Thursday, July 18, 2013


How many times have I had occasion to demonstrate my lack of artistic skill in the classroom? Fortunately, he's easy to draw:a stooped stick figure of a man rolling a huge boulder up something that looks vaguely like a mountain. Then an arrow pointing up, and one from the top pointing down. During my many decades of teaching French, he keeps popping up. A man for all literary seasons, he never fails to shed light on the conversation.

And not just when it comes to discussing literature. He is equally at home in Bella Italia. Living as I do in the Italian countryside, I share my home with lots of dust, spiderwebs, and local fauna. Even though I make my dusting rounds several times a day, there is always more to be done.


I'm no great housekeeper, but in America, to have many spiderwebs and dead insects in evidence is not going to win you the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

But Camus says we must imagine existential hero Sisyphus happy. Why? Because there's that brief moment before the boulder rolls back down the mountain when he gets a respite from his absurd task.

Now one can think of this timespan as a metaphor for our own brief span of life, or as the perpetually existential state of every housewife with a feather duster in hand.

When I commiserated about the omnipresence of webs and dust and the dim view of them taken by Americans, the former surgical nurse from Moldova who occasionally helps me clean just shrugged and said in very good Italian, "What do you expect? You live in the countryside!"

Getting back to me in the French classroom:perhaps I've been going about this all wrong. The next time I draw Sisyphus, maybe she should be wearing a skirt and have a DustBuster in hand?

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