I read an article in the New York Times recently about how people are not embracing new cleaners that are less powerful but more environmentally friendly. It seems people have gotten accustomed to their plates shining after they come out of the dishwasher, and if they can’t see themselves reflected in their plates, people assume they aren’t clean.
I think about that, because at the cabin I’m committed to using as little “natural” soap as possible. With no plumbing, I toss the water onto the yard when I’m done washing dishes, so everything goes into the ground. There’s no sewage pipes to take the water someplace out of sight and dispose of it.
After the dishes dry and I’m putting them back in the cabinet, I notice they don’t look clean; instead of being shiny, they have a dull finish, sometimes even with grease marks. Because I’m not using a strong detergent, my dishpans constantly have a grease slick around the edges. And it’s not just the grease. The water I use to wash dishes comes out of the ground pump and is delivered from underground with a fine coat of sediment. In addition to the grease, my dishes often have a reddish brown tinge.
I think most people couldn’t tolerate that greasy or dusty film, would find it disgusting. But it doesn’t hurt me. I’m more than willing to give up shiny plates in return for not polluting my environment. Maybe it’s easier for me than for most people, because I can see where the soapy water is going—onto the rocky soil where grasses, flowers and aspens have an already tenuous grip on survival and don’t need any pollutants thwarting their growth. But most people don’t think about their chemical-filled water going into rivers or lakes or oceans. Out of sight, out of mind.
A few months ago, I realized that the little black pellets I’d been wiping off my counter and cutting board were mouse droppings, and that I’d been using the same sponge to wash dishes, plates and bowls off of which I ate. It’s a little gross, I admit, and yet I’m still standing, haven’t succumbed to any mouse diseases yet.
I like being part of my environment, accepting that mice are going to get into the cabin, that my dishes will be coated with the same dirt that makes up the land around me. I’m not walling myself off from the world around me. I’m part of it, dirt and all.