THE ART OF SWEEPING • by Nina Roselle

Maria stood in the driveway of her tiny home, a sturdy, red-handled broom in hand.  A storm had passed through. Brown spotted leaves, pine needles, the lost blooms of pink impatiens and assorted scatterlings were before her in random piles, more than she anticipated after a short, pounding rain.

She started near the edge of the pale concrete, using the stiff plastic bristles to move the loose debris toward the middle.  Then, working in slow, circular motions, she crafted the driftings into individual designs organized by color, each connected to form a single picture.  Her artwork remained until a wind came to gather up the pieces, erasing the message she’d left, requesting another.

Two days before, her ex-husband had installed an automatic garage door opener and bought her an electric leaf blower, “You’ll really appreciate this in the fall.  You can use it now, though, to clear the driveway of grass clippings and such.” Always a kind man, he still cared for her, even after the divorce. She nodded and waved at him as he left, not mentioning she never parked in the garage, would not use his gifts.

Before he arrived, she had been working with her gardenia bushes, pulling off the wilted flowers, gently laying them to rest on the ground beneath the vital fragrant blossoms.  She had started spending more time in her garden, tending to the wilting, giving life where she could, laying to rest what she could not revive. She hoped the dying would continue to communicate with the living, telling stories of their final transformation until their last atoms were returned to the universe.

She had stopped counting the days since her daughter’s passing.  Time orbited and twisted into waves of anguish.  Peace came with the storms and the gifts they left behind, giving her a way to speak and be heard, a language the sky would understand, words it could relay.

Maria completed her work, walked around it, making sure the creation was accurate and beautiful enough to be delivered by a breeze.

Nina Roselle lives in North Carolina where she works, cooks, and writes — sometimes all in the same day.

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