Saturday, May 04, 2013

Clean Sweep for a Fresh Start

snow on 