A spiritual tale of two toilets

Your assignment this morning should you choose to accept it:

Write a spiritual blog about the most un-spiritual thing you can imagine.

In my case:  Our Toilet.

Our old Ifo Princess, may she rest in peace...

There are certain aspects in our human lives that we often want to literally and figuratively sweep under the rug.  Hide under the radar.  Not discuss at a dinner party.  Keep behind closed doors.

We think it’s not tactful to discuss certain portions of our lives.  We want to be civilized, presentable, appropriate.  Don’t we?

We certainly don’t want to discuss some things in our blogs or essays.

We want to wear our public smiles, keeping certain things closeted and private.

It’s all good.

Nonetheless, I am about to tell a spiritual story about our toilet.

In fact, I shall tell a spiritual story about two toilets.  The Tale of Two Toilets.

Every Little House in the Big Woods needs a toilet.  We installed our first toilet back 29 years ago.  In an effort to support conservation and earth-friendly practices, we purchased a Swedish Ifo toilet.  Back in those Middle Ages, toilets utilized about five gallons of water with every flush.  Our plucky Ifo flushed with 1.5 gallons.

Barry obligingly poses one last time on the Ifo

Our New Age toilet was a little odd, though.  Most silver flushing handles flush down.  You push down and–whoosh!–out comes the sparkling clean water from the back tank, taking away everything no longer needed in life.  Our Ifo featured a white knob upon its pristine top.  You pulled the Ifo button up toward the sky, up toward the heavens, and–whoosh!–out poured the sparkling Waters of Life, allowing everything no longer needed in life to swirl delightfully down the pipes into the hidden Septic World.

Every unsuspecting visitor for years heard this gentle spiritual teaching.

“Flush up!” we earnestly advised.  “Pull the knob up, not down.”

If you didn’t educate, the poor guest lingered over-long in the pretty blue and wood bathroom, befuddled, wondering if he would experience nightmares for the rest of his life about the Toilet that Wouldn’t Flush, and the humiliation that ensued.

“Flush up!” was our mantra, our words of wisdom.  Up toward the heavens, up toward positive thinking, up toward the Universal Wisdom.

Years upon Ifo years passed and our toilet only challenged us once.  It broke and we searched diligently for on-line parts, finally locating them in a California warehouse.  My esteemed husband decided to write a column about our Ifo toilet in our local newspaper, breaking bathroom taboos years ago.  I read, little suspecting that some day, I too, would flush through the civilized barrier and share with the larger reading public.

Friday night, yes, two days ago, we motored over to Marquette for a shopping and Thai Restaurant excursion.  In between purchases of extra-firm tofu and brown fava beans, we impulsively–oh so impulsively!–not even pre-planned in a thoughtful and responsible manner!–paused in the aisle of the gleaming white and biscuit-colored toilets at Menards and–don’t say it’s so–raised our eyebrows at one another and called for a blue-shirted worker to load the heavy biscuit 1.6 gallon flusher on a cart–and off we and our VISA card moved toward the checkout counter.

We were flushed with excitement at our daring.

The insides of the new Mansfield Summit 3

We must now back up with explanations.  Why we think we need a new toilet.  But we’re in a delicate arena now.  How to best say it?  One member of our family is scheduled for an upcoming knee replacement operation.  It has been a bit challenging to navigate upward off the loo in the last fifteen months, and one of the screws at the bottom of the porcelain goddess has bent and loosened.  We don’t need a leak.  We don’t need a flood.

(I must consult with said family member about including the prior sentence.  These things are sensitive, you know.)

A sign at the store advertised, “No tools needed!”

We all know that one needs tools to install a Porcelain Goddess.  One must lie worshipfully before her and apply wax seals, tighten screws, and other religious  acts of dutiful dedication.

An act of religious dedication

Yesterday we spent the entire day kneeling at the feet of our new Mansfield.  OK, I did not kneel.  Neither did Barry.  He laid at the feet of the goddess, and I acted as a valuable helper, digging for 1/2 inch wrenches ( “There ARE no 1/2 inch wrenches!”  “Yes, there are.”  “No, there aren’t!”  “Yes, there are.”) and tightening screws to appropriate tightness.

