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An Old Dog's New Tricks

by Dr. David Fialk, Editor / Publishe

I have a small place. It takes me little time to sweep and mop the floors, even if I don't do so frequently enough. There are a number of other, more important things that I don't do frequently enough, either. Then, I am averse to cleaning ladies. I know I'm exposing my neurosis here, but their presence strikes me as invasive; their touching all my things, as a violation.

The weekend before last, my friend Veronica came over and did something that no cleaning lady had ever done for me; she scrubbed my floors. Wearing a pair of rubber gloves, she sat down on the floor with a stiff hand brush and a chemical brew in a pail, and scrubbed the tiles.

My back had been hurting me for five weeks, particularly when I bent over or squatted. If I could have, I would have helped Vero scrub. But the only things I was good for were moving the furniture (lighter things into the other room and heavier pieces to one side, and then the other, of the room), keeping her supplied with buckets of clean water, going out various times in search of more of whatever was running low, and cooking. We ate well.

Veronica's mother, Maria, was an orphan. At the church-run orphanage down there in Chile, and after she was adopted at the age of six, Maria spent a lot of time on her hands and knees scrubbing floors. For Veronica, cleaning my floors was some kind of communion with her mother, a shared suffering, perhaps.

The Catholic Church has elevated suffering to a religious ideal. For us Jews, although we have had more than our share of it, suffering has about as much redemptive value as an audit by the IRS.

Veronica worked mightily, mechanically, without stop, doing the bedroom, bathroom (including fixtures), kitchen (including everything) and living room, on Saturday and Sunday. I am ashamed at how long it took me to think of it, but there on day three, Monday, when it came time to do my office, suddenly, I got a bright idea. I went out to Don Pedros and bought a brush with a long, broom-stick handle. It wasn't as stiff as the hand brush Veronica had used, but it wasn't bad. Most importantly, eliminating the need to squat or bend over, it allowed me to do the work, and to do it more forcefully, with the weight of my body bearing down the brush pole.

My office, an unassuming, obviously old, rectangular space, somewhat in disrepair, was the first "house" built in colonia San Antonio. It was the residence of the veladora, (the candle-keeper), the caretaker of the church, which looms just outside my door. The tiles, throughout the house, which had on them, worked into them, the grunge of decades, are four shades lighter, transformed from a dirty brown to orange. They are so much brighter that I keep looking in to see if I have left a light on in the other room. Vero's insistence on taking the office wall hangings down has added a lot of footcandles to the place, as if the sun were always shining in the window.

Veronica came back the next weekend, last weekend, to help put things back into order and to redecorate. She had me bring a number of plants in from the garden. The plants are oversized for such a small space, but they add life, a quasi-jungle vibe, to what is otherwise a rather stark space.

With this new, clean ground under my feet (it feels really good to be able to walk around the place barefooted) I was inspired to take on the disorder of my hidden spaces (metaphor intended). My bedroom closet was overflowing with things that should have been in the bodega, making it hard to find a place to put my shoes. My bodega, overflowing with things that should have been in the trash, needed a good straightening out. The hutch of my bookcase, my trunk, and my bureau, all needed to be repurposed.

I visited an artist the other day, in search of content, images to post on my Lokkal, SMA's social network. Her home was lovely and impeccably ordered. During the visit, I got a good, long look at the desktop of both hers and her husband's (also an artist) computers; what a mess. There was no system, no grouping of similar content. Folders and files were scattered in a turbulent swirl across the screen in a digital chaos.

I have those priorities in reverse. I take a mountain of digital material each week, and order it into an event calendar, magazine articles and a social network (see below this article). But my home, especially the hidden spaces, those places my guests never see, is disordered.

I should use the past tense, was disordered, because I spent the last two days straightening out my closet and bodega. Reorganizing is putting it mildly. In fact, in this instance, "putting it mildly" is putting it mildly. Now, the bodega, which seemed impossibly full, has room for the two bicycles that were formerly housed in the living room. Now, my footwear is lined up, easily accessible in my closet.

Vero has impressed upon me the need to maintain my home's new-found cleanliness, and with new tools of the trade, it's more likely that I will. (What a difference a good broom makes.) A Chinese doctor told me years ago that the state of your closets affects the feng shui (energy) of your home. As I take better care of my psychological hidden spaces, it is easier to care better for the hidden spaces of my house, and vice versa. Who says that you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

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Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall,(below on this page) shows it all. Join and add your point of view.

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