With the return to the school year, we are making a return to the Living Arts Weekly! The articles featured each Sunday will either focus on one of the Living Arts (domestic/practical activity, nurturing care, social ability and creative exploration), or a festival celebrated by one of several spiritual paths we have being represented this year.
This week’s article focuses on the domestic activity of ironing and is written by LifeWays’ Board President and Representative Site Coordinator, Shanah Ahmadi. She is also the Director and founder of the Rose Rock School and LifeWays Representative Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
A Spiritual Journey through Ironing
Here at Rose Rock School, we have incorporated daily householding into our morning rhythm. We decided on the verb “householding” because jobs, chores, and tasks seem to have a drudgery quality to them. Householding, on the other hand, feels uplifted and beautiful. So, from 8:00-8:20 AM the teachers and the children care for our home away from home with domestic activities like folding laundry, mending toys, and polishing furniture. Personally, my favorite householding activity is ironing.
As a testy teenager, ironing was a weekly chore of mine, and I definitely viewed it as a chore, a bore, and a drudge. Now, as a slightly more mature and mellow person in middle adulthood, I look forward to the daily ironing because the two to five year olds in my care have helped me to discover the magic of the activity. I hope to perhaps unburden your resentments against ironing and to bestow some of this activity’s magic to you and the children in your care. I am always engaged in this process with the young children, for the sake of demonstration and safety.
A wrinkled linen napkin rests on the table–looking ridged and warped. We have a fluffy towel on the tabletop and a child-sized heated iron is ready and waiting on the table. The child stands in front of me, facing the table. I reach my arms around the child and show how to carefully hold the iron. We spread the napkin as best we can and gently set the heated iron on top. A puff of steam…the smell of warm fabric…and the cloth relaxes…smooth and flexible. Again and again, we repeat this activity with observations and exclamations of delight. It is wonderful to behold the transformation from ridged and crumpled to smooth and flexible. We provide some warmth and a little pressure and voilà–the cloth is improved before our very eyes.
Ironing as a morning ritual helps me to imagine the ways in which many sorts of situations can be improved. Warmth can soften and relax even the most abysmally wrinkled cloth, and I believe loving warmth can restore fluidity to many social situations or personal ideas that may appear sclerotic and unbendable. While steam can relax subtle wrinkles, deep creases need the pressure of the warm iron to loosen. Just last night, I received the gift of attending a Sweat Lodge. If taking a hot show is similar to a steamer for fabric, then the Sweat Lodge is akin to the iron. In this ceremony, each person faces themselves and God, and one feels a loving pressure to be a better human being. In the hot womb of the Earth, actively engaged in prayer, one feels the loosening and falling away of outmoded ideas and habits, followed by the desire to bend to the will of the Creator.
Each time I iron a linen napkin, I can subtly remember the virtues of warmth and pressure. Day after day, the children witness how a stack of twenty napkins goes from a gnarled heap to a placid stack. Through this morning activity, the gesture of ironing may imprint itself in their delicate hearts. As they grow older, they may remember that warmth and pressure can remedy even the deepest wrinkle