During the hours when no toilet operated, the woods became our new bathroom.  All good campers and hikers know about this open-air bathroom, don’t we?  It involves leaves and contorted positions, especially if one is female.  It is not pleasant, but often proves invigorating.

Enough of that.

Our supposed tool-less simple installation took most of the afternoon and involved a trip to town to purchase more supplies.  It was not a pretty sight when the Ifo exposed her privates.  No.  I won’t tell you what adhesive wax rings look like after 29 years.  You might not even want to imagine it.  Move on the next paragraph, please.

My good toilet-repairman-husband was not pleased at several junctures, especially when the last screws refused to tighten properly leaked profusely all over the bathroom floor.  He did not explain to his erstwhile helper that he had alternative plans involving silicone if the screws failed entirely; therefore, I was near tears at the failure of our Goddess.  My spiritual faith deserted me entirely.  All meditative equanimity leaked away.  I was a mess, and the repairman tossed around several expletives toward the Royal Throne.

No tools required? What a mess!

Come dinner time, the discovery of a badly aligned royal seal revealed itself and, after another alignment–along with a glass of beer and wine for the royal servants–the Throne was now complete.

It was ready to go.

We were ready to go.

Our spiritual equanimity restored, we did our thing.

I believe that’s enough to share with all of you.

When you come over to visit, please flush “down”.  I don’t believe we’ll have to instruct you.

You’re on your own.

Please close the door, though.  Certain subjects are private, as we all know.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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79 Responses to A spiritual tale of two toilets

  1. Carla says:

    Two of my Lodge Sisters, Shaman Medicine Women, were talking on a radio interview last week about the spiritual significance of cleaning the toilet. I have also had that practice. You are right in tune, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Excellent Carla. I will have to ponder the spiritual significance of cleaning the toilet the next time it happens. With a new toilet perhaps that could be in April or May? But I know we both love it when spirituality and the Everyday reveal their innate Oneness…

  2. LOL.

    Once, on a canoe trip either in upstate New York or Maine (I forget exactly) we stumbled upon the most spiritual throne, placed with a view over the landscape but tucked away behind trees for a truly spiritual release. 😉

    • Kathy says:

      “A truly spiritual release”. Ha ha, Lisa! Sounds like a magnificent hidden throne… Glad you stumbled upon its spiritual beauty and usefulness.

  3. lady82faye says:

    This was such an enlightening post! I’ve never thought to look at the spirituality of certain objects! And the intimacy of the article! makes me feel like the toilet is an important part of the family!

    • Kathy says:

      An “enlightening” post! I love you lady82faye. What a wonderful thing to say. I must admit the Ifo toilet was a beloved family member (see my daughter, Kiah’s, comment down below.) We shall see if the new one becomes equally cherished. If not, we will have to find a way to make it so. Can’t be taking any objects for granted…

  4. Elisa's Spot says:


    I will be eternally, or at least for the next 15 minutes, ecstatic to see that everyone will lose that spirituality and produce expletives! I might even do it less now and be less angry because I know I’m not the only one!

    It is invigorating to do it outside! hehehe

    • Kathy says:

      Elisa, Elisa, Elisa! Don’t you think that expletives can be PART of spirituality, just like certain bodily functions and biscuit toilets? You are not the only one, oh no. You and Barry both get angry. Certainly not me. (And if you believe that one, would you like to buy this old Ifo toilet?)

  5. Love this post, love the title, love the whole sh*tty thing! How great that Barry knows how to install a toilet!

    • Kathy says:

      The whole sh*tty post, Kathy! I wish I would have thought of that phrase. Yep, Barry knows how to install a toilet. He said to tell you that he built the WHOLE house, plumbed and wired it and everything. When he was a strapping young lad in his 20’s. Thank you.

  6. Nearly shot tea out my nose in laughter when I saw Barry casually posed on the John — he’s one great sport!

    • Kathy says:

      Keep that tea going down the proper pipes toward its eventual destination, Laurie! He is a great sport. (I can’t remember if HE suggested the photo op or if I did. Remember, he has to produce a column every week, too. Although now he’s threatening to nab mine for his newspaper. Should I be prepared to move out of town?)

  7. Susan D. says:

    Can you hear me laughing over here on this side of the bay? Wonderful stuff, and the pictures of Barry are priceless. How DID he maintain such noble expressions through the process? Thanks for sharing, and happy flushes!

