I learned early in my life that there are inside brooms and outside brooms.
When we moved into the last house we owned, there was a broom and dustpan in the kitchen that I’m supposing belonged to Mrs. Rogers. She lived over 50 years of marriage and her last days in that house on the Avenue. On my last day as the owner, I used that very broom to say goodbye. I lovingly swept each room in gratitude for the abundance of our life there.
We know the history of this house in Victoria on another Avenue. This one, too, was home to a family for over 50 years. Health challenges, for both the house and owners, prevailed in later years and then the house sat in solitude for a few more. Now we rent the home where Kay grew up and she is honouring the house in tangible ways, painting and repairing and putting in new parts. After caring for her parents, she is now caring for the memories, and Mitch and I listen with care to her stories that still live within these walls.
The yard isn’t large but it is overwhelming. K left the yard tools for us inexperienced gardeners. Work will begin next week to repair the shed and carport in the back. When I knew we needed to follow Rachel Held Evans’ inspiration to turn something ugly into something beautiful as a Lenten practice, the backyard became that new vision.
The daffodils and crocuses helped. They appeared—a shock of bright life even when clouds filled cool days. I noticed waiting hanging baskets, earthworms languishing in the soil, and a hint of new growth at the base of an old stick that once held a rose. A nurse tree stump is home to unknown beauty—the trailing cotoneaster bush, lush mosses, and unknown greenery rest in and around the sturdy base. A weathered garden gnome keeps watch.
We can learn to care for these treasures and nurture the life that is already here. We raked the sticks and leftover leaves. Mitch cleaned out and turned over the dirt bed near the fence and I planted Asters freely offered by a stranger cleaning out her flowerbeds. Together, Mitch and I participated with those shoots of new life and the earth’s worm labourers in practicing resurrection, to renew this yard and our selves.
And then, the next day came and the next. All I could see was the weeds, the overgrown grass in the cracks, the care I didn’t know how to manage in my quest for newness. I thought of buying some flowers for the hanging baskets of dirt I filled. I wondered about hanging the baskets or something else on the fence outside the kitchen window, but I wasn’t sure. I asked my friend Jean about pruning the rose bushes but she said it wasn’t time yet.
But, this house came with a broom, too, a stiff one with worn-off bristles that Mitch thought useless. That’s something I know how to do: sweep. So, I did.
Whether the bottom of that broom was purposefully cut off or simply worn down with use, it works. That dense pack of straw makes a hearty sweeping sound and loosens grime on the time-worn cement porch of the shed and carport. I scooped up everything in the corners, disrupting a few of my fellow workers who scurried off to find another shelter under the thin rotting wall.
Sweeping was an act of restoration for this moment. All those leaves and sticks and dirt will return with the wind. The little creatures will come back to re-inhabit those corners. The grass will grow back in that crevice between the cement and the asphalt of the driveway.
Sweeping is what I knew to do. Then, I watched the sun illuminate the lush lacy growth surrounding the daffodils. I was certain the earthworms were nourishing this growth. I am included in the earth’s revival.