The Tiny Yellow Canoe

I glanced into the coffee cup just before I took a sip, and then pulled back.  On the mocha surface was a bright yellow piece of straw, a tiny canoe floating in a sloshing sea.

I had gone down to the barn this morning and taken my coffee cup, placing on the sill of an empty stall while I fed the horses.  The winter morning was quiet; the contented crunching of hay an antidote to the dreary grey winter weather.

My morning barn chores take 20 minutes. I drop pellets of feed into stall bins, dump water buckets and chip out the ice that has formed overnight, then refill them with fresh unfrozen water, and drop large slabs of hay into each stall.  My coffee sits on the sill, cooling down each minute while I pass it by.  About halfway through the chores, I pause to take a sip of the lukewarm caffeine.

When I return to the house, I strip off my many layers of winter coats, boots, hats and gloves. 

The coffee cup waits on a shelf in the mudroom and a few minutes later is heating up in the microwave.

Now I examine the piece of straw in the cup, marooned and lost.  I shrug my shoulders with a half-smile, and lift the cup to sip.  As I tilt the cup, the yellow raft moves from the center of the cup to the far edge, sensing the change in angle.  It seems to know that it does not want to travel down that cavernous mouth that appears at the upper horizon.

Dirt and pieces of the outdoors follow me everywhere.  When I shed barn clothes, debris falls to the mudroom floor.  Green hay, yellow straw, grey powdery dust and small brown mud clods.

When I strip down to take a shower, debris falls to the bathroom floor: more hay, half dead weed pieces, grass clippings, an occasional tiny bug.

When I climb into my pickup truck, more debris follows me: mud, dirt, wood shavings, more grass clippings.

My life is one big dirt fest. Oh, how I long to be clean.

It is said that you should live a clean life.  Is this what they meant? Am I a dirt sinner, rolling myself in the debris of the natural world, giving a finger to what human beings have defined as being human?

By necessity, I am oblivious of germs.  I have often brushed a dusty horse and then eaten a sandwich without washing my hands. Sometimes I rub my hands on my jeans as if this cleans them.   I wipe sweat or spider webs off my face, scratch my arms, or carry around household items without thinking about how many microorganisms are lurking in the tiny wrinkles of my hands. Washing hands is reserved for special times at the end of the day when so much grime has built up that even my dulled sense of cleanliness is awoken.

The tiny yellow canoe in my coffee is right where it should be. It is the debris that belongs to my life, and I do not fight it.  I drink the coffee to the last sip, watching as the straw inches away from my mouth each time I tilt the cup. In the end, I wash the straw down the drain, acknowledging its long journey from field to bale to barn to my hair to my cup.  It has seen the world.

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