    • Kathy says:

      I did hear laughter outside, but I thought it was a robin, Susan! Oh, thanks for asking about the noble expression and smiles on Barry’s facade. I kept pointing the camera going, “Smile! Smile, Barry! C’mon, Barry, smile! Smile! C’mon, just one more smile, please?” He did laugh. Finally I put the camera away and resumed Helper Duties.

  8. rehill56 says:

    totally LOL.

    • Kathy says:

      He’s threatening printing this in the Sentinel this week for his column. Oh no, Ruth, what have I DONE?

      • rehill56 says:

        It’s a great blog! quite humorous! think of all those people laughing 😉 I think that makes it a spiritual blog…all those endorphins freely bestowed.

  9. Carol says:

    I assume the photo of Barry lying on the floor, wrench in hand, SMILING, was taken early in the process. My experience with projects like this is that they don’t involve a lot of smiles, but expletives are profuse. I would share our replacing the kitchen sink experience, but I fear it is X-rated.

    • Kathy says:

      We both snickered at your X-rated kitchen sink episode, Carol. I edited out all the “bleeps”. I’m sure you heard them anyway, didn’t you?

  10. Kiah says:

    Thanks for the toilet blog! I will miss flushing up.

    • Kathy says:

      Honey, I know this has been hard on you. I know that you loved Ms. Ifo. If no one buys it, we’ll save the flusher-upper top for you to mount in your bedroom.

      P.S. Thanks for insisting upon the potty blog. Without your support and encouragement, this may not have been possible…

  11. Brenda Hardie says:

    Only a REAL man would pose so casually on the john and make it look “cool”! 😀 And LOL about the losing of spirituality and producing expletives!! LOL You two are hilarious!! And…on a serious note…having bad knees myself…I can totally understand the need for a throne of a higher level…on a higher plane so to speak :). Sounds like a few of your friends here could add some entertaining toilet stories 🙂 but sadly I am not one of them…nothing exciting or entertaining to report here. Thank you for sharing the story of the life and times of the Drue loo. 😀

    • Kathy says:

      We are so hysterical, Brenda–at least in our own strange minds! Glad (well, not really glad) that you understand the need for a higher throne. I didn’t quite go into all those details. Sorry (well, not really sorry) that you don’t have any toilet stories to add. The Drue loo has more than its share.

  12. lisaspiral says:

    Handy to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather when using the great outdoors as……… Spirituality in everything! I loved the blog today. Made me smile.

    • Kathy says:

      Spirituality in the most unexpected places! **grinning** Lisa, you are so right about the weather. Could you imagine the indignity of having to wade through six-foot snowbanks to perform one’s necessary functions? Freezing!

  13. Dawn says:

    Good point Lisa made…this would have been a whole different story had the replacement been required a couple of weeks ago. You’d have to redefine ‘invigorating!’

    Barry is a very good sport…and glad it’s all done. Me? I would have found something else to do at the far reaches of the house once things got tense. Works better that way around here! LOL!

    • Kathy says:

      Grinning at that “invigorating” reference. Unfortunately, Kathy had to stay put. Barry’s knees are so challenged that if Kathy left the “line of tense fire” he wouldn’t have been able to grab a wrench, let alone get off the floor. Guess we still have to work as a team for a while yet…

  14. Loved this post! 🙂 I admire you guys for persisting and getting the new toilet installed yourselves – still having a sense of humor intact!

    A couple of years ago, just as we were headed for bed, our ancient toilet tank suddenly cracked from top to bottom and we had a flood in the bathroom until Tim turned off the water supply. The next day we went to Home Depot and found a sparkling new low-flush toilet. But the thought of installing it ourselves was pretty daunting so we hired a plumber to do it for us and agreed that he was so worth the added expense…

    After her first experience with the new “goddess” my sister declared that she had used more water to wash her hands than the toilet had used to “everything” flush away.

    • I mean flush “everything” away…

      • Kathy says:

        I’m sorry, Barbara, that you had a daunting toilet story, as well. 😦

        Barry built and wired and plumbed the whole house back in his younger days, so he knows this stuff. It’s really really hard for him to do ANYTHING with his knees now, though. This was the first “hard work” that he’s been able to accomplish for months, since our wood-splitting months ago.

