Sweeping is more philosophy than chore; despite I find this strange to admit out-loud.
It seems that I have discovered sweeping in the same fashion others have found refuge in yoga; sweeping is the same as yoga. How in the evening when hanging around for supper I find myself going to the back of the stair door and unhitching the broom from its clever little retainer and set to sweeping the kitchen floor. As probably says as much about our kitchen as my curious attachment to sweeping. The kitchen is the first room you enter in the farmhouse. As it happens the people I know and roam with are of the dirtball sort. Mud, blood, manure, hay, straw, cows, dogs, horses, dirt, weeds, and a trace of Round-Up. The kind of people who shed particles everywhere they go soon caught in the magnetic field anomaly of the kitchen. This is just a fact to the farmhouse, as it has always been, explaining why the broom is convenient behind the stair door.
I am privately bothered by house designs where the kitchen is not the first room encountered. Modern architecture sees humanity from a different perspective, the entry needing more drama than what a kitchen can offer. To my mind this violates first principles, the standing code of honor, at least as far as farmhouses are concerned. That the first need is not to impress friend or stranger with a cathedral ceiling, that soaring stone fireplace, but connect with the humanity of the household by the intimacy of the kitchen. Not to exactly coin a phrase here, but along the same line as “you’re among friends.” Proceeding a bit farther, “you’re among friends and fresh bread.”
The farm kitchen is the historic arterial intersection of what mattered in the township. This where the traffic and the humanity were heaviest, where the dirt dried off enough to separate from the shoe and boot, in natural sequence a broom was kept handy. That how I remember my mother, caught between the polarities of always cooking and always sweeping, a convenient form of damnation or bliss depending on your preference.
As a child I cannot say I enjoyed sweeping, it was like all damnations, omnipresent and eternal. The barn to be swept twice daily, scraped, limed, swept. The granary in like fashion, followed by the potato grading shed, and the farm shop; sweeping a universal devotion. If you can’t think at the moment of a task for a farmkid there was always sweeping.
Odd thing is, I often find myself going to the potato shed at an unconscionable hour. Before first light, before the coffee is hot, often as not when the profit margin was on the line, the market threatening annihilation, the tractor with a hydro leak coming out of nowhere, the crew expecting to have Saturday off. I find myself sweeping, as if the one neutral act where I can disengage my pursuers. Sweeping as a mental sort of neutral gear. Like when yoga folks fold up their legs and tuck them away in such a knot they ain’t like to pee any time soon. An attitude that suggests a tint of peacefulness. At which they begin mumbling some personal frequency that has always struck me as a touch morbid. I will only agree to do that when the undertaker inserts the embalming needle, but not before. Never mind it looks dashed silly when you could be doing something useful, like sweeping.
She and I talk while I sweep, about the day, the kids, the neighborhood, when I can get another dog, why her mom wasn’t a good cook and how come she is. Sometimes, to liven things up we look up a word in the dictionary, any page, any word, to talk about that for an hour. Marriage is like that. During this I sweep. Most of the time I don’t even know I’m sweeping, it just sorta happens. Eventually she tells me to hang up the broom and get ready for supper. Meaning I am to exit the exoskeleton farmers have. Same as insects. After I emerge and still slightly slimy we have supper.
I have not yet been to a psychologist and think it could be as enjoyable, until then I have my broom.