IN PRAISE OF SWEEPING
Two of my neighbors are proud owners of gas-powered leaf blowers. On any given weekend, the air is filled with the jet-engine whine of their turbo-charged hair dryers as they walk around their yards creating miniature tornadoes of swirling leaves and dust.
I prefer to do things the old-fashioned way and use a broom. It’s not one of those wooden handled, straw brooms grandmothers used to sweep out the kitchen, but a high-tech one with a PVC handle and an extra-wide head with durable, synthetic bristles cut at an angle. What takes me an hour my neighbors can do in ten minutes flat. One neighbor, out of pity, offered to let me use his leaf blower, but I politely declined, mumbling rather apologetically that I enjoyed sweeping. And I do. Instead of noise comparable to a busy flight deck on an aircraft carrier, the only sound my broom makes is a gentle swish, swish, swishing as I sweep the driveway and the walkway leading up to the front door.
In Zen monasteries, monks use bamboo brooms to sweep the temple grounds as part of their training. Like any rhythmic, repetitive activity, sweeping is conducive to meditation. To sweep properly, one must have the correct mindset which is to “become one with the broom” so that it becomes an extension of one’s body. You simple cannot achieve such a state of mind while wielding a noisy leaf blower. In fact, while sweeping the driveway, the idea for this essay quietly came to mind.