It took me most of a lifetime to find Sophia in the kitchen sink.
Coming of age in the 60’s, my consciousness raised by Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer, I set myself free from the monotony of housework and never look back.
It doesn’t help that my mother, a brilliant woman who’d studied with Alfred Adler in Vienna, relinquished a promising career to keep house and raise me. As I see it at fifteen or sixteen, she wasted her life on ironed pillow cases and clean dishes.
Luckily, the hippie world is waiting. By the mid-1970’s I have a bearded husband, two small children and a ramshackle house in upstate New York. For a while we go off the grid: wood stove, 1/4 acre garden, goats. We pay for gasoline and our $29/month mortgage by renting out extra rooms in our rambling house and doing odd jobs. Household responsibilities are meant to be shared but it doesn’t really work out that way. I do the cooking and the cleaning, torn between the romance of the back to the land movement (remember Alicia Bay Laurel’s book, Living on the Earth?) and the rhetoric of the women’s movement.
By the time I find myself pregnant with my third child, I’m in graduate school and teaching elementary school full-time. Housework is delegated or done as quickly as possible. Everyone is busy. A divorce follows, then remarriage and a blended family: two jobs, 5 growing kids. My mother moves in. We get a dishwasher and a part-time housekeeper. The kids have chores they sulk about. Tom, my new husband, does the outside work and the big jobs, and joy of joys!!! He cooks!
Years pass. The kids grow up. My mother dies. Then, a dozen years ago or so, while alternating reading Alice O. Howell’s The Dove in the Stone with painting the kitchen, I’m blessed with a moment of satori. The central message of the book, something I’d understood intellectually for decades, sinks into my cells.
Everything is sacred. Every thing is sacred.
That is Sophia, the sparkle in things, the living wisdom of the manifest, the reflection of the ineffable in the effable.
In Love and the World, Robert Sardello says,
Sophia, the unity of the all, is not to be understood as a dissolving of the particularity and multiplicity of the world, the many becoming one, but rather of the many as one.
A few more years go by before the new understanding penetrates my routine thought patterns, but one day it comes to me that I can choose to like washing the dishes instead of feeling resentful that it’s me doing them again. The dishes and the process of washing them is sacred, too.
I start by paying attention to the parts I like: the feeling of warm water on my hands, the satisfaction I find in arranging the shiny clean utensils and pots and pans in the drainer, the tidiness of the clean counter and sink. The preciousness of water becomes more and more obvious as California’s record drought continues. I develop a washing system that is efficient and pleasurable. I draw in family and friends and washing up becomes a pleasant social time. When the dishwasher breaks I have no desire to spend money fixing it. I like washing the dishes.
This is how to tend Sophia: by paying attention to her, by loving her.
The first real rain we’ve had in thirteen months is falling as I write. The relief the rain brings, even though it’s far from enough to end this apocalyptic drought, is truly marvelous: the release of long-held stress in my body, my mind and my heart. A couple days ago a new moon rose, in Aquarius this month, the second new moon in a month, a super-moon. The Chinese year of the green wood horse is here, a year of dynamic new growth after five years of degeneration and dissolution.
May the new growth spawned this year be in appreciating the value of maintenance, of attention and love put into caring for the things we have instead of into acquiring more, into recognizing the treasure in our own back yard.
20 thoughts on “Sophia in the Kitchen Sink”
Lovely! I started reading to try to discover WHO Sophia was, but now I see. I see. Thanks for the illumination, Eve!
It’s taken me years to recognize her!
Inspiration! Thank you, dear friend. Just what I needed on a cold winter evening here in the frozen north. To turn my mind to the details of everyday living, ahhh.
That’s what this blog will be about. Maybe you’d like to contribute some photographs?
Great-I feel my parallel life-sans the new husband and mother-We have six children-but I can touch this writing-my Mom’s alive but I need to appreciate more of the little things ,always-
Thank you! It’s so hard to remember the little things in the hurly burly of daily life but it’s so worthwhile.
I have loved sharing your journey all these years Eve! Thank you.
It wouldn’t have been the same without you, Roxanne. What a great adventure it’s been.
Eve, Lovely writing and reminder of the joy found in everyday life. Thank you.
Thanks, Elie. I hope I can keep it up!
Lovely writing and lovely pitcher, too. Thank you for the gift of your words.
Thanks so much! That pitcher hung around the house for years disguised as an ornament until I realized how useful it is. Now we use it to catch the cold water before it runs hot in the kitchen sink. The water we catch is used to water the plants, rinse the dishes and, because we’re lucky we have great tap water, to drink.
What a lovely idea. Just fantastic.
From another woman raised on Simone de Beavoir I thank you for expressing how I feel so eloquently.
The Second Sex had a huge impact on me!
This is lovely, Eve. I love re-learning the simple truths, such as choosing to like doing something as opposed to resenting that I get to do it over and over. I could hear you and see your face as I was reading this.
Lovely. Daily wisdom. Our own versions of chop wood, carry water.
Thank you for being my Pacifica sister and one of my dearest and wisest teachers.
You continue to inspire…
Love to you too, Gwen!