Crash. Pam, from downstairs, “[Unintelligible outburst punctuated by very intelligible curse.]”
I close my laptop and hurry to the scene. Pam is standing in front of a kitchen cabinet, white from the knees down. The shelf has given way and a bag of flour has fallen, exploding on the floor. Two pounds
“Let me get the shop vac,” I say.
“Just get the broom,” Pam says.
“No—the shop vac will just totally suck up everything.”
“Really? Just grab the broom.”
I prevail. Retrieve the shop vac from the basement. I drag the hose through the heavy powder and it just disappears, without a trace. Beautiful, I think. This thing is sucking it up by the pound.
I turn. Pam, her hands covering her face, but she is shrouded in a white fog. I look down. The exhaust pipe of this thing is blowing flour like a snow machine on a ski mountain. A pale plume envelops the kitchen, billowing even now over the counter bar and into the dining room. It is so surreal I am frozen. The shop vac whines on. Finally, I snap to consciousness and hit the switch. Pam and I stare at each other through the haze. Everything is flour-coated—everything. Like Pompeii.
It is hard to convey the shock of that moment—that such a simple act should have such a bizarre consequence. As if, hanging a picture, I had tapped a nail and the whole wall collapsed.
Pam does not say it but her face pleads, “The broom, David, the broom.”
Now I am kicking myself for my better idea, and as the consternation settles in the pit of my stomach, it begins to dawn on me in the fog that cleaning this up will take hours—hours! Now I am angry: at myself, at my wife for saying nothing, which makes me feel worse, at my luck, at the filterless shop vac!
Not five minutes before running to the scene I had been responding to this Face Book post:
“Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating, not by beating it into submission, but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice.” – Sylvia Boorstein
Not knowing what awaited me in minutes, I commented:
So true—we often think that if we meditate and cultivate a sense of the present moment—learning to unhook from all the addictive thought patterns—that life won’t hurt anymore, or we won’t REALLY suffer anymore. At least that’s how MY little mind works!
Every time it happens, I shake my head. I imagine that my spiritual practice is building a firewall against pain. That if I try in my busted way to let go of my grip on things and allow what-is to be all right—that I will somehow float above the fray. Or that what I’m doing is co-creating a heart that can accept suffering—you know, cancer and bankruptcy and divorce and fires and earthquakes. It never occurs to me that I am sitting in silence and trying lamely to lay down my will so that when the shop vac I insisted on using—against immediate advice—smothers our home in flour, I can skip most of the anger and self-recrimination. Or at least lessen it.