My mysteries all feature people who depend upon their hands to bring forth a new creation. The women at Bubble & Bake knead and shape dough to make baked goods that bring a smile of satisfaction to the baker and the taster.
Deep Bitter Roots honors the granite quarry workers of the past who hand chiseled and polished stone to create stunning monuments but sacrificed greatly to do so.
My newest mystery, Deep Green Envy, explores the work of sheep ranchers from lambing to shearing. And where would my main character Frankie be without her vineyard manager, Manny Vega, whose nickname is the grape whisperer?
From farm to table, vineyard to wine glass and bakers’ hands to your lips, labor is celebrated in every book I craft.
In our modern world, Labor Day means a three-day weekend with a paid holiday and typically marks the end of carefree summer. But, Labor Day is so much more. Its first celebration in New York City, 1882, included a parade of some 10,000 workers from every trade and ended in a picnic for labor union members and their families. In 1894, the day became a national holiday, signed into law by President Grover Cleveland, the purpose of which was to dedicate a day to “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” The holiday was meant to be an annual tribute to workers who collectively contributed to the well-being of our nation.
America has always been a country of diverse people with a shared devotion to hard work. In 1860, Walt Whitman penned “I Hear America Singing”, which created a stir in the literary world because of a new poetic style named “free verse.” Whitman wanted poetry to reflect American independence and to elevate the common man as an individual who was just as worthy as someone with great wealth and status. His poem celebrates physical laborers skilled in their trades and lifts up working women as mothers and homemakers during a time when women were overlooked.
Langston Hughes responded to Whitman’s poem in 1925 with his work, “I, Too, Sing America,” reminding us of America’s diversity and how all of us share in its strength and success when we recognize the contributions of all work from all peoples. Hughes delivers his message that we all eat from the American table and must have a place there.
In 1973, activist Marge Piercy added her voice about work in her poem “To Be Of Use.” The poem begins with a bold statement “The people I love the best jump into work head first…” and continues in its celebration of purposeful work, “But the thing worth doing well done/has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”
How fortunate I am to feel fruitful in my writing work, to hold this fruit in my hand as a book, to know the purpose of words and the weight they contain. Whether you are American or not, your work, your purpose, your thing worth doing, adds meaning to the greatest work of all, which is life itself. Let’s pause just a moment amid the frivolity and relaxation to toast work of all sorts this Labor Day!