My younger step-siblings had it easy once our father made seriouis money, for then my mother decided we needed a live in housekeeper, one who could cook, clean and take care of all those things domestic.
So my siblings had only to put their dishes near the sink, their laundry down the chute, and keep their rooms marginally tidy.
I had missed most of that when I was their age and father kept us afloat with nothing to spare, so I knew how to wash dishes, how to run a load of laundry, skills that served me well when Uncle Sam gave me KP duty, and waist deep in dishes and pots I imagined how my siblings might fare in that situation for I needed a good laugh then.
The wisest of men, when asked at what time it is best to pursue the Way, will answer when a thousand stars have made their presence known. The wisest student will say when cleaning myself by bathing in the mud. This will become clear when the frog consumes the dragon.
A reflection on Case 35 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)
He found the cup by the curb one morning walking to the bus. He rarely notice things on his walk, thinking always about the day ahead. But this day he saw it, picked it up and put it in his messenger bag intending to clean it later, when he got home after work. He had no idea why he wanted it. It wasn’t particularly pretty, a drab red with a mark where a decal had long ago peeled away. He forgot it, until he found it in his bag several days later, he washed it and placed it on a special shelf in his kitchen cabinet. The shelf was reserved for things he found with which he intended to do something, but that something had not yet happened. He knew something was missing from the shelf, so he took a selfie, printed it and placed it on the shelf.
If you stare at a large stone and call it a mountain the ant will agree with you. If you gaze on a mountain and call it a stone there can be no argument. If I call that tree a toothpick clean your teeth carefully.
A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans
There was always breakage. You accounted for breakage. You measured breakage. You didn’t know when breakage would happen, but you knew it would. You hoped to minimize breakage, but not to totally avoid it. It couldn’t be done and there were those who relied on some level of breakage to make a living, who cleaned up after it when it happened, who logged it and measured it, who devised plans to avoid it. And there were those who had a hand in creating it, or seeing it through, but no one really liked matrimonial lawyers except other matrimonial lawyers.
My mother was a firm believer In lecturing, offering vast bits of knowledge, culled from here and there. One of her favorites was Edison’s 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, and she leaned toward quantity, “It’s all about hard work, go clean your room, clutter will get you nowhere.” Sitting here today amid what I prefer to think of as eclectically arranged items of potentially great importance, I see her picture, before the chemo took her bottled red hair looking disapprovingly at me, saying, “You are killing your genius, Edison would agree with me.” I want to say to her, “But I’m with Einstein and if a cluttered desk is evidence of a cluttered mind, why was hers always empty.