Celebrating the end of a very long six-day work week and the first day of a new month (a month that holds the promise of summer ending, my birthday, and several close friends’ birthdays) with a dinner party for beloved friends is absolutely wonderful. Waking up to the aftermath of seven adults and one toddler roaming through your apartment with plates of food and drinks as they mingle, eat, and get progressively drunker (or progressively sleepier for the under 21 crowd of one) is a less than stellar experience, especially when you are a little hungover. A mostly self-serve meal seems like a brilliant idea, until you are faced with seven serving bowls crusted over with remnants of guacamole (recipe under “What I’m Cooking”), salsa, beans, cheese, etc. Wine glasses and water glasses placed on every random surface in the kitchen boggled my tired, muddled brain and had to be washed in several batches for lack of drying wrack space and my lazy attitude toward hand drying with a dish towel. And the plates, oh my god the plates, caked and crusted with food on both sides after being stacked on the counter instead of soaked in the sink overnight. Where the hell was my maid? And why hadn’t she pick up the errant pieces of lettuce, black beans, and chips that had made their way to the floor and under the chairs and table?
I recently reread, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller. Through household chores, just like washing dishes, Miller beautifully shares Zen Buddhist principles and concepts. I quietly recalled Part Two of the book, “The Kitchen: To Study Oneself is to Forget Oneself.” I challenged myself to stay fully present as I washed each dish, scrubbed each countertop and table surface, swept and swiffered the floors, and attempted to make my kitchen and living room/dinning room area look less like a war zone and more like the comfy home it is. As Miller wrote: “Tasks are undertaken not because we want to do them, or like to do them; not because we choose to do them; not because we have suitable talent, temperament, or ingredients; not for reward or appreciation; but simply because it is time. Without thinking, we engage wholly in tending to needs as they appear and, in this way, live with clear purpose and total fulfillment.” My apartment got cleaned, slowly, incrementally, but with great care and attention. I had invited my friends over from a place of love. I had prepared the food and served them from a place of love. And today it was time to clean up…from a place of love. I will lovingly invite my friends over again and limit everyone to one glass and one plate or bowl. There will be one dish served from one serving bowl. Halfway through dinner and halfway through the fourth or fifth bottle of wine we will all forget the rule of one-per-person and I will grumble the next morning before drinking my coffee and proceeding to clean up.