Car Wash Meditation

Growing up, beautiful Spring and Summer Saturdays were meant for car washes at the end of our street.

Dana in his 1970 Mach I Mustang
Dana in his 1970 Mach I Mustang

My uncle Dana and his friends would spend hours in the sun, washing, buffing, armor-alling and making them shine. Dana would alternate washing his red 1981 Corvette and his red 1970 Mach 1 Mustang. His buddy Jeff Hamer had a red 1967 Impala, then a couple other guys would come over with a classic car or some badass truck.

Dana’s charisma was off the charts, and all the neighborhood kids loved him almost as much as I did. As soon as the hose came on and the Beach Boys or Van Halen started blasting, there was instantly a swarm of kids on bikes, each one asking questions or trying to get his attention. He would always smile, laugh, and make them laugh, throw a football or take a swing with the wiffle bat. And sometimes, after all was done, he might take a couple of them with us to get ice cream.

This afternoon looked like one of those days for me, so I spent a good hour giving my red 2008 Charger a good old-fashioned sponge and bucket bath. I let my little dogs run all over the property, and I turned up the music and went to work. As I washed and rinsed every square inch, as I cursed every glop of tar and every impossibly stubborn bug carcass, all those times came flooding back to me.

Perhaps it was the symbolic nature of the car. Because then I started thinking about the different roads I have taken in my life, not dwelling on mistakes or regrets, but simply enjoying the ride and remembering the scenery. There were a lot of dead ends, a lot of washed out bridges, a lot of wrong turns, but they all got me here.

And so began the pontificating and philosophizing….

Peace and solace are found in different places for different people. Some people go to church. Some people pray. Some people go to the gym. Some people golf (“Be the ball, Danny.”). For me, being a nonbeliever who despises the gym and doesn’t golf, when I need to be reset, I usually start programming or cleaning. There’s definitely something about problem solving, making order from disorder, that is healing and redemptive, especially in a world where everything is chaos. There’s a reason why zen gardens have been around for centuries…

The same could be said for the creative process, regardless of medium. To me, creating, shaping, envisioning, writing, building…making something always yields a certain degree of satisfaction, which in turn builds confidence, which inspires another round of creating.

Destruction is a completely different animal, in my opinion. While maybe being extremely helpful immediately, beating the shit out of something is not my first pick for putting things in perspective or meditiation or healing. This is because I usually view it as a short-term band-aid for a bigger problem that needs a more thoughtful solution.

An exception to this, for me, is going to the batting cages in San Marcos. While the act of hitting a softball is more than a little destructive, I have the nostalgia of going to places like that with Dana that helps me reconnect with and recenter myself. In fact, when Dana died in 2011, I immediately jumped in my car and went there.

But what do I know? Thanks for listening.

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