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Clean is Keen

A prompt to encourage your practice of creativity this week from Riversider and local author Larry Burns.

Photo by Pille R. Priske / Unsplash

Do you need a low stress way to include seven minutes of creative contemplation into your week? Consider this your helpful nudge towards a slightly more creative life. If it helps, come back every week for a quick hit of creative contemplation. Each week I’ll share a new nudge. It will include a Thing (T), a Place (P), and a Sense(S) for your focus, a TPS creative nudge.

In our last installment, we sought out the imperfections and blemishes of our surroundings and selves by closely observing cracks, finding beauty and inspiration in the ever changing physical world. Did you hopscotch your way to a new perspective, or did tracing the lines of a fissure lead you to poetic revelations? Maybe you revealed hidden shapes and faces in a sidewalk crack pencil etching? I hope a few of us just gazed into a mirror and admired our own wonderful aging faces. And between the holidays and marking the New Year, I imagine that you found and created plenty of that Irish “craic” that marks the gathering of our shared communities.

This week, we turn our attention to a delightfully domestic thing: the kitchen sponge. They come in all shapes and sizes, made of any number of natural or manufactured materials.  This everyday hero of cleanliness, ever ready and ever present, scrubs and shines our plates, pans, utensils, and cups. 

I’m partial to the yellow ones with the dark green abrasive layer on top. Strong enough for your toughest grime, but gentle enough to leave your surfaces scratch free. They are multifaceted and easy to find. These are qualities I attempt to emulate myself. Therefore, I hereby nominate the ubiquitous sponge as a fitting muse for our creative explorations for my first column of 2024. 

After the dishes are done, take several minutes for yourself, and make some suds with one or more of these creative exercises:

  1. Sponge Art: Cut it into various shapes, then use it to dab, smear, or stamp paint onto something. Explore different textures and patterns. How does the sponge's absorbency and texture influence your artwork? 
  2. Sponge Toss Game: Engage in a light-hearted physical activity. Soak sponges and set up targets in your backyard or a park. Add dye to the water to make a colorful splash.
  3. DIY Sponge Making: Make your own sponge with old rags or go all in and  research natural materials like loofah or cellulose, and create a sponge that suits your tastes. This activity encourages you to think about sustainability and the lifecycle of the products we use daily.
  4. Sponge Obituary: Write a whimsical obituary for your well-used kitchen sponge. Reflect on its 'life' – the meals it helped clean up after, the hands it passed through, and its last final brave act of sacrifice picking up whatever it was that the cat dragged in.

In an age where technology automates even the simplest of tasks, such as this very column, the enduring presence of the kitchen sponge is a testament to the value of hands-on work. Despite all our advancements, there's still something irreplaceably satisfying about cleaning with a sponge – the tactile feedback, the direct control, and the immediate positive feedback you get after cleaning up. 

Let kitchen sponges remind us of the joy and authenticity found in the touch, feel, and hands-on experience of everyday objects…and the human beings that use them!

Note: This column written with the help of ChatGPT Plus and related Plugins.