Day 47: Cleaning Pollen off the Porch

One of my favorite essays on architecture, Tanizaki’s  “In Praise of Shadows” describes the veranda as the most important domestic space. The porch is that liminal space that allows one to be both outside and inside at once, to enjoy nature, but to be protected from sun, wind, and rain. It is the place for moon and star gazing, for drinking mint julips, for sitting in a rocking chair and watching the foot traffic on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. The porch is that place of connectivity with the environment as well as the melding point of public and private life.

I have one of those wrap around porches that we see in all Southern living magazines. From a cleaning perspective, it is the space that collects all the dirt of the natural world: sticks, mold, dust, pollen, leaves and mud. One walks through all of this to enter the house and brings it inside on the bottom of one’s shoes. I tried to instate a no shoes in the house policy, but felt odd asking our house guests to walk around in stocking feet. Shoes are once again allowed.

The pollen has been horrible this year.  For countless days we haven’t had a good rain. The orange tile porch slowly turned a dusty pale green. I looked outside this morning to see my husband’s footsteps clearly impressed into the fine layer of pollen that coated the porch.  My mind shifted from assessment to action. It was a

beautiful morning, so why not enjoy the outdoors and do my project for the day?

I grabbed a broom and swept off all the debris. I made a pile of leaves at each stairwell before sweeping them off the porch in unison. The leaves fluttered in the air before landing on the sidewalk. Next I took a hose and washed down the pollen. The water turned green as it rolled across the tiles. I pointed the jetstream in the direction of the drains to discourage the water from standing in the corners.

I used the broom to scrub away at the dirt that had built up. Some came off while the majority clung

to the tile.

To get to “clean” would require several more steps.  I found a large bucket and filled it with warm water and dishsoap.  I took a mop, dipped it into my detergent, and then began mopping the tile.  The soap immediately removed another layer of soil. The white soap was opaque on the surface, bubbles formed and I watched them grow, swirl, and pop. Next I took the hose and washed off the soap. I mopped after each rinsing, which I did three times.

In the end the porch looked so much better. However, I have no real expectation for sustaining this state of clean. I know that the next time I go outside, the porch will have changed color. At this point in the project, it won’t even phase me. I know that clean is as much of a psychological illusion as a physical one.

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