My daughter has been too busy to some household duties. She's a good kid so I pick up the slack largely without complaint. After all, I was doing these things before she was born and for most of the time she was an infant. (I made her change the motor oil at fourteen months). It's no big deal to take these things on and so each morningI have been scooping the litter box. It has turned out to be at least as good for me as it is for the cats.
Maybe you think scooping cat litter isn't your cup of tea. It's kind of gross to think about. The smell isn't great. Is the litter radioactive or carcinogenic? I still recommend going to the litter box early each morning, sitting on a stool, and scooping the litter with a small smile. Scooping the litter turns may not be the way to joy, but it is surely one way toward contentment.
I scoop litter after morning meditation. That has helped make it a practice rather than a task. It really does seem like raking a Zen garden. I sit on the stool, sift for treasures, drop them into a bag, add clean litter, and drop the bag in the garbage can. I'm in no hurry. There's no reward. Aside from this essay, no one would ever know I'm doing this. (Well, the cats might notice, especially the black and white one who likes to watch.)
Scooping litter is performing maintenance which makes the world go round. Doing the practice every morning means the box rarely smells that bad. The practice is quiet, clear, and done in solitude. I'm not exactly mindful but it is the kind of meditative act in which I'm not thinking to conclusions or to get anywhere. I am simply there, on the stool, scooping the litter, being at peace.
I've had similar experiences doing dishes and laundry but there is something special about the litter box. I think it's that the litter falls like sand through the sieve of the scoop like sand passing through an hourglass. It feels timeless.
This morning, after I had finished scooping but before I stood up from the stool, I closed my eyes and felt myself bow to the clean litter box, to the bag of dirty litter, to the scoop hung back on the wall, and to this daily practice of maintenance in solitude. I hadn't intended that bow, but it felt right and good.
The black and white cat was watching. She stood still, her entire being the very definition of composure. When I moved to the garbage can to drop the bag of dirty litter, she remained still and her eyes did not follow me. It wasn't until I went up and rang a scoop of dry food into the cats' metal bowls that she ran pell-mell upstairs as if I was a monk striking a bell signaling the end of meditation and the beginning of a new day.