The zen of window washing

July 28, 2014

For “better or worse”, the house I designed has 126 windows. Forty eight of these double paned windows are in the six floor-to-ceiling French doors that line the north and west sides of the house.


“Better” in the sense that even on the most overcast day there is sufficient light within the house to keep the light bulbs turned off, thereby, saving on the storage of electricity in the house’s batteries. This electricity being gained through roof top solar panels on sunny days. And, also, who doesn’t like the viewed expanse of nature to be so present within one’s home?

“Worse” in the sense that these windows have to be hand washed twice a year. Counting both sides of these windows, the total is 252 panes of glass that have to be cleaned of accumulated grit, salt spray and greasy fingerprints from tiny hands that just love pressing into glass.


Last week, over three days, I got stuck into doing 80 of the windows.

What never fails to impress me is this: Looking out of these windows before washing them, everything seems okay because the clouding up of the windows is such a gradual dimming of the view, that I don’t notice the change. But after the washing, wow. Such clarity. Such intensity. The fine detail of life that was hidden now pops out — once again.

I say, “once again” because it happens every year, twice a year, this re-enchantment of clarity that comes only after one takes the time to clean up the fine layer of film clouding one’s vision.

As it happened, yesterday a group of Buddhist’s came to visit me with the intention of walking slowly — with focus and intention — Windgrove’s 2 kilometer Peace Path.

Before the walk and after the walk, these ten people were in the house sharing small talk and large talk.


As I sat with them around the dining table, I couldn’t help but see within the window washing an analogy to life: Slow down, walk with radical presence, observe the minutia of life. This will clear the mind of all those little bits of gritty stress that can slowly build up and dull the intense beauty that is so readily available to all of us. It takes a little bit of elbow grease, but the results will astound.

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