on washing dishes

On Sunday, with half a loaf of sourdough, a jar of almonds, and our farm boots packed up, my little family loaded into our Volvo station wagon and headed an hour south. Over rolling hills, along the edge of the state forest, and down narrow dirt roads, Mark and I settled into the familiar conversations that accompany our car trips — What are your dreams? What will we eat for supper? When will we visit Greece again? — until we arrived at the nondescript, half-mile drive of a beautiful farm. As part of a yearlong early career farming program we've participated in since last fall, we are paired with farm mentors in our state. We requested this particular farm run by these particular farmers, and are we ever glad. Mark strapped the baby on and we helped the husband-wife team setup a bit of electric fencing for their Jersey steers, Katahdin lambs, and Kunekune hogs. I asked as many questions as I could spit out, but for every answer I thought of 20 more. Farmer wisdom is like maple syrup: when the weather is right, you tap the trees. We talked about pasture grasses and intergenerational farming. Every farmer is a touch crazy, we joked (in seriousness); living with land and beast is Truly, So Good, we agreed (in longing). We imagined if their farm were ours but, more than that, we imagined what will be ours, someday, some way.

washing the dishes
washing the dishes

Sometimes the goal feels faraway, and hard to grasp; cerebral, even. Other times we are living and breathing it, working it into being. Both versions have their place—are necessary, even. To quote my dad who is quoting Thich Nhat Hanh, "Scam, when you're washing the dishes, wash the dishes." And that's just it. Accepting and sinking into everything. Sometimes you're watching your dream unfold as your husband sets up pasture with your baby on his chest; sometimes you're folding another heap of laundry. Days like Sunday are critical for us. They illuminate what's possible, inevitably renewing our faith in the good and decent work of human beings. On my part, days on farms are like a sliver of my past life—a dazzling memory of what I (willingly) gave up when I became a mother, and a glimmer of what I know I will reclaim someday, some way. Everything in its turn.

For every Sunday, there is a Monday, in which the dishes need washing. If less glamorous, making a home and making a budget and making a loaf of bread are critical, too. I awoke Monday, saw Mark off to work with his lunch (turns out I love packing my husband's lunch), set bagel dough out to rise, and then visited the backyard with Rosemary. We sat down by the young, small milkweed—really getting down low to observe it, this little plant that I transplanted in hopes it might attract just one pollinator—and do you know what we saw? A monarch caterpillar.

So, say it with me (and my dad, and Thich Nhat Hanh),
"When you're washing the dishes, wash the dishes."

washing the dishes