I have a photoset on Flicker I’ve dubbed “The Ways of Work.” It’s rather sparse compared to my other sets on the photo-sharing site despite my Ho‘ohana obsession (Ho‘ohana being the MWA value of work) because I shy from taking photos of people unless I have their permission, something the spontaneity of candid working shots isn’t always that conducive to. I’m adding a few now though, because of several scenes I caught sight of in a recent visit to Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
As I upload them, I’m re-reading a book I picked up there as my souvenir of an earlier trip, and I keep nodding at the memory of what I witnessed a week ago, though the book was published in 1999. From Inside the Pike Place Market by Braiden Rex-Johnson and Paul Souders:
“Seafood has always been a hot commodity along Pike Place, where fresh Northwest seafood changes hands with a bit of the old, hard sell mingled with a sense of artistry and showmanship” like an artist concentrating on a difficult canvas [the fishmonger at Pure Food Fish] arranges the red and cream-colored Dungeness crab over a hillside of ice one by one. He culls the creatures with holes or chips in their shells and sets aside the largest specimens. When the first two rows are lined up with military precision, he sets the plumpest, most perfect crabs on top of the rest, their claws splayed skyward in a mawkish salute. ‘They won’t buy ‘em unless they look good,’ he reasons in his soft, gruff voice.”
And it strikes me: The ‘ways of work’ should always be this simple and pure, and we often complicate them far more than we need to.
To watch the fishmongers at the market is to witness concentration, precision, discernment and an assumption of honored historical knowledge, and yet they are so quick to look up with their sweetly sweaty smiles, and a sincere eagerness to engage with the people who walk by.
Customers are not an interruption of their work, but the reason for it. One of the reasons, at least, and one which happily coexists with their expertise, pride, and pleasure in the work they do. You imagine it can be repetitious, this work they do, but routine repetition isn’t what you see, and it isn’t what you feel from the vibe they share.
Pure food, pure fish, pure work, freshened daily. Quite inspiring.
How could your work, and the value of your work, become pure again for you?