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The Zen of Dishwashing by Silas

I contribute to Northstar in various ways, including by teaching a poetry class and by working with this magazine, The Compass, both as a writer and an editor-at-large. But another way I contribute to Northstar’s “Work of the Day” is by washing dishes.

I once heard a tape in which the speaker talked about the meditative aspects of washing dishes.. He even says that when he’s a guest at a dinner party he always volunteers to wash dishes too. I love this activity . Here are some of the things I like about performing what most people would probably view as a dull and unrewarding task.

First, I enjoy the sound of water as I fill pitchers of it from the sink and dump them into the two “bus buckets”, where the dishes are washed. Next comes the liquid soap that I squirt into one of the bus buckets. The soap spreads through the water in bright yellow blotches. When I sink my hands into this bucket, the soapy water clings to my hands and forms a slippery second skin. Then I reach into the bucket where the dirty dishes are piled. Each kind of item in the pile of dishes is washed in a particular way. With the coffee mugs, I usually have to use my fingers to scrape out the residue of coffee that’s stuck to the bottom of the mug. Drinking glasses are easier . I can usually wash one of them by dunking it into the soapy water once. Plates are sometimes more work, especially if it’s cakes frosting that’s stuck to the surface. (On the last Friday of every month, Northstar celebrates the birthdays of members born that month with a party complete with cake and ice cream.)

After washing each dish in soapy water. I rinse it in the second bucket, which is filled with undiluted water. I then place the washed and rinsed dishes on a soft towel next to the rinsing bucket. I’ve found that after washing dishes at Northstar a sense of calm comes over me, like the sensation of sunbeams warming my back while I lie in the park on a summer day. And the tension in my body is usually lessened, somehow.

Right now, I am able to live without a job due to a modest private income. But should the need for gainful employment become necessary. I know what kind of work I’d like to do: washing dishes.


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