Thoughts While Washing Dishes

Six life lessons


View of kitchen sink, pink gloves and window overlooking garden
Sunday morning dishes done at Evergreen

It’s Sunday morning. Time to wash the breakfast dishes. I don’t have a dishwasher, so do them myself, one at a time, at the kitchen sink. I put on pink rubber gloves, run hot water, add dish-washing liquid, grab a sponge, and begin the task.


The first thing Life brings to my attention is work. Endless work. I release a sigh of slight resentment as I wash the spoons. There is always work to be done. I visualise a nightmarish and never-ending supply of dirty dishes coming at me daily, demanding to be washed, and me at the sink, doing their bidding. But then I recall a scripture I memorised as a child – Proverbs 4:4: Where no oxen are, the trough is clean, but increase comes by the strength of an ox. I don’t own oxen, so I interpret this to mean that if there are no people around, there are no dishes to clean. And nor is there conversation, intimacy, plans, pranks, joy.


The second thing Life brings to my attention is dirt. Dirt is everywhere. It’s stuck on dishes. It’s underfoot, overhead, and inside me. Dirt is a daily aspect of human life, and it’s not going away. Even those who take their inspiration from the serene lotus must remember its roots are buried in mud. That’s where the lotus gets its sustenance – sucking up life-sustaining dirt.


The third thing Life brings to my attention is detergent – something to cut through and soften the grease that coats the pots, so they regain their metallic shine. Sometimes I need the human equivalent of detergent to be gently applied to me, so I shine like I should. Friendly advice. A dose of suffering. A wise book. Time alone. These things cut through and soften the things I coat myself with, like pride, stubbornness, overwhelm, indifference.


The fourth thing Life brings to my attention is water. The kitchen sink is full of it. It also forms 71% of the earth’s surface and 60% of my body. I drink it, wash in it, and watch it rush to shore. Without water these dishes wouldn’t get rinsed properly, and nor would I. Water symbolises life, emotions and fertility. And it also symbolises the universal grace that washes over me and keeps me afloat in troubling times.


The fifth thing Life brings to my attention is the plughole. I pull the plug and watch water, suds, and dirt gurgle away, out of sight, never more to be seen. Hmm. I don’t think I like what Life is bringing to my attention. It’s a reminder of my demise. There will be a time when I will gurgle away, out of sight, never more to be seen. This makes me appreciate the opportunity to be here, at the kitchen sink, washing dishes on a sunny Sunday morning.


The sixth thing Life brings to my attention is the window. Like many kitchen sinks, mine has a window. Today I see the spring garden. Lemon, apple, and fig trees. Passionfruit and grape vines. A green shed. Distant peppermints and yates moving in the wind. A blue sky holding a delightful collection of clouds I’ll never see again. Seers would say I should focus on washing each glass, each fork, each plate, each pot. Be there with the task, in the moment. But occasional glances outside remind me I’m part of the whole. What I am looking at is looking back at me, in its own way. Viewing nature through the window, I let in the soul of everything I see.


These things come to me as I wash the Sunday breakfast dishes.


With love, Marlane

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