Zen and the Art of Dish Washing

Essay by Luke Foster

“If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus, we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”

Unknown author

Since my mums passing in mid-January, I have also been thinking about my beloved grandmother Murtle and my favourite memories are me and my brother and sister and cousins washing the dishes and drying them after a big meal at her house in Orange.

I particularly loved doing it in the morning after a good breakfast. I used to have corn flakes and toast with jam and a cup of tea with two sugars.

I remember us laughing and joking around while washing the dishes.

There is something very therapeutic about dish washing on a soul level.

Then after washing the dishes, I would go sit in the back bedroom at my grandmother’s house and draw in a sketch book.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 
and right doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
― Rumi

I fondly remember my grandmother with as much love as I loved my mother. She saved up all year on a meagre pension to buy us all wonderful presents in the country town of Orange.

She was a barrel of laughs and I remember how she loved the cricket on boxing day after our big Christmas day lunch, Catholic church and gift giving.

“Grandmother hood initiated me into a world of play, where all things became fresh, alive, and honest again through my grandchildren’s eyes. Mostly, it retaught me love.” Sue Monk Kidd

I love this quote of love through a grandmother’s eyes.

I remember when my grandmother passed, I didn’t cry I didn’t cry but openly wept and when my mum died I didn’t even cry, but I don’t know why as I loved her so deeply.

“Grief and love are conjoined; you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.” Jandy Nelson

Julian Schnabel, American artist who makes paintings ironically with broken plates