CHOPPING WOOD, CARRYING WATER: FOR PAYSON


A man asked a Zen Master how to get enlightened: the answer, Chop wood, carry water. This is one of Payson’s favorite saying and he embodies this wisdom. I have never seen him shirk any sort of work that needs doing, whether it is washing the dishes, doing the laundry, or sweeping and cleaning the floors. He is my guru in this. I have always thought certain tasks are best done by others, that some tasks were more worth doing and had more intrinsic value: writing, for instance, or making music, exercising. Coming from India, where we always had ‘servants’ (who are now, politely called ‘help’ in educated circles, but whose tasks have remained unchanged) I have been stuck, rather whiningly, in this hierarchy. But I have learned from Payson the necessity of doing all that needs doing — not only because they are necessary for one’s physical existence — but more, for one’s mental survival as well. One can never get depressed or lonely if one pays attention to all that needs to be done to keep one’s immediate environment — in this case, one’s house, which is a second skin — clean, and in order.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t have days — tired days when I haven’t got enough sleep — when I don’t wish someone else would do it for me! When I wish I could import my India staff just for that day, beam them here to help me.

And here is another reason this post is for Payson, who has made our India life possible, for consenting, happily, to live half his life there with me; for making it physically possible by building our home in a place where there were no architects and engineers; for taking care of it financially; for providing a lovely home here in Del Mar where the ocean is just a glance away.

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