Quotidian

 
 
Lately, as I stay indoors going through one routine activity after another, I think about the word “quotidian.”

Every morning, after my daughter’s daily check-in awakens me, I get up, brush my teeth and have a shower. I don’t “measure out my life in coffee spoons,” as Eliot’s Prufrock does, but I do count out my pills each day: one red, one blue, one pink and one white. I make my toast and tea, wash my hands, and then make a list of the things I plan to do during the day. It will be a long list with many more things than I shall check off and, since I continue to self-isolate, they will all be rather mundane things:

·         Make bed

·         Do laundry

·         Email tax accountant

·         Clear out top drawer of filing cabinet?

·         Organize photographs

·         Phone brother

·         Email cousin

·         Pick up fresh vegetables from farm in Yellowpoint

·         Wash hands

·         Make vegetable broth

·         Take out garbage, recycling, etc.

·         Sanitize kitchen counters

·         Email distillery and order more hand sanitizer… and whisky?

·         Wash hands

·         Read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

·         Practice meditation

·         Do stretching exercises

·         Polish silver?

·         Walk to mailbox

·         Wash hands

·         Find out the name is of the tiny bird that skitters up the trees in the park in front of my patio

·         Write letter to London friend

·         Read Tessa Hadley

·         ???

Sometimes I put things on the list that I have already done, just so I can check them off because it’s so satisfying to see progress. But, even so, I rarely complete the list.

The quotidian nature of my days seems appropriate now as well as necessary. The etymology of the word says it is from the Latin: from quot  meaning how many and + dies meaning days. How many days. That’s the question we all ask ourselves: How many days will this go on?

In his poem, “Days,” Philip Larkin says, “Days are where we live/They come, they wake us/Time and time over,” and he asks, “Where can we live but days?”

The definition of quotidian has to do with the commonplace, the ordinary. It’s about dailiness, a concept which is becoming of more and more interest to me.

I’ve never liked housework, and I’ve always been a lazy and negligent housekeeper. I failed Home Economics in junior high school; in later years, whenever possible, I’ve gone out to restaurants for meals and hired someone to clean my house. However, since the virus has isolated me, I’ve taken up cooking and cleaning and, much of the time, I’m actually enjoying these things. There’s satisfaction in scrubbing and polishing. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy vacuuming, but it’s nice to have clean counters. I’ve made rock buns for the first time in over six decades and have been pleased with the way my beer bread and rhubarb cake have turned out. Most of my silver is tarnished, but I’m now looking forward to polishing a silver plate that has been neglected for years. When it’s finally gleaming, I might set out fresh-baked cookies on it.

“I love the comfort of daily life’s routines…,” says Elizabeth Strout. “It’s no accident that my favourite word is ‘quotidian.’”

I’m becoming accustomed to dailiness, and it’s changing the way I spend my days. I reflect on times past as I sort through photographs, feeling happy when I can discard all but the most important or else send them off with a note to people who might like to see them. I write letters. I read recipes and appreciate the farmers who produce the ingredients for whatever I  cook. I spend hours looking at the park across from me, and am keen to learn the names of the birds I see there.

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life,” said William Morris..

This is a strange time, and none of us knows what is yet to come. But, while we are shuttered at home during this pandemic, it gets easier and easier to have a genuine interest in and appreciation for the daily life that many of us are privileged to enjoy. One day at a time.

 

 

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