My friend and editor, Lauren, who values her quiet times and possesses a Zen-like attitude, recently suggested, after I complained about feeling stressed, that a good way to start my day would be to shower by candlelight.
I liked the idea immediately, and decided to try it. What a serene and splendid experience it was! The healing heat of the water, the comfortable delight in nakedness and the predawn quiet all made for what would be by anyone’s perception a divinely exquisite experience. The only thing missing was a glass of wine, but it was morning and a work day.
Because I didn’t want to disturb my husband who was still sleeping, I took my shower in the small bathroom off the kitchen rather than use the master bath. I was savoring this new luxury when suddenly a terrifying screeching erupted. Steve leapt out of bed as though shot from a circus cannon, clumps of hair twisted in all directions. In lieu of a bat or gun, he was armed with the silk tree that normally stands by our bedroom door. He came blasting into the kitchen “nekkid,” as my friend Susan likes to put it, at the same time I ran out from the bathroom wearing only the water that was dripping from my hair and skin. The towel I seized had, unfortunately, ended up in the toilet in my haste to grab it and run. (Don’t ask me why anyone would hang a towel bar over the commode.) The dogs who normally sleep until the sun is up were barking and slipping on the wet tile, as panicked as we were. The four of us stood staring, wide-eyed and gasping at one other.
After a few moments, we determined it was not a burglar or other human danger, but the candle. Its smoke had enlivened our silent and heretofore unnoticed fire alarm. (Why anyone would put a smoke alarm in a bathroom is beyond me.) With the shrieking noise threatening to wake the neighborhood as well as puncture our eardrums, we set to work to stop it. We blew out the candle—which was not helpful. It made even more smoke, of course, and seemed to make the detector holler even louder. Picture me waving a dry washcloth in front of the alarm to disperse the smoke while the now-excited dogs licked the water off my legs. I felt like an idiot or at least like a giant Popsicle. Out in the kitchen, my normally mild-mannered spouse, who was not in a mild-mannered frame of mind, was on the phone with the alarm company giving the password. “There is no need to send the fire trucks,” he said brusquely, glaring at me, the fake tree was still clutched in his hand. “We’re all right.”
It was a family tableau that Norman Rockwell might have found to be a humorous subject for his art, but to me we looked more like Picasso meets Homer Simpson.
I did make the mistake, once the alarm was blissfully silent, of saying, in a tone far too cheerful for my dear husband at that hour of the morning—before he’s had his coffee—“Isn’t it a good thing you needed to be up early this morning anyway?”
I really hadn’t known he could growl like that.
Since then we’ve both calmed down. And I still admire my friend’s Zen-like qualities even though her shower idea didn’t work out. Still, I thought I would investigate this line of thought by ordering 10 Minute Zen: Easy Tips to Lead You Down the Path of Enlightenment. This book claims to do wonders if its cheerful synopsis is any indication: “10-Minute Zen takes a complex Eastern religion and makes it accessible to the masses. You'll learn the ins and outs of Zen and how you can begin to incorporate its principles into your everyday life.” Sounded good to me. However, it is currently on back order and has been for quite some time. Is it possible that the reason it is so hard to get is that there are a lot of Buddhist monks who would like this book? Maybe they figure that if they learn Zen in a mere ten minutes, they could get out of the monastery more often.
The fact is I gave up on the book, but not the idea. In the interests of relaxation, I’ll give Lauren’s idea another try but next time, instead of a candle, I’ll try a nightlight with an imitation flame bulb because I don’t think even modern-day “Zen-ists” would approve of fire alarm accompaniment.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at