        Glad you enjoyed this. Barry and I laughed so hard at this blog this morning–and then we laughed again. He said that I may have finally beat him at being a smart a** in a column. Hurray! 🙂

  15. righteouschoices says:

    I absolutely love the TITLE!!!!

  16. Sybil says:

    My new low-flow toilet has a handle that flushes forward (#1, 4 litres) and backwards (#2, 6 litres).

    Woot !

  17. ceceliafutch says:

    LOL!!!! What a hoot! Congrats on the new . . . um . . . throne?

  18. Cassie says:

    First, I love that your toilet is eco-friendly and was eco-friendly 29 years ago, before it became something “cool” to recycle. (Even though everyone should). Secondly, I love that you wrote this blog about your toilet. Not only are you hilarious, but it’s fascinating.

    • Kathy says:

      Cassie, thank you, thank you. It’s good to know that we were ahead of the times before it was cool to be ahead of the times. Glad your were both fascinated and amused. It was a hard assignment–making a toilet into a spiritual blog.

      • Cassie says:

        The funny thing is … my nephew got in a fight with my mom once over what “God created.” And he said, “no, no, no Gramma, God created everything, even toilets.” He’s obviously in the “no” and “I’m always right” phases. Haha.

  19. Joanne says:

    What a way to start the day, in the toilet, YOUR toilet, on the other side of the world!

    Rolling on the floor laughing my **** off with Elisa!

  20. Barb says:

    I found it most meditative to think of you and Barry as plumbers/repair persons/installers extraordinaire. The only part of the day I could have participated in was the wine tasting – and possibly the test.

    • Kathy says:

      Barb, I am 100% sure you could have helped hand out tools and step on wax seals when screws were tightened. Yes, am 100% sure. However, if you and I poured a glass of wine during the procedures, we may not have accomplished the task with enough seriousness. Probably too much levity. **grin**

  21. Lori DiNardi says:

    No more details … please! TMI. 😉 Boy, how I can relate to this one. My Mr. fix-it handy husband, bought us a new toilet for the guest bath that has a button for flushing, instead of a handle. Oh, and not just one button, but two. Let me try to say this without TMI, the top button you never want to use because it is a light flush. I always forget to tell this to our guests, and have them running back in there when I tell them the news afterward. Flush with the bottom button (no pun intended). Thanks for the cute story.

    • Kathy says:

      Lori, I swear I will not tell you a single other detail! It’s amazing that this many details got revealed. Ha! Love your button story. You’ll need to hand out brochures for guests. “Bottom button”–how funny!

  22. bonnie says:

    Chuckle, chuckle. Been there!

  23. Heather says:

    So very glad that we haven’t had that adventure yet. I’m afraid it would take me weeks to clean all the blue off the wall from the flying expletives! Also, glad we have two thrones and a large woods available in case of emergencies.
    One more thing: I know just what you mean about flushing up, because it took me a couple seconds the first time I used the facilities at Shanty Creek. You must have roots there 😉

    • Kathy says:

      So now you’ll know what to expect when one of YOUR toilets bites the dust, Heather. Print off this blog and keep it tucked away for future reference. 🙂 Shanty Creek toilets flush upwards? How cool! (We are kinda missing Miss Ifo. We have decided that the new toilet is a Mr. It flushes with GUSTO!)

  24. irenelefort says:

    I love your story telling style! 🙂

  25. Amy Carr says:

    So I decided to make reading your post this morning part of the beginning of lectio, only to see a photo of a toilet that always intrigued me when I visited. Very witty post, dear Kathy. And an update from me soon–lots to share.

  26. Reggie says:

    You totally had me in stitches here, Kathy!

    On our just-completed trip to the US (I still cannot believe that I am writing those lines!), we saw many different types of thrones in many different settings:

    Push lever down, pull lever up, pull stick-like-thingy up, push button on side, push button on top – and, not to forget, the one that gave me the hugest of frights the first time it happened – simply get up and leave the cubicle when done, an exit that was accompanied by a loud wooooosh of water and a noisy sucking sound. (Sorry, I hope that wasn’t too graphic.)

