A decorative broom sweeps away more than just dirt

Some years ago, I bought a handcrafted broom while on a trip in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. The broom is a lovely work of art. Its handle is made from a sassafras branch. Knots in the branch have been sanded down to smooth ovals, forming a beautiful pattern against the slightly raspy bark. Its wide head of corn fibers is connected to the handle with twine in an intricate plaited design.

When I returned home with my purchase, I showed it to my neighbor, Hank. "That's just for show," he said. "You'll never be able to use that broom. Why, its rough handle will rub blisters on your hands."

I found myself feeling a bit hurt by his intimation that my purchase had been foolish. It was true I had been captivated by the rustic appearance of the broom rather than evaluating its practicality. In a way, though, Hank was right; the broom was a bit rough on my palms. I have to admit that even after I have used it thousands of times, its handle is still not smooth to the touch. But because I like it so, I continue to use my broom every day.

I much prefer sweeping our hardwood floors with this broom than using our fancy German vacuum cleaner, with its special attachment just for that purpose. It's also easier to carry a broom up and down stairs.

In summer, the hushed sound of the sweep-sweep of my broom over our bare floors makes me feel cool and calm. There is no whine of the vacuum. My dog does not have to run from the noise or protect his handsome tail, which has had more than one run-in with the vacuum's fierce power brush.

When my broom is not in use, it leans against the wall in my kitchen, one part of a still life of bookcases, pictures, and knickknacks. In spite of losing a few straws over the years, it remains as beautiful as when I purchased it.

The other day, as I was feeling weighed down with worry, I picked up my broom and started sweeping the kitchen.

I swept dust, stray dog hairs, and the remnants of messy cooking into a tidy pile. Then sweep, sweep onto the dustpan and whoosh - into the trash it went. My floor was spotless and best of all, the weight in my heart had lifted.

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