No Short Story Today; Life Just being Lived on Another Labor Day

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Photo by this writer, of flowers at our picnic table when all had been packed up and people had gone home.

I had thought I’d whip up a short story as usual for my Monday post but opted out. It is Labor Day in the U.S.A., traditionally a day when folks get together with family to share a grilled meal, relax, feel thankful for any decent employment, and grateful to enjoy the fruits of others’ labors that result in providing necessary services or material goods. And that many people can take a break from various labors, as well, during the traditional three day week-end. Marc, my husband, is engaged in the latter, reading books he usually has so little time to dive right into and enjoy.

It also signals summer’s last days, something about which I am not unhappy–it has been a too-hot and arduous summer for many in my family. And I am even longing for the autumn and winter rains. The crackling dryness begins to overtake body and mind, air is oddly tinged with smoke from wildfires–hundred-fifty hikers rescued from the Cascade Mountains over the week-end due to fires– and the skies barren of pretty clouds. It causes an eeriness as we check in to see the extreme fire weather warnings inform as not all that far way, communities are being evacuated. (We were in Cascade Locks and also some of these hiking areas a week ago; I noted extreme dryness in that post: https://talesforlife.blog/2017/08/30/young-or-older-we-are-carried-forward/)

I feel subdued, a hair and a half off, one of those days when a health issue presses upon me like a wet blanket, not “suffocating” but an aggravating nuisance. Enervating. Anyway, we saw most everyone yesterday at a picnic for a birthday. And our adult children–those in the area–are today in the midst of 1) a aiding a partner recovering from an emergency surgery 2) preparing for an important job interview and 3) busy with own family. Another one I chat with daily; she is on East coast time. And another has lately become a bit incommunicado. Family is complicated. Always loved no matter where we are, what we are up to, when we may meet again.

This vein of thought leads me to concerns of those in Houston, Texas and beyond who are dealing with ordinary life being wrenched from them. What a paramount misery it must be for many thousands, what they would give for a home to again languish within, a chance to grill a burger or veggie, to sit with friends and family and chat about nothing of import. My heart hurts for them. Simple routine work must seem a faraway dream: work now means finding shelter, safe food and water, tending to medical issues resultant of the hurricane with its winds, torrential rains and historic flooding. Let us not forget to offer healing prayers and offer money if we can spare a few dollars for organizations that directly aid the victims.

So all this gives me pause today, and if these words comprise not a diverting story or cheery essay, life gets so gritty and can bring me to a pensive state. It happens to us all.

Another thought is that this is typically the last day before school commences following summertime, whether small children and youth or young adults entering college. I saw various grandchildren yesterday at the picnic . They are very excited to resume work in school starting this week. Leisure time will again develop more value when they are caught in the throes of serious studies. Before they know it, they’ll be sweating away at a grown up job.

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Two beloved grandchildren, 11 and 15 (brother & sister). It was hot outside…don’t ask why fashion choices included cap plus hoodie plus camouflage pants- I can’t keep up. I know, the phones–but they played ball, too, and chatted. Hugs remain good, despite trends and ages.

So, Labor Day: I have been retired from counseling work for over four years now. But I recall demands of work and endless domestic needs, the deep relief of keeping some time protected, separated from employment though it might yet skirt edges of consciousness–even with beaded glass of iced tea in one hand, a glossy magazine in the other while basking in the sun.

I may still find myself waxing nostalgic about daily problem solving re: the quality of human life (with which I love to be engaged) and small victories (rather reassuring) and losses (which hurt but part and parcel of working with people in crisis). I held such passion for my job 45-55 hours/week. I still live a life stuffed with obligations and activities as well as the unpaid, tedious and enthralling labors of writing–and thinking of writing; reading copiously; more revising, ever more writing. Why, if no money is generously thrown into my bank account with promises of far-flung travel and public readings and… well, all those outrageous trappings? I simply cannot stop myself, it’s that much fun and fury. Each day, another writing adventure and i am panting, trying to keep up with all the ideas.

So. It doesn’t quite feel like I am being a bonafide laggard or, God forbid, a barely moving slug. We can always do more, of course.

My husband certainly enjoys each moment he can attend to without urgency or consequence. His work requires such attention on a daily basis so he should be at his absolute leisure (okay, he watered a few balcony plants, scrubbed the tub for me), absorbing all peace and quiet he can. For him, just not having to travel as much to “put out fires” in the aggressive world of manufacturing is a balm. So I’d consider this day a day spent well enough; he at the least deserves it. As do all others who toil so routinely.

In the end, each day is what it is; I am grateful to be able to live them as they come, not matter what the hours may require.  My life is decidedly not “picture perfect” today or any other. It all still matters–whether any of us is notably industrious or not.

I hope you folks out there are finding ways in which to enjoy time off work (if you celebrate Labor Day). Perhaps you also are taking stock of bounties and challenges. Stop and feel good about yourselves for doing what you do. And if you’re inclined toward a more pointed, factual post on Labor Day, you can find one from last year, here: US Labor Day=Time Out with a Day Off

US Labor Day=Time Out with a Day Off

Courtesy Wikigallery.org
Ironworkers by Italian School, Public Domain (courtesy wikigallery.org)

Labor Day: we consider it a signal, even a hallmark of summer’s slow shuttering, and as a bonus 8 (or 10 or 12) hours free of our daily, tiresome as well as appreciated jobs. Lake cottages and cabins are closed as high season winds down for several months–this was a big event where I grew up in Michigan. Otherwise, it’s a time to do little to nothing except eat and enjoy our gatherings of friends and family–or delve into and hang on awhile to a last summery, extended week-end holiday. The last heat of intense sunshine may yet linger and if so, many may head to the water for frolicing and picnics for feasting. School, after all, gets back to business in many parts of the country following this federal holiday.

Labor Day, however, is one significant story in the annals of American history. It goes back to the abysmal conditions of workers in the late 1800s: often children at work alongside adults, unsafe environments, unbearable long shifts, pay that barely could feed, house and clothe a family, if that. And from such critical situations arose our first labor unions, and demands for clear and marked alterations, with new laws put in place to impact laborers’ lives. For humane treatment and fairness was overdue within much of industry’s workings. Change did not come without a cost, however, and before things were much improved there were many more protests that turned violent as tens of thousands of workers rallied and took to the streets. 

But improvements did occur in time. The labor movement and unions became more effective in protecting workers and wielded more power. Employees, at last, had greater rights and gradually better lots in life. Congress passed an act in 1894 making the first Monday of September as “Labor Day” for all workers. A day to take time off and relax for once. To celebrate the value of their relentlessly hard work.

So Labor Day is an historic national holiday as well as an old American tradition. I hope my countrymen and countrywomen are finding a breath of fresh air to take in, free hours all to themselves and/or with whomever matters. And my husband will get a break from his toil at a demanding job–just doing a bunch of nothing that brings monetary reward. No, just down time, a slacker. That means I’ll also have little to no engagement in writing (though maybe this counts? –and who knows what can enter the dreaming writer’s mind)–just kickin’ back. Taking another one of the hikes we love. Grilling, of course. Before we know it, the Northwest rains will creep up on us to hang out for the next 6 months!

Be safe–watch that drinking and driving. It leads to precarious circumstances and worse. I hope to see you on Wednesday with another story of one sort or another!

P.S. A couple years ago I apparently had a blast estate sale shopping!
Read about it here:
https://talesforlife.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/my-labor-day-dalliance/

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