Facing Down Dust Bunnies and Other Beasts

It started innocently enough.

I knocked a saucer off the kitchen counter and onto the floor where it broke into four pieces, the first two landing at my feet, the third commandeered by my cat as a toy and the fourth missing in action. I looked all over the kitchen for that final piece, crawling around on the floor, checking under the appliances and peering under the table from every angle in case it was hiding beside a leg. Nothing. So, I decided to pull the fridge out from the wall to see if momentum had carried it that far.

You know what this means, right?

It’s one of the cardinal rules of the kitchen: If you pull out the fridge, then you have to clean underneath it.

I find crumbs, of course, and a dried-up spill in the back corner. Broken glass, fridge magnets, plastic pull-tabs from cartons of juice (how is it that so many of these end up down here?). All manner of detritus, but no broken china. I sweep up the worst of the mess, then stand back to contemplate the giant dust bunnies clinging to the electric cord and the vent on the back of the fridge. I shake my head, wondering how it comes to this, then head down the hall to grab the vacuum and mop. I clean the floor, wipe down the walls and vacuum all the dust off the back of the fridge, and then I look through the newly clean vent into the bowels of the fridge.

There, coating the motor and the fan and every single wire, is dust so thick that it’s created a world of its own. A life on its own. I feel sick looking at it.

Well, of course. This fridge has been sitting here for, what, twenty years? Who would know what not-so-fresh hell lies there in wait? And how does that fan keep going around with the weight of all that dust?

I grab socket wrenches from the workshop and quickly remove the screws. When I pull off the vent, it only gets worse. Twenty years of accumulated flotsam and – well, I don’t know what this stuff is. I gather my resolve, arrange my tools and set about cleaning. It is delicate work. I use the tiniest vacuum attachments, reaching their skinny telescopic necks in and around the various parts of the motor and mechanisms, pulling out tufts of dust and crumbs and crap, deeper and further, manoeuvring around coils and wires, and all manner of inexplicable parts, careful not to dislodge anything lest I upset the operation of the fridge.

I suddenly understand what surgeons must go through.

As the space becomes cleaner, as the surface of the fan clears, and the coils reveal themselves, I am reminded of meditation practice, how it sometimes works like this, revealing hidden messes, ugly stuff that I might rather not see. Unpleasantness sitting just below my consciousness that, no doubt, hinders my day-to-day operation. Often when I sit down on my meditation cushion, some unexpected and hideous visitor shows up, carried in on my thoughts – panic, anger, sadness, revulsion.

Most of us don’t want to look there. It’s too ugly. It’s too hard. So much easier to just leave the damn fridge where it is and pull out a beer. Maybe several. Who wants to know? Why disturb the peace? It’s working isn’t it?

Is it?

Is it really?

Not for me.

So I sit. And I clean the fridge, obviously.

I sit, and I breathe, and I notice. Bit by bit, I learn to stay still with whatever comes up, good, bad or dusty. It’s a mental and emotional cleaning-out of sorts, this staying put, insisting on seeing more clearly. I learn to be still with the shadows, and so their grip begins to loosen. They can’t take hold quite so readily. By shining a light on my thoughts, I resist their stealth, I don’t let them carry me away, at least not for long. I sit, and I sift, and blow away the dust, hoping to clear out the whole operation.

It’s a work in progress.

And like the fridge, every so often, I may let it go a little too long without cleaning.  Sooner or later, to be sure, I’ll break another plate. I’ll have to go looking, and I’ll remember. Dust bunnies. I’m coming for you.

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