Saturday, October 17, 2009


I don't enjoy housework, those chores of dusting, sweeping, vacuuming among other things. Sure, I reap satisfaction from walking barefeet on a recently mopped floor, scrubbed vigorously to an eye-blinding sheen (preferably by someone else). I do housework grudgingly, acutely feeling its tedium, relying on the prospect of domestic orderliness to prod me on. Floral-scented towels, neatly stacked books on scrupulously-dusted shelves, and a piney scent greeting me as I enter the kitchen, all these things are my reward.

I wake up on the day solely appointed for housecleaning with a despondent heart. I would look wistfully out the window at the neighborhood cat basking in the sun and wonder why I wasn't doing the same. I'd glance over at my writing notebook and favorite ballpoint pens, in their dedicated porcelain mug, and wish that I were writing, pen in hand. I'd imagine black ink rolling out effortlessly with nary a splotch as I ease my pen across the blank page, and the lined sheet would give way to neatly written words.

So on my day off from work, there is no grand bustle of housecleaning. Instead, only a few well-chosen chores punctuate my day. Ones that readily fit into its pockets. Today, it was the laundry.

I listened to the whir of the washing machine alternate with the roil of the water in the tea kettle, a syncopation of domesticity. White noise that soothes, reassuringly benign. They held promises of a pot of tea and a basket of fresh linens.

I sat at the kitchen table with a gaiwan of oolong tea, sipping from it slowly. Outside, I saw the evergreens lining the driveway, luminous in the early afternoon sun. Our curious gray cat bounded onto the table and sniffed my tea. She soon left when she realized that this was not suitable feline feed.

The washing machine signalled the end of its run with a tell-tale click click click, and I went downstairs with a large basket to fetch the laundry. I folded the well-worn shirts, smoothing their creases, and placed them in neat piles. The unwieldy bedsheets ballooned out as I shook them free from each other. Soon, they too lay trimly in their own alloted piles. The task of folding laundry became almost lyrical, lacking a tedium that would otherwise be present if done for hours on end. But this chore, a mere wrinkle in my day, occupying minutes rather than hours, invites mindfulness. It is not unlike tea, the making and drinking of it. During those moments -contained in a little capsule of calmness- scattered throughout my day, when I make and drink tea, I slow down. I attend to each gesture, from the simple and familiar act of prying open the creaky lid of the teapot to the more involved process of choosing a tea.

Distractions, those harrying thoughts that intrude like wavelets on a calm lake, come, and they scatter my attention. But I try to sustain a mindful attention, at least in snatches, when I remember to do so. And these moments seem to give coherence to the rest of my day.

The still green leaves of the maple tree barely fluttered in the now waning light. I finished my tea and felt enfolded in the present moment.


Marlena said...

I really appreciate your blog, thank you for writing it.

Steven Knoerr said...

Cha Sen, that is lovely.

Cha sen said...

Thank you for stopping by. Your comments made my day.

Anonymous said...

Your kitty didn't like the tea? Many cats and other pets are crazy about tea. I learned that from bloggers, not knowing of it myself. Perhaps your cat just needs a proper introduction to the drink.