brooms, and zen some


i don’t remember my grandmother ever sweeping. i’m sure she did, i just don’t remember ever seeing her doing it. my granddaddy, on the other hand, loved nothing better than cutting branches off a bush and stringing them together to make a broom then putting that broom in my hands and telling me to sweep the front yard.

yes, the front yard.

they had grass – a lot of grass – and matching lawnmowers to cut it because my grandmother loved cutting grass. but the front yard was bare, hard red dirt. and we swept it.

i’d sweep pretty designs into the dirt while granddaddy sat in the glider on the front porch and watched me. he never criticized or made me do it over, which makes me think he was just wanting a break and couldn’t think of a better way to take one than to sit and watch me work.

only now, as these words fall out of my fingertips do i think of zen gardens and, depending on how imaginative you want to go, similarities. that kind of “well, shoot” moment and the “well, shoot” realization that i never saw grandmother sweeping are precisely why i encourage people to commit their personal histories to paper, digital or otherwise.

still pondering women’s work, for reasons i can’t explain, and to tell you the truth: i’ve not even asked myself that particular why even once. but if i did venture out and ask “why on earth are you thinking about so-called women’s work?” i know what the answer would be: “just because.”


i’m sure you’ve picked up on the fact that today i’ve got brooms on my mind, which brings to mind this poem that my beloved friend and writing partner, julie daley, sent me on my birthday. speaking of julie, have you signed up for her newsletter (see the box in the right sidebar)? for her Leap Day Call to Discover? read the poem, then scoot on over and get yourself all signed up.


by Lisa Citore

Every woman keeps a secret broom in her closet.
Not the broom she sweeps the kitchen floor with,
the one handed to her by her husband
to keep her from thinking too much.
But the broom made by the first mother,
passed down to the first daughter,
who rode off into the night against her father’s wishes
and became the moon.
The broom that delivered Lilith from the Garden of Eden
when there wasn’t room for more than one god,
that has been a symbol of woman’s power and will,
her ability to fly in between the worlds
as messenger, midwife, mystic, priestess,
manifesting thought into physical form.

Every woman keeps a secret broom in her closet.
Not the one she pulls out when company is coming over,
the one that makes her look good in front of the in-laws.
But the broom that shakes her
from the shackles of her pretending,
that whispers “Now!” when the moon is full,
that calls her deeper into the forest,
that still smells like trees in Avalon.
The broom once held sacred,
long since kept out of sight…
like the signs of menstrual blood,
the questions we were told never to ask,
the places on our bodies
we were punished for touching too much,
the screams we swallowed as little girls
when our mothers warned us, “That’s enough.”

I remember before being able to speak,
desperate to get my mother’s attention,
peeing my bed, burning with 105 degree temperatures,
crying, “This is your pain too!“
“Come hold me and we will heal together.”
Instead she drove us from one doctor to another,
trying to outrun, numb truth with stronger antibiotics,
hoping she could save me
from the dis-ease of being born a woman
by removing the tonsils.
Not unlike the circumcism of young girls in Asia and Africa,
whose clitorises are considered to be
as dangerous as a woman’s voice.

I remember my mother feeding me ice cream,
coating the wound with milk
until it fell asleep inside of me,
sticking a pad in my underwear years later
when it started to bleed again,
diminishing those first drops of reclaimed wisdom
to a stain on the back of my dress.

I remember throwing the soiled garments into the garbage,
wanting to bury myself along with them,
wanting to push the blood back up inside of me.
Frightened of its loud, red color,
singing of young girls running in fields smelling flowers,
of greedy gods, lost children and weeping mothers,
of eating one too many pomegranate seeds
to ever be innocent again…

Every woman keeps a secret broom in her closet.
Not the one that’s been domesticated,
that discreetly sweeps things under the rug.
But the broom that knocks at the door of her soul
every time she smiles to avoid feeling what she knows.
The broom that throws the dirt up in our faces
until we choke on the dust of our unliving,
that remembers the temples we used to dance in,
the stars and galaxies we used to spin
from our joy.

isn’t that a beaut? now scoot on over to julie’s place cause i sure wouldn’t want you to miss out on something this good.

More about 365 Altars


  1. Liz

    oh my. this brought tears to my eyes. Recognition. Love.

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you, sugar. hoping to be back in the digital saddle again next week and looking forward to seeing what you’ve been up to. miss you. love you.

  2. Angela

    Well. Wow. Sometimes you write a post that I need to read early in the morning and savor all day. The cloth. The story. The understanding that can only come from writing it down. Brooms reclaimed. Lovely.

    • wholly jeanne

      Who knew that brooms would touch me so deeply? They are so commonplace, such trivial tools, right? And yet I find I have a great affinity for brooms. And sweeping. Huh.

  3. ☆little light☆

    I have a broom that hangs over my door…
    and I have wanted for years to go to this art school in NC that teaches broom making the old fashion way..
    I so understand the obsession with brooms…

    • whollyjeanne

      maybe we’ll go to that school together. what a kick that would be! you talking john c campbell or penland? or one i’ve never heard of? i want a handmade broom. tired of these plastic things. they may not scratch the floor like real straw can sometimes do, but pffft. who cares? i want a handmade broom with an interesting handle. and if we made one together, you and me, well that would be divine. we would, of course, need to write a poem to christen the brooms. so be it.

      • ☆little light☆

        Of course! Joesph Campbell!
        That would be so much fun! I would LOVE it! 

Pull up a chair why don't you, and let's talk . . .

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Where in the world is The 70273 Project? Please add a pin to show us where you are in the world. (1) Click the + sign in upper righthand corner of map. (2) Enter your first name only. (3) Enter your city/state. (4) Using the pins at the bottom of the map, select a marker based on how you are involved. (5) Select preview to see before posting. (6) Select submit to post. Please add a marker for each role you serve in The 70273 Project.

Support The 70273 Project

Allow me to introduce myself . . .

Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

special delivery: get blog posts hot off the press


© 2024 Jeanne Hewell-Chambers’ Barefoot Heart

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