The Zen of Chandelier Cleaning

How odd to notice
My hands channeling my mom:
Sweet inheritance.
—————————————-
I have many memories, only some of them fond, of helping my mom clean the gi-normous chandelier that hung in the hallway of the home I grew up in. Once a year or two, she would devote an entire day to cleaning the beast, usually a few weeks preceding Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of a chandelier like it.

A83-52/2MT/24+1  Maria Theresa CHANDELIER Chandeliers, Crystal Chandelier, Crystal Chandeliers, Lighting

Mom would do half at a time, so that she could use the other half as a template. There were at least 10 different prism designs (I would guess 250+ prisms?) and figuring out what went where was a nightmare. The process was long: Remove them to a bucket in stages.  Then, soak the crystals in ammonia and water to clean them before laying them out to dry, with some manual drying assistance. Then back to hang them up before starting the second half. To this day, I can’t smell ammonia without being instantly transported back to Rogers Avenue and a mind-numbingly long day up and down a 10 foot ladder (did I mention the ceilings were 12 feet tall?), nervous the whole time I would drop something.

I have a crystal chandelier in my house, a marriage of two small ones that once hung in that same house. Two and a half years ago when we moved in to our current home, I washed it with loving care… the kind of love present when you first clean things in your new home.  I enjoyed bringing it back to life, as it had been in a box for many years. Today I washed it again, but I discovered something that I hadn’t known before – not the first time I washed this one, nor in any of the times I helped my mom. There is something peaceful and zen-like when you wash a chandelier, and I enjoyed it very much.

I think the main cause of this is the fact that your attention must be 100% focused on what you are doing at that moment in time. Each prism has metal bits (sometimes several), that will snag your cloth easily and go flying away.  Getting each dry with no fingerprints requires dexterity (often carpal-tunnel-inducing). Wiping down the naked fixture, ensuring no dust or cleaner is left behind is a rigorous, meticulous affair. All done on a ladder, your arms raised.

And I loved it. I now feel at peace and satisfied at a job well done. I am sure my blood pressure is lower than when I started.  Granted, my chandelier is small, so I’m not sure this now Mom felt… Here is a picture of mine naked and dirty.

2012-12-26 14.54.41

It only has 72 crystals and 4 swags across its 8 arms and center pillar. Took me about 2-3 hours across the afternoon to complete the work.  Here it is clean and dressed:2012-12-26 16.57.08 

Beautiful! I had been avoiding cleaning it for a while, but next year I will remember how I feel now, and gladly set the time aside. It’s easy to forget the power of being present.

Advertisements

Silent Breakfast

pleasure abounding:
up with the sun, kids asleep.
surreal silence
———————————————-

I went on a short weekend retreat recently. It took place at Kripalu, a yoga center in Massachusetts – you’ve doubtless seen the beautiful pictures of it in the back of women’s magazines. I wasn’t there for yoga reasons — I’ll talk more about what I did in future posts. But since we were at a yoga place, we had to abide by one of their practices – silent breakfast.

I can honestly say that I have never, ever experienced silent breakfast before. Maybe, once… when I was single?? No, I’m sure the TV was on. And there was that one time in 2010 when both kids took too big a bite and spent 30 seconds chewing. Otherwise, nope, never. Regardless, I think we all can imagine a silent breakfast alone, but it is quite another thing to experience it with 400 of your closest friends in a spacious, airy cafeteria. Let me share…

I actually found it pleasant at times. Being fully present. Being one with the food. Ahh, the food. Did I mention it was yoga center? Think vegetarian meets hippie meets macrobiotic meets green – that about covers the food selection, morning, noon and night. It was tasty for the most part (I will never like kale, I should just stop trying), but not exactly recognizable for this mother-of-two-who-thinks-pancakes-for-dinner-is-a-solid-choice sometimes.

Anyway, back to the nothingness. The first morning I experienced it I frankly spent most of the time trying to figure out what to do with my eyes. Do I just stare at my food? Do I look around? Am I allowed to smile at someone if I catch their eye? Is it creepy to watch the person across from me eat? I ended up looking about a foot above everyone’s head and maintaining a banal smile in an attempt to fake contemplating-ness. I did ok.

The second morning was brutal.  I was totally annoyed by the people around me who, for some reason, seemed incapable of abiding by the rules. There was the guy in the serving line who looked like he should have been a puppeteer — felt shoes, wild, gray hair, a bouncing step. He could not quit talking to himself about the food. The worker stocking the line with more tofu and edamame ‘shushed’ him vigorously, but Muppet man continued. I kept my distance from him because he started to act more like a homeless guy who wandered in and less like a friendly creative type.

Next were two women, clearly friends, who sat at same table as me. They just faked it. They whispered. A lot.  It wasn’t like they just did it a few times – they did it the whole time.   I was looking around for Shush-man but he was nowhere to be found. I realized what a total rule follower I am — who do they think they are by talking?! How dare they. I was going to say something to them (or at least mime something so as to not stoop to their level) but I then noticed zen lady.

Zen lady sat on my other side. Her lack of talking seemed to create a black hole. She made no noise. No clink of silverware or tink of cup. She was a ninja. She also was part bird (clearly a yoga type) so perhaps that made her lighter than air. I suddenly became aware that although I spoke no words, I was breathing like a linebacker. When I raised  fork to mouth, I heard the sound of my forearm peel from the table. (No, I wasn’t sticky — this was just a normal flesh-meets-wood-and-separates-again sound. Try it. It’s a little loud, right??) I felt like my swallowing was disturbing her. Was that the sound of me blinking? Good god! I inhaled the last of my quinoa cream and organic nuts and beat feet as fast I could lest I stand on the table and shout “Okay, who farted?”

Prior to this, I would have told you that on a normal weekday morning, when the kids are whining about eating cereal (again…) and my husband has made himself hoarse repeating “put your shoes on” 100 times, a silent breakfast would be a welcome alternative. But trust me, I’ve seen the other side and I’m not sure I can take it.

%d bloggers like this: