A work in progress. This is a revision of an earlier post: Doing Dishes. This revision also includes a series of “textual photographs” at the end.
Even with an automatic dishwasher, the plates, cups, pots, and pans still pile up in my kitchen. Maybe it’s not so much that I’m a lousy housekeeper, but that I’m a distracted one? The dishwasher needs to be emptied prior to loading in fresh dirty dishes, but emptying the dishwasher requires I stop doing whatever else I’m doing. It also just plain seems like too much work at times. In reality, it isn’t a lot of work when I actually do it. But my mind tends to make emptying the dishwasher seem like a huge task looming over me that will somehow disrupt my entire day, taking me away from more intriguing ways to spend my time and energy. Before reloading the dishwasher with fresh dirty dishes, the caked-on gunk needs to be soaked for a few minutes and lightly scrubbed or the dishwasher leaves residue. Learned this the hard way after needing to rewash too many dishes. Found it was easier to just soak and rinse everything rather than chiseling off the baked on goo left behind after the dishwasher’s drying cycle transformed food residue into concrete.
There’s something calming, almost mesmerizing about doing dishes by hand. The mindlessly repetitive, rhythmic movements. The soothing warm water. The fragrant lemon-scented bubbles, soft and silky on tired hands. Sometimes I listen to music while dishwashing. My favorite dishwashing CD is the soundtrack to the No Reservations movie. Usually I listen to the soundtrack in my head. A song stuck in my brain, quiet random ruminations, a remembered childhood poem. There is satisfaction in the transformation of the kitchen from disarray to order. Hysteria to calm. Is it less satisfying on some internal level to only do little clean-ups here and there, but never have the transformational experience that comes from a complete overhaul? Is that why I procrastinate doing dishes?
Creative moments can surprise us. But times of quiet personal reflection are often a prelude to accessing our deeper selves. Standing at the kitchen sink, up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware brings on a meditative state for me. Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless, repetitive, physical activity, releases my creative self. Dreaming, meditating, creating—all part of the same deep interior well.
Many things I’ve written developed after a time of quiet personal reflection—believe it or not, usually while standing at the sink up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware. Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless physical activity, seems to release something creative.
Writers over the centuries have used walking as a physical meditative process. For me, while I thoroughly enjoy a good walk, I find myself caught up in the sights and sounds, people and birds, creatures and weather around me, and my mind isn’t quite as free to wander as it is when I’m staring at a corner and small window of my kitchen. The kitchen almost works as a sensory deprivation chamber. There isn’t much to see, hear, or experience. Just the warmth, the steam, the water, the suds, the rhythms of the washing.
I wonder why I delay doing dishes when it’s often such a fruitful experience? I have no answer.
But on that note, my dishes await. Meditation time draws nigh.
Interior of author’s kitchen. Countertops, kitchen sink, and range top are piled haphazardly with dirty dishes, silverware, pots and pans, drinking glasses, and coffee mugs.
Close-up of open automatic dishwasher filled neatly with clean plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, and mugs.
Full kitchen shot, showing author removing clean dishes from automatic dishwasher. Overhead cupboard is open, revealing small stacks of plates, bowls, upside down glassware, and mugs. Countertops above dishwasher and to the left of the author are covered with array of dirty dishes.
Close-up of author’s right hand putting the No Reservations CD into a portable CD-player.
Medium close-up of side-by-side stainless steel kitchen sink with approximately 12 inches of countertop visible to the left of sink. Several stacks of dirty dishes, glassware, and a bowl of sudsy water with silverware handles protruding from bubbles are just visible on countertop. Left-hand sink is filled with water and a generous mound of white shiny bubbles. Steam is visible above left sink. Right-hand sink is clean and empty except for metal dish drying rack.
Long full body shot of author standing at sink with both hands dipped beneath the bubbles. Author is seen from left side. A beam of sunshine is coming through the small sliding window over sink, lighting the author’s long straight dark hair and face (shown in profile). Author is dressed in faded blue jeans, a plain black short-sleeved polo shirt, and red casual slip-on shoes. Fewer dirty dishes visible on countertop. Automatic dishwasher is open directly to the author’s right, partially full of freshly rinsed dishes.
Author’s clean kitchen with sun shining through the window above the sink and lighting up the countertop and the front of the automatic dishwasher.