Our floor has become the ground for a form of action painting of late (no time to mop up or hoover you see):
Crumbs are ground like pigment, stray vegetables stubbed out inadvertently underfoot like fag-ends.
The carpet soaks up drips and spills like a blotter,
and unexplainable fluff, buffeted by our bustle, finds company in safe, still resting places.
We rub it in.
This map of our days has a healthy disregard for ‘hygiene’, and as we beat our bounds, mark our territory, disobey the rules, it politely ignores domestic boundaries. Oh, we might adjust the setting on the hoover (if we used it), but our feet don’t care whether the carpet’s long or short pile, and we bring the outside inside, threatening psychological walls, doors… defeating real ones. The entire floor has become a doormat – it is being walked all over.
If ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ and dirt is ’matter out of place’, then we are petty domestic criminals, guilty in possession of a hoover, guilty of heightening our own anxieties/disgust. Our transgressions may be minor but the evidence has been trodden in. We are fallen, and while the floor receives our offerings, our grubby soles, gladly, it leaves marks on us as we mark it.
Are we disgusted at ourselves? A dirty floor, a floor of dirt. We are simultaneously fearful of it, yet in denial of it. We don’t like to get too close. No, we deal with the floor at a distance, build shelves, tables, chairs, ratchet out the telescopic hoover extension… Even people ‘cleaner’ than us are motivated by a nervousness at what might still lurk between carpet fibres, what might at any minute be deposited on a freshly mopped floor.
It seems this state is something that is acquired with age, or perhaps stature. My eldest daughter is not yet afflicted. The floor is surely hers, her vantage point, her domain…her plate, even. She is far closer to it than me (which is just as well really, given the state it’s in). To her, the world of adults is vertiginous, precarious. She, in contrast, is grounded, earthy – she currently seems subconsciously intent on marking this territory in the most bodily, involuntary way she knows how. Yes, the floor is where it all happens when you’re two – and who, exactly is this imposter she finds lying here, kicking and punching the air, inviting her mother down to attend to her bottom?
It’s true, I’ve been spending much more time on the floor lately, on my knees, picking up the more obvious detritus, attending to little bottoms. It is a different temperature down here… it even smells different, and my daughters remind me that the floor is for so much more than feet, walking. I have taken to revisiting, bodily, a childish memory of lying supine, contemplating the terrain of the ceiling, pondering the possibility that the world might take a somersault. Ironically, it puts me back in touch with my own terrain, the hills and vales of my back, my spine… the twin peaks of my shoulder blades. In a state of ‘almost-comfortable’, I gently acknowledge what touches and what doesn’t, what matters and what doesn’t…. Surrendering to the pull of gravity has the strange effect of lifting my mind.
Yes, we may have our feet on the ground, but it strikes me that might be a problem. We could all benefit from being a little closer to the floor, the earth. If we faced up to what lies underfoot, what we’ve trodden in, we might learn a bit about our anxieties and our disgust through the narrative of our everyday terrain, the stories revealed by the ‘dirt’ of our days. And if we just allowed ourselves to be floored every now and again, we’d gain a vastly enhanced experience of three-dimensional space and the place of our bodies within it. It’s really not so bad down here – it is, after all, the land of ‘sleeping lions’ – and we need to get used to it – it’s where we will all end up eventually.
P.S. The builders hold that we’re only 7 inches away from bedrock. It doesn’t leave much room for insulation. We’re closer to the earth than we thought…