On the Benefits of Manual Labor


This weekend my husband, our two amazingly generous friends, and I installed a new patio in our backyard. I had no idea how much work this would entail, from digging out the foundation, measuring, digging again, adding paver base, paver sand, and finally, 30+ pound pavers (that had to be lugged from our garage, no less). Rather than assuming my normal position as supervisor/crew chief/union steward/heckler, I joined in from Day 1, digging the first large chunk of foundation and later helping to move dirt, pavers, etc.

I had no idea how exhausting and yet wonderful this kind of labor could be. It made me appreciate of my body, which surprised even me with its endurance and strength. It also gave me a sense of pride in that I helped build this patio that will be used as a dance platform for my daughter, a dining area for family and friends, and lounge area for our two (lazy) dogs.

As a writer, scholar, and teacher, so much of my work is cerebral and professionally performative, and this experience of physically challenging work and creation has changed the way in which I view homeownership, manual labor, and myself.

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