at home might track me down and haunt me.

I'll enjoy my friends' travel memories and journals, but I'll be looking for the beauty in the nooks and crannies of my home, rather than the far-flung hills of Italy.

Wait: Did I really write that?

Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.

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