Saturday, December 26, 2015

“THE LEAVES OF LIFE KEEP FALLING ONE BY ONE…”*

Wet patio, swept clean
The day after Christmas I go outdoors at 7:30 to sweep up wet leaves on the patio. I’m sweeping with an old broom, which should symbolize something, but, for me, the age of this bundle of straw only indicates a certain reluctance on my part to spend money on a new outdoor broom, even if the New Year is approaching. My oldest daughter Stephanie says I have obsessive-compulsive disorder because I go out every morning and make sure the patio is cleared of leaves that have fallen from an overarching oak during the previous day and night.

Stephanie doesn’t understand that sweeping is a cleansing exercise designed to clear my mind and heart of anxieties, concerns, fears – all that past and anticipated trash that we humans carry around every day or dream about in the night. Since Louisiana has a good track record for creating conditions that birth wet leaves, I’m passing on to readers the suggestion that sweeping wet leaves is a more effective exercise than sweeping dry leaves and requires a stronger, swooping sweep to get rid of past or anticipated problems.

Squirrels watch me from the safety of a high branch and sometimes pelt me with acorns, which is their attempt at creating problems to replace the ones I’ve swept away, and I shake the broom at them or whack the trunk of the oak so that they scurry across the yard and into the coulee. Since I’m of the age and disposition not to care what the neighbors think about an old woman in her pajamas shaking a broom at squirrels, I carry on until I have a tall pile of wet debris that gives me pleasure to lay at the feet of the oak. This morning I disturbed a frog taking a puddle bath near the edge of the patio, and he leapt away indignant that I’d think he should be sent to join those leaves of negative thought. You can tell from the photo of the oak and leaves on the ground how many worries I carried around in my head and heart last year.

Last year, I published several books of poetry, one of which included a poem about the art of sweeping. In A Lonely Grandmother, I wrote about dust that is stirred up, but I think the poem is appropriate for this blog, even if the subject is about soggy debris that is swept away:

“The Art of Sweeping:”

There was something about the comfort
of provincial stillness I felt
while sweeping Grandmother’s front gallery,
but I was nine, a quiescent stage
behavioral scientists say,
the calm of the known settling
into the slow hours of summer,
a sawmill up the street
humming a monotonous aria.

It was before the many steps ahead
and the arrival of by-and-by.

When I went outdoors to do the task,
bright as a morning butterfly
sweeping away the grains of dust
beneath the scaling swing
and from around the overflowing fern,
I learned a way I would remember
to rid the remains of future suffering,
the broom moving across
a splintered floor,
each whisk clouding the humid air,
and under the yellow needles –
the quiet of old dust.

Happy Sweeping, Happy New Year!

*A line from The Rubáyát of Omar Khayyám. The complete quatrain: “Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,/Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run,/The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,/The leaves of life keep falling one by one.”







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