Sunday, November 2, 2008

The sacred art of dish-washing

I've been knitting these dishcloths like crazy. I love the pattern. And the colors. It's called a ball-band dishcloth and it's from the book Mason-Dixon knitting. I got the book for my birthday but the pattern is available in several places online too. It looks and sounds complicated at first but it's really not hard if you can knit and purl.

I started knitting them as a project for the prayer shawl knitting group at our church. We started out knitting shawls, kind of based on a concept you can read about at this site.

Later we moved into knitting prayer cloths, 12"x12" cloths that are carried in each Sunday morning and set underneath an oil lamp as part of the worship center and our worship centering. I started knitting one of these dishcloths thinking it would be a nice pattern for a prayer cloth.

Then I started giving them to people to use as dishclothes, which is what the pattern says it is. Then I started thinking about washing dishes.

I read Kathleen Norris' book The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work". I don't remember all that many specifics about the book, it's been several years since I read it, but the basis is that the daily tasks of life are sacred. That resonated with me, although some days I have a tough time finding the sacred in some of my daily tasks.

Recently I've gotten to the point where washing dishes is a stressful, kind of angry time. I get frustrated that no one else thinks about doing the dishes, or washing the table, or wiping off the counter. It's a downward spiral from there, and I often end up slamming cupboard doors and banging pots and plates and silverware loudly. I decided about a month ago that I was going to try to not get angry and just try to stay on top of the one task of dishwashing.

Then I discovered this pattern. While I was knitting these I started wondering "what if I knit dishclothes prayerfully, for myself and for others . . . how would that affect the art dishwashing as a sacred experience?".

So pretty much everyone on my Christmas list is going to get prayerfully knit dishcloths and, if time allows, some home-made dishwashing soap. I'm really re-motivated by this to try to find the sacred and focus on mindfulness in all that I do. Let me know if you'd like to receive one OR if you'd like to learn to knit your own.

When we walk like (we are running), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth... Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.
~Thich Nhat Hanh


Kay said...

I love this post. I have the same feelings about household chores and I've tried to resolve them in much the same way--by deciding I like them, and making a ritual out of it. I read somewhere, a long time ago, that Tiger Woods makes his bed even when he stays in a hotel, as part of his zen practice and the idea of taking care of yourself and your spot on the earth. Whether this is true or not, it stuck with me and since then I rarely mind being the only one who ever makes the bed.

Kay (publisher --but not designer-- of that Ballband dishrag)

Danelle said...

I would love to knit but I don't think I have the patience to learn.