The sun is barely peeking through the woods behind my house, as I immerse my gloved hands in soapy water to begin the chore of doing the dishes. Doing the dishes is a daily affair…several times a day it needs to be done….the same ritual over and over. Hot water, suds, and elbow grease. As I lift up a coffee mug to wash it, I try to recall where I bought it, who I was with, what year it was. Every mug has a history, since I buy them when I travel, as a keepsake. Each dish also has its memories….some sets were bought when I lived in New York…some plates used to sit on my mother’s kitchen table, a few were discovered in antique stores, and although those ones are not “dishwasher or microwave safe”, they are reminders to me of another time…a piece of history and past. Some are from England…delicately hand painted with flowers, or scenes of the English countryside. One look at them as I gently suds them and I think of what life must have been like when they were made, and originally used.
I am reminded to slow down when I do the dishes. If I go too fast, something can be broken. If I go too slow, the water will cool down and not be “sanitary.” If I don’t put gloves on, my hands will wrinkle up like prunes. This is a ritual that takes a certain amount of respect, for all involved. I remind myself to breathe deeply…to glance out the kitchen window and take in the light through the woods. Doing the dishes is a chance to slow down…to pace myself. Sometimes I catch myself just trying to rush and get through it…then suddenly, and I’m not sure how or why, I am reminded to take in the moment, trivial as it may seem. And then I think of how each moment of our lives is to be taken this way….respected, savored and enjoyed, because it will pass all too quickly.
As I finish the dishes, and let the soapy water swirl down the drain, I am pleased that the job is done. A simple task, but rich with atmosphere. Doing the dishes is a throwback to another time, when we all had chores to do to maintain the household. Now most of us have dishwashers (myself included) but I have found that I only want to use the dishwasher when I have a big crowd. There is something lost when we give up daily rituals that are so simple, and so immediately rewarding. So here’s to the soap and suds!!
Â© 2007 Jennifer Avalon