    That one mystified me initially, until I figured out that the red glowing button mounted against the wall must be some sort of distance sensor. 🙂

    Although we did not have occasion to ‘go to the woods’, as you described so eloquently, we did ‘visit’ an entirely waterless long-drop in a nature park. I also vividly remember one pitch-dark bathroom in a clearly eco-friendly restaurant, where we first had to estimate how many minutes of electrical light we might use, and to turn a ticking dial, before The Throne was illuminated for the requested number of minutes! 😀 And I remember frantically searching for public restrooms in the Washington DC and New York City subways… DC has some ‘facilities’, but NYC doesn’t seem to have any!

    Sigh… all such memorable occasions… 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Smiling thinking about all the different kinds of toilets you encountered in our country! The Throne has so many incarnations… Does South Africa only feature one kind of toilet? I remember in Europe being astounded and intimidated by bidets… Glad you’re safely home and will look forward to your blog about toilets in the US. You are going to write one, right? **Just kidding!**

  27. This made me laugh so much, my hubby’s answer to anything that won’t fit is ‘no nails’ glue.

  28. Colleen says:

    Just when I’m sure I couldn’t love the two of you more, you share something like this!

    Yes, oh yes, how we can relate to this story, right down to enjoying the great outdoors, just across the road, for longer than we ever expected to have to do, but we did.

    Glad your new *facilities* are fitting in so nicely and that spiritual equanimity is restored 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      You couldn’t love the two of us more… My gosh. No wonder why I love blogging so much. Someone comes along and writes comments like these, comments you can’t imagine your next door neighbor saying. Glad you know about the outdoor bathroom experiences, Colleen. 🙂

  29. susan says:

    Hi Kathy,
    Hopefully THIS attempt is a go! Love the tale of the toilets. So how are Barry’s knees? 🙂 I don’t know why, but toilets are humbling in some weird way. I hear that there is a push to get into bidets now so we don’t need/use toiletpaper. Hmmmm.

    • Kathy says:

      SuZen, you’re back in the commenting world!! I am delighted to see you again. So how are Barry’s knees? Got a couple of hours? I just mentioned up above that the bidets in Europe had me intimidated, yep, they did. Let me know when this push comes to shove down your way, OK?

  30. A Tale of Two Toilets is certainly a worthy replacement for A Tale of Two Cities as well as a read at one sitting 🙂 sometimes so necessary while sitting on one’s shining white throne.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes! I forgot about Throne reading material. I am glad that you think this is a worthy replacement. Just don’t use it for toilet paper when you go into the woods…

  31. Munira says:

    So funny! I chuckled my way through this, potties aren’t called thrones for nothing you know. I believe in their spirituality, yes indeed 😀

    • Kathy says:

      Munira, it apparently was time for some potty humor. A lot of people chuckled mightily. I am glad you believe in their spirituality, as well. A wise woman, you are.

  32. Hahaha! I love it! We were both destined to write about the loo! All hail the royal throne!

  33. Robin says:

    Wonderful post, Kathy. I enjoyed all your word play and puns. 🙂

    It was so nice to find someone else who has to explain to their guests how to flush the toilet. Our lovely loo is one of those water efficient operations that has two different flushes (known as a dual flush toilet). Flush down when you need a little water. Flush up when you need more than a little water. And don’t let the whoooosh! that sounds like an airplane toilet frighten you. It’s all good. The only thing that puzzles me is what happens if it should stop working. There are no obvious parts inside the tank. Just a mysterious box that I assume contains all the non-obvious parts. Nobody knows. We’ve never had to try to open the mysterious box.

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, you have one of those dual flushers, too? (Some of the above commenters shared about these.) We think our new toilet sounds like an airplane. Ms. Ifo flushed so prettily and daintily. We’ve decided the new loo is a guy. It flushes with manly gusto and a loud macho swoosh. We’re not sure what to think about it.

  34. Dana says:

    This is perfect, Kathy! I remember coming back from a 6-week stint in Alaska and feeling like flush toilets were the most wasteful things on earth. However, I quickly came to appreciate them again and don’t mind worshipping at the Royal Throne now, either! 😉

    • Kathy says:

      You are the second person to mention Alaska in two days. Have a good friend here who is going on a cruise from Seattle to Alaska this spring. I’ll bet you had an entirely new perspective about toilets after being in Alaska. And how quickly we forget and worship mindlessly once again…

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