The Tao of Poop

Last winter, right before Christmas, I was trying to soothe my frozen shoulder (another story) with an Epsom salt bath. When the tub drained in our second floor bathroom, the tub in the first floor bathroom filled with water.”Must be the salts,” I thought.

We called the plumber who performed a thorough diagnostic. He had “bad news.”

Water was backing up into the house from our sewer line connecting us to the street — meaning our sewer line is collapsed. The water has no where to go, so it backs up into the lowest point in the house.

As far as I was concerned, the fact that it was only water backing up into the tub — and not sewage — was really pretty awesome.

Yes, we had a problem. Yes, it was going to be expensive to fix, but I was very grateful for what wasn’t happening … a veritable indoor shit storm at Christmas.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. It’s after dinner and I’ve just sat down to relax after a busy day.

My neighbor knocks on my  back door.

“There is sewage coming out of your valve in front of your house and going into the street,” she says.

CUE: Alix’s eyes popping out of her head — cartoon-style!!

I thank my neighbor profusely as we dash into my front yard to investigate.  I apprise her of the fact that our sewer line in brand spanking new and supposed to last for decades.

How can this possibly be happening???

We peer over the fence.

Damn! There IS sewage coming out of the newly installed valve and plopping onto the sidewalk and running into the gutter. Fortunately, it’s not gushing… just oozing.


It is embarrassing, disgusting, confounding and infuriating all at once.

What to do?

Step One: An emergency call to the drain company who did our pricey pipe replacement.

“Can someone please come right away?”

“Yes, but we’ll have to charge you,” says the person who answers the phone.

“What? For clearing the brand new pipe? Uh, no. Please call your boss and work it out with him. This shouldn’t be happening.”

[Later, when the pipe is cleared of whatever is causing it to back up, the drain boss will say it was “most likely a fluke and probably won’t happen again.” Hmmmmm… this is not completely reassuring, but so far it hasn’t.]

Step Two: Call the police and alert them that there is raw sewage on the sidewalk and in the gutter. I don’t want anyone unwittingly riding their bike through it.

“Can they please bring some orange cones?”

“Yes, and we’re going to call the sewer department to make sure it’s not the public line creating the problem.” Good thinking (it won’t be).

Step Three: Clean… Uh-Oh. One of the grossest natural materials known to man — forget that it is produced by man —  is on my sidewalk.



I gird myself and grab my rubber boots, my hose, my environmentally safe cleanser, trash bags, my garbage can, a bucket and my nerves as I get to work doing perhaps one of the dirtiest job ever.

As I start to clean up, I put my emotions aside in order to deal. It helps. A lot. Is this what “manning up” feels like?

It takes multiple steps to complete this nasty task over a period of at least forty-five minutes. After I’ve bagged and tossed all the, achem, refuse, I begin to fill the three gallon bucket with soapy water. I lug it out to the sidewalk, making a note that we need a much longer hose. I then carefully pour the suds over the sidewalk (we don’t want any back splashing!!).

As I do this, I am intensely present. My methodology being that the more concerned I am about germs and toxins, the more focused I become. For instance, pumping gas practically turns me into a zen master.

In a moment, I notice a cluster of suds that is shaped like a heart gently floating down the walk. It’s pretty.

Then, I look up and notice the lovely pink evening sky. It’s gorgeous out here.

Then I look down the road and see the harbor. More beauty I am drinking in with my eyes, even as I am avoiding breathing through my nose.

I am intensely grateful to live here. What a blessing to be able to see boats peppering the bay now. Summer really has arrived.

I look back to the sidewalk. In the next swath of suds, I see a second bubbles heart cascading down the asphalt walk.

Then, as I’m hauling my sloshy bucket for like the fourteenth time, I spy a small heart-shaped rock lying in the grass. I smile. I pick it up and put it in my pocket.

I then find myself feeling surprisingly invigorated, if not downright alive.

Heck, I am just about joyous.

I then realize that I may be doing an unexpected and highly disgusting chore, but I am still doing it in concert with the universe.  The universe, which often communicates in symbols, has reminded me that there is a subtle sacredness in all things, including when the fit is hitting the shan… or the sidewalk.


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