The Clean Sweep

“I can give you only a scattering of some of the crumbs of one man’s year, and the penny music whistles. Any memory, of the long, revolving year, will do, to begin with.” – Dylan Thomas

Not long ago I was reminded of one of my favorite Dylan Thomas pieces, “The Crumbs of One Man’s Year”. It is a soft, elegiac piece – its reflections scented lightly with rain and gentle regrets. The words are contemplative and full of understanding.

Whenever I read it, I seem to follow the writer on a journey through woods that are eternally harvest-colored, listening to the sibilant rustling of a river, watching the thoughts sailing across it like lost ships. I walk through cold air that is colored in muted pearl and infused with memories.

I thought of this essay when I was engaged on a task that was far less sentimental. I was, in fact, clearing the last remnants of my holiday cooking from the kitchen table. Pecan pieces, sprinkles, sweepings of flour and sugar: all the crumbs of my holiday were brushed away. But I did not lament – save for the poor job of cleaning I had done mere days ago – nor was I sad.

Yet the homely act of wrapping my hand in a faded kitchen towel and passing it over the tired, wooden table made me think. As the crumbs trickled towards me I recalled the year’s Thanksgiving, steeped in expectation and golden, buttery smells. As the scraps vanished into the folds of the cloth I was briefly reminded of Christmas and the flock of cookies that descend on my home like frosted and sweetened clouds. I saw the ropes of silver beads that held aloft the cards and caught once more the coy smell of pine which greeted me like a long-awaited friend for so many weeks.

They would be washed away, vanishing in a vague spiral down the drain. But fleetingly, the crumbs had caused me to remember, and to be thoughtful. And to take comfort that in a year’s time I would be performing the same chore again, and reminiscing – deeply, wistfully – about another year: its promises and its spent possibilities.

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5 responses to “The Clean Sweep

  1. Such a delightful post. I’ve not heard of the Dylan Thomas piece, but it’s tantalizing. Now, I’m thinking of expressions from childhood: “Oh, crumb!” and “Don’t be a crumb-bum.” What did they mean? They certain seem to have a more negative aura than the Thomas piece, and yours. Interesting.

  2. Nobody believes me when I shoo them out of the kitchen after a holiday gathering, refusing all offers to help cleaning up. I love cleaning the kitchen and dining room all by myself the next morning, each dirty dish and crumpled napkin and half empty glass bringing back pleasant memories of the previous day. You make the experience sound more like poetry – what a lovely post!

  3. How beautifully you use your words to summon up a few moments that might seem humdrum but are full of sentiment and nostagia!

  4. shoreacres – perhaps once things are reduced to there essence, but what many people see as mere crumbs, they are seen as things to be ignored – to be thrown away. Hence the negativity?

    Barbara Rodgers – I DO wish I could have the kitchen to myself after Thanksgiving/Christmas dinners! In that way I can be sure everything can be shelved correctly, and I can also have some quality time with the leftovers.

    KerryCan – Hello! And you are right, for surely all moments are made of sentiment and nostalgia. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. thefeatheredsleep

    Penny whistle!♡

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