Chop Wood, Carry Water

Yesterday I checked my email and RSS feeds while letting lime-remover soak on the 70-year-old hexagonal tile shower floor.

The shower, which had not drained while we had company last August, and then, without intervention, behaved itself quite nicely, started draining very slowly last week.  Robert had spent some time trying to remove the cleanout, accessible in the basement ceiling, to no avail.  This morning,  after trying baking soda and vinegar, which made satisfactory bubbling and gurgling noises, but failed to improve matters much, I managed to remove the drain cover, once I figured out the screws were missing and the holes filled with grout, and Robert snaked it out.

We went off to our ACE hardware to look for a new cover, since the old brass one had large holes and the chrome was wearing off.  They didn’t have one, somewhat surprisingly, since they are an old-fashioned hardware store with many fascinating things that the big box stores don’t carry, and lots of clerks who come up and ask you how they can help.  “It’s a very old shower,” I said, and the hardware guy said, hefting the cover, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore. They’re all flimsy now.”  We got an aluminum cover that clips over the old one, hiding the flaking chrome, and, I hope, keeping hair from clogging the drain.

One thing leads to another, of course, and I decided that the stains and sloppy grouting job needed to be fixed.  I was pleased with myself for figuring out that the yellow patches, which had bothered me since we moved in, were hard-water stains, and having a good time scrubbing them off.  Then I saw a post on a sociology blog, where people were absolutely incredulous over a survey by the Scrubbing Bubbles people that concluded a large majority of American women of all ages like cleaning house, to the point of accusations that the survey was rigged, or just plain “made up.”

Since I was, in fact, at that moment, enjoying cleaning house, and not exactly someone who has ever believed “a woman’s place is (just) in the home” or that my identity depended on my housekeeping abilities, I was a bit ticked.  Cooking and cleaning are crafts, as well as being essential, and just as satisfying, in performance as in results, as any other craft.  I replied with the Zen saying,  “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” One young woman thanked me for the different perspective, but another asserted her right to hate housework.  Well, yes, but hating anything is generally a waste of time and energy; better to focus on the experience and doing the job skillfully.

3 thoughts on “Chop Wood, Carry Water

  1. Chores have to be done by someone and I enjoy most of them. The simple, repetitive action and the sense of accomplishment are soothing to me. Several of the women with whom I work will take a day off here and there and when asked what they plan to do will report that they will be doing some cleaning and organizing. If anyone expresses dismay, they will say, “but that is what I want to do.”

  2. You are so self evidently right that I want to agree – and yet I hesitate. I read something by Thich Nhat Hanh about enjoying washing-up and it’s really lodged in my mind and I find, to my surprise, that I really do enjoy washing-up (just don’t tell anyone). Jobs which are reasonably easy (ie within my capabilities) and which have a tangible end product can be great – I love cooking, I enjoyed decorating our new kitchen/diner because of the satisfaction of a job well done, I quite like putting shelves up (the limits of my DIY expertise). But on the other hand, I don’t seem to able to acquire a taste for cleaning – I feel like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill each day, or worst yet Canute trying to turn the tide of dust and decay.
    Of course, some might say that I’m just bone-idle.

  3. Well, I’ve seen the pictures, and you don’t look like Onslow ;-)

    I actually don’t do dishes, my husband does – I should try it again. I do tend to want to make a visible difference – so sweeping the floors generally waits until there are significant piles of cat hair in the corners.

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