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Wasting Sweetness (or: How To Wash Clothes By Hand)

by Sara — March 30, 2016

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

 Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum


There are a lot of books I need to read. Including the one I quoted because just that paragraph has me. And I need to sit near apple trees. I find myself at an incredibly wonderful slow down in my life and I want to enjoy all of it. Ethiopia is not a place for checking off your to-do list. It has been a long learning curve to just sit, to not rush. It may not happen in a timely manner; hell, it might not even happen at all. And you have to be okay with that. It’s a lesson I’m still learning – being patient with myself and those around me as well. 


Husband and I started a pizza restaurant many moons ago called “Effoi”. Effoi in Amharic can be described as a sort of sighing sound a contented person makes. And on some level I feel as if I’ve been chasing contentedness down since I’ve been here. But it can’t be caught. It’s always been here and it was waiting for me to settle. Nearly 11 years it’s been waiting for me. It’s been waiting for me in the both the quiet and ruckus of my house. It’s been waiting for me on a pretty tree-lined street I drive grim-faced every day. It’s been waiting for me in friendships and losses with strong sensitive women. It’s in the 13 months of sunshine and the rainy season too. It’s in the kindness and brazenness of strangers. This whole time I was hoping it was in the next good bar of chocolate or macchiato or ferfer (it’s an Ethiopian thing).


This is not to say that the slow down is all good things. It’s frustrating and anxiety-provoking and loathsome. A friend explained to me recently things about yin and yang about which I thought I knew. “It’s balance,” I said. And as he detailed characteristics of yin/yang I had heard before, he went on to point out the curved separation line – it wiggles in its extension, it’s not straight. And I find myself identifying with this curve again and again. It’s not supposed to be straight.   Or smooth. Or easy. It, Life, is meant to have ups and down, positives and negatives. And riding that curve is where it’s at.


yin yang


Today at home, I thought about what sort of simple task would have noticeable results. I wanted something to do that I didn’t particularly like and would be immediately satisfying. I decided on washing laundry, by hand. Sinking my hands into the cool water with the heat of the sun at my back. Birds sing and chat in the breezy pines. The soap is soft and, while scrubbing, right away I see the dull knee of small blue legging grow lighter. I rinse. I squeeze. It goes on the line and the girls play quietly, creating and making weapons in preparation for their “war” (which never does happen).




It’s not a particularly pleasant task to wash laundry by hand. And certain privileges afford me the fact that I can wash clothes out of want rather than need. Today’s familiarity, though, encourages me to do this again. I am wasting my sweetness in all the best ways.








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