Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mildew Conservatory

It’s happened to me before.

For the past week, I had been noticing a strange smell in a corner of the laundry-room/kitchen in the old European house where I have been house-sitting for the past two-and-a-half weeks. But maybe it had always been there, and I had only just noticed it. It’s not my house, after all.

And after all, these old European houses all have their own unique personalities, and odd smells in particular corners would be the least of this eccentric house’s quirks. It’s a good thing that I, being such a well-traveled, adaptable person, do not mind the idiosyncrasies of old houses. I rather like them, odd smells and all.

Even if the odd smell bears a striking resemblance to mildew.

...Until on a whim this afternoon after washing some dishes, looking for any excuse to postpone the next plunge into my 800 Greek vocabulary flashcards, I happened to open the dishwasher for the first time.

Oh, that’s what that smell was!

And I wouldn’t be blogging about it, except that, as I said above, it has happened to me before. Many times. The odd smell in my kitchen for weeks this spring (who knew that potatoes are not actually non-perishables?). The odd smell in my car last year (you don’t want to know what that ended up being... let’s just say cars should NOT smell like road-kill on the inside!). Each time, I go about life as if the smells are not there, commending myself for being so compliant to life’s quirks.

So today as I went through the process of running the half-full dishwasher with its well-aged mildew, scrubbing each dish by hand afterwards to get the residual blackness off them, and washing the inside of the dishwasher by hand to try to find the nooks and crannies that held onto the mildew through the wash cycle, I pondered how much easier it would have been to have simply run the dishwasher a week or two ago when I first noticed the smell.

It feels too trite to shift into a spiritual analogy about unattended garbage or paying attention to warning signals, though the analogies could be there and be just as applicable as the physical lesson about following my nose. In either case, whether in my soul or in my kitchen, I am learning that there is little virtue in being easy-going at the expense of wholeness. Patience and long-suffering are virtues; a mildew conservatory in the dishwasher is not. I am learning that there is a difference.

At least I got out of those Greek flashcards...


Anonymous said...

Trust your nose, I always say! Better than trusting your eyes.

Kate said...

Cleaning mildew? Or Greek flashcards? Hmmmm... that's a tough one.

Hope you're enjoying Ireland and your Greek bootcamp despite the mildew and tedium of vocab.

Benjamin said...

Hmm... 800 flashcards.

My brothers lived in Scotland for two years, and said that the damp and cold promoted really impressive mildew and mushroom growth. Or, at least amazing to those coming from the states :-)