and scarf-covered heads of women sweeping and scrubbing marble stairs in Florence, Italy in the bright, clear morning light. The light here, Southern and opalescent as the inside of newly ripe peaches, is muggy and hangs heavy and
still like secrets about to explode in to irrefutable knowingness. What do I know of dirt in a time when the press tout a movie about "The Help" and push stereotypical images of black women? I sweep and remember my Grandmother
Florence who was "The Help". She only told me one story about her work, a triumphant tale about the lady she worked for informing her that she was entertaining a guest for lunch and giving her two lamb chops and some ground
beef to prepare. My Nana loved to tell this story. She cooked the lamb chops and the hamburger, served the guest a lovely lamb chop, then served her employer the hamburger and went into the kitchen to eat.
"What do you think you are doing Florence?" the annoyed lady asked approaching my grandmother with her
plate full of hamburger in hand.
"I'm eating my damn lamb chop!" I told her, my grandmother would always say with a guttural belly laugh each time she told me this story.
What I know of dirt and help is this; Dirt is as persistent as other people's notions of who you are. My grandmother Florence would never write a book or movie about her employer. The lamb chop was all she had to say about that situation and she spent the rest of her life on more creative pursuits. I put Nana's story in my book because I inherit her inclination. I sweep the front walk then move on to the screen porch in the back which I discover needs a lot of attention. I sweep, mop, even bring out the big gun vacuum cleaner and seriously contemplate installing storm windows. I clean the porch better than I ever have. This season of storms sheds new light on my ability to see dirt that has been there for who knows how long. In the afternoon another storm comes, blowing more fallen leaves and broken branches on the front path and blowing new dust and dirt through the screen onto the back porch. None of the storms in this season of storms last long. And the calm feeling after they pass is worth much more than sweeping dirt or dishing dirt.
In the storm we simply lay our bones down on the mat...
In the thunder, rain and lightening I bring my bones to the mat to practice yoga while candles burn brightly. Two mats are out in the studio, the one on which I practiced during my teacher training that knows all the poses, and a spare. I recline on the one from school in savasana, holding reverence for my classmates and teachers. I sense Sasha, the Bichon, coming and going freely as I rest in corpse pose. When I open my eyes and gaze to my right I notice that Sasha has retrieved his bones from various places and put them on the spare mat next to mine.