crumbs in the toaster

December 13th, 2020

I washed the shower curtains today. Then the curtain liners, rods, and rings. I scrubbed the tubs and tile, and took off the shower head and soaked it in a bucket of chrome cleaner to dissolve the hard water scale. I don’t often do any of this. I mean, never. So when it occurs to me to do it as it did this morning, it most certainly is the right time. Doing it sets me clear and straight — smack on the path of sanity.

This is what carries me over the squally waters: the dailiness of things, the dishes and the dust. Up until two years ago, a woman would come twice a month and do most everything. Everything I didn’t even know needed doing. And then she disappeared. I don’t know why. But now I see that her leaving was right on time. I have been rescued. Saved by the windows and carpets, coffee spills in the kitchen, breadcrumbs at the bottom of the toaster oven. The whole pile of it restores my faith in—not quite sure. What remains of faith in these disappearing days? Oh yes, life. The fact of life.

I am astonished in this late season of the drama to look up and see the sky—the real sky—still beaming that not-quite nameable shade of blue, the color of better days. Shocking, yes, that when so much falls to pieces, the sky still holds its place, one fact reigning above all the lies and treacheries of small men in broken countries.

A half-turn of my head and I see the regal green of lofty palm and citrus trees, lime-colored moss carpeting a grove of giant bamboo. Doubts do not grow branches and leaves.

Carry on, old girl. You belong here, between heaven and earth, with the soap scum and mildew, water rings on the coffee table. This is the way. Not difficult if you don’t pick and choose.

Verses on the Faith Mind (Hsin Hsin Ming), the first poem in Zen
“The Fact of Faith,” a new dharma talk
Photo by Dovile Ramoskaite on Unsplash


  1. Once again thank you Karen. If your post was meant to comfort and offer hope it succeeded.

    Comment by Tom — December 14, 2020 @ 6:10 am

  2. Yes, Tom. I always write to offer comfort . . . to me. It slops over onto everyone else who needs it.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 14, 2020 @ 10:59 am

  3. Oh yes, the sky. You name it perfectly: “holding its place when so much falls apart.” I post a photo of my sky view several times a week for that very reason; pretty sure I will quote you one of these times. Love to you, Maezen.

    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — December 14, 2020 @ 7:18 am

  4. You might want to quote Yasutani Roshi: “Hold your head aloft as though it supports the sky.” It’s poetic but not a metaphor!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 14, 2020 @ 11:02 am

  5. “Doubts do not grow branches and leaves.” This is what I needed to wake up to today. Thank you for your poetic musings and inspiration.

    Comment by Julia Kamysz Lane — December 14, 2020 @ 7:25 am

  6. For that line I must credit Dogen Zenji, 1200-1253, but he won’t mind that I stole it.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 14, 2020 @ 11:00 am

  7. Beautifully expresses and just the message I needed today. Thank you for sharing this and all your writing!

    Comment by Em Lynn — December 14, 2020 @ 12:08 pm

  8. Oh-so-many “not quite nameable things”.

    Comment by Bonnie R Nygren — December 15, 2020 @ 6:35 am

  9. You are not old, girl. Even this boy, enough ahead of you in time, is not old. The Grand Canyon is old. Still, your voice, your mind, your ear for language and your eye for what there is and what isn’t there are so excellent that you can address youself as old if you feel like it.

    Comment by Bill — December 15, 2020 @ 7:34 am

  10. Thanks for the new talk. I always get a lot out of them.

    Comment by Ralph Martin — December 21, 2020 @ 7:19 am

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