To listen to this blogpost , please click here:Bless This Mess
A mess has a visceral effect, doesn’t it? Monday morning, I ground my coffee, filled the paper cone, poured the water, turned on the coffeemaker, went blithely off to cook my oatmeal and returned to this unsettling sight. The body draws back a bit as if from a startled silverfish scuttling in an empty bathtub. A mess is a little scary.
Messes have a bad reputation. We come squalling into this world making some particularly unpleasant ones we are unable to remedy ourselves. Growing up is partly about finding an increased tolerance for, ability to make and to clean up messes.
Messes often mirror where we are internally. This is generally not in the present moment, to which the mess kindly recalls us. There’s something lively and life-affirming about a sudden domestic mess. We can’t help responding to it. There’s nothing like a mess to abrupt us into action.
Often what’s scary about messes is they can make us feel as if we have done something wrong, which makes us feel bad.
In the case of the coffee, I had done something wrong. I had been a little too generous with the grounds. (No, I do not measure, I eyeball. I would rather deal with the occasional mess than measure out my life in coffeespoons) Overfilling the filter meant that a few fellows floated up and over the paper, slid down the cone and plugged the driphole, which made everything overflow. If only I had had my coffee before attempting the operation, I would have been so much more alert…
And sometimes to clean up a mess, you must make a bigger one. As you can see, the strainer, pitcher, and auxiliary carafe needed to strain the coffee grounds and capture the brewed coffee filled this sink. But bad feeling subsides as we return things to order. I venture to say satisfaction hides in the heart of every mess.
We’re always thinking we should avert messes. But a mess is not a judgement Nature makes. Even a volcano, arguably a great mess-maker, simply creates another landscape, another arena of possiblility for new life forms. (see my Written in Stone blogpost this summer) Really big messes, like Hurricane Sandy, can bring out the best in people. (City Harvest is a good place to donate if you wish.)
Sometimes it’s hard to tolerate messes. But that’s a prerequisite for any creative endeavor. Mixing bread dough one day, I became conscious of this. There is a stage in making no-knead bread (a fabulous simple recipe to be found here) where flour and yeast and salt and water are ragged. You stir and stir to eliminate this as if mess and mistake were one. But they are not synonyms. All this mess is is a stage in getting from ingredients to bread. So perhaps the messes of our lives are stages in the golden loaves we are becoming. Which go pretty well with a cup of black coffee.
Any messes for you this week?