Washing windows on retreat.

The retreat center is a house. Some part of it is 150 years old or more, since Kies’ have been on this land for 175 years. A few years ago, the whole house was remodeled. New windows, new cabinets, new drywall, new carpet, new paint. It’s not quite an Ezekiel house, the bones were all intact when they started, but the flesh is fresh.

For a couple years after the remodel, the house was used regularly. It was an escape for the elder Kies, a place away from the current farm. For the past couple years, age and illness have left this house empty most of the time.

When I asked to use the house, I was cautioned that it was dirty. Flies and ladybugs leave residue, then bodies, in empty houses. Spiders claim their corners. I wasn’t concerned. I can handle bugs.

And then I found myself with a tiny shopvac, cleaning the windowsills. I found the Mr. Clean and started washing the window frames. It was a useful focus for thinking.

Until I asked, “Why?”

Why did I feel a pull to wash windows? Why did I feel a sense of disappointment when I realized that I couldn’t wash all of them and still have “retreat time”? And then the inevitable question: Why wash windows at all on a spiritual retreat?

The self-condemnation says that I am a workaholic or that I am afraid of sitting or that I am so much a pleaser that I want Rachel to be impressed or that I am afraid of being judged for just sitting thinking while I could be doing something useful.

And suddenly that’s it. Sitting quietly was not part of my parents’ spiritual temperament. For me, it seems like something I have to sneak in, to justify. But I don’t have to sneak reading. It’s what I am made for.

And now I know why the windows are cleaner. So my heart could be, too.

And I am free to finish cleaning the glass. Not for anyone else. But for me.

One thought on “Washing windows on retreat.

  1. Rich Dixon

    I’ve visited a couple of monasteries. I recall that they were impeccably clean and manicured and there was no evidence of a professional landscape service or cleaning crew. I doubt if the residents were compulsive neat-freaks or people pleasers. I don’t think they were showing off for outsiders.

    Perhaps part of examen is caring for the surroundings. Perhaps window washing is as spiritual as some of the ritual stuff we do because it’s what we’re supposed to do when we’re being spiritual. Or more.


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