(Dis)order in the Kitchen

Many of my better ideas come to me while cleaning up the dishes, loading or unloading the dishwasher (the right way) or generally restoring order in the kitchen. This is no less true that on Christmas Day. Kathie does most of the cooking though I am trying to improve my culinary capability, slowly and incrementally. My best contribution most days is still  clearing and cleaning up.

Two days ago, a post on Facebook showed a kitchen disaster area at the home of a FB friend who commented: “Chaos in the kitchen: Will deal with this tomorrow.” This was also our approach this Christmas at Chez Gray as the inaccessible water line to the dishwasher froze given our recent Arctic temperatures. This may not end well – watch this space, and our wallet. My anxiety was modestly elevated, as I do love and function well within an ordered world. This explains why I love restoring order–cleaning yes, but organizing most!

Plates and bowls have their rightful place; glasses look grand row on row. We have poorly laid out cupboards so pots, baking pans, trays and small appliance parts are awkwardly stored awaiting future service. Cutlery, mixing bowls and measuring cups are stuffed here and there. Oversize items are stored in a ridiculous narrow bi-fold door hall cupboard (who designed this place I wonder!) Whenever I return items to their assigned location I grumble aloud: “Hello people, did I ever tell you how much I hate these cupboards?” (No response) First-world problem I know, but still, a problem!

In two previous houses we renovated the kitchen, in each case effectively and efficiently. They were a joy to work in and to organize. As I remember such blessed (e)states I realize that much of my ordained ministry has focused on trying to restore order—in the administration and function of a local faith community; in the support of relationships often fraught with discord or misunderstanding (I am no social worker believe me); in trying to present an ordered understanding of faith in a world complicated by so many things—stigma and poor understanding of human sexuality;  fear about climate change; unjust distribution of power and wealth; deeply flawed political systems and decision making processes–the list continues, almost infinitely.

There is however much beauty and enriching community to be found, and nurtured, and experienced, and celebrated and lived. I remind myself that I come from a long line of pessimists. For every Eeyore there is a Winnie or Tigger. Focus on the positive for a change. Note to self.

Hindsight is 20/20 (a physical acuity I have never enjoyed personally) so I now see the difficulty with my ordering proclivity. Not everything, or everyone can be restored to order, at least not immediately, or during my lifetime, or ever? Whose order are we talking about anyway. Joseph  Trutch and John A. MacDonald thought the way to order the lives of indigenous communities (the so-called “Indian Problem”) was to transition “Indians” into colonial subjects through residential school education, so that the sequentially reigning monarchs and their minions could continue to take everything away from the descendants of those who met and welcomed the first European explorers who “claimed” them and stole their land.

A similar strategy, of ripping younger generations from their  homes, lands, cultures and livelihoods is underway in China and Myanmar/Burma as I write. Instead of trying to re-order lives and communities, fruitful conversations could have occurred or still could occur about how best to share land, life and planet together. We humans seem to do conquest better than collaboration.

As 2021 comes to a close I glance back, looking for signs of hope and evidence of real economic and environmental transition, of visible and tangible change; sadly however I find little to recommend or celebrate. Joe Biden’s Build Back Better economic and climate action plan is proceeding to the funeral home thanks to intransigent Republicans and one notable democrat. COP-26 outcomes are minimal at best, mostly due to the refusal of nations to substantially re-shape global and national economies in any way that would threaten the hegemony of fossil fuel industries.

Here in British Columbia despite recent horrendous weather events—heat, drought, flood, cold—there is no sign anyone will do anything genuinely different going forward. Well that’s not quite true; it is suggested that consumers do the heavy lifting in transforming all aspects of our lives, while fat cats still reap profits from injurious unsustainable practices—and this includes our present provincial government which despite the rightly applauded CleanBC plan continues to encourage large scale fossil fuel extraction and transmission projects at the expense of First Nations who should be the beneficiaries of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons (UNDRIP). Sure, we have legislation with should drive real change. Well, it’s not..

So let’s not skip the dishes; let’s get back to them. There is an ideal order (not in my kitchen however) and an accepted order (one that works for the most part OK for most of us – we do eat well after all). Little will change however unless the kitchen itself is changed. In Canadian and global relations little will change until the Capitalist Colonial system itself changes—including the way we assemble our governments (Proportional Representation is the answer friends, though as a group you/we continue to deny this), and our shared expectations, hopes and dreams. We can no longer live the life we claim to love, in the present way and at an unsustainable rate. There is no Planet B.

Time now for a laugh . . . at myself . . . because you see how I have once again tried to define and prescribe order for others. While I continue to recite a personal mantra, “I will do what I can with whom I can in the time available” I need to remember that order is a fickle thing. While all my kitchen dishes and implements find their place, some more suitably  than others, some should simply be left on the rack for a bit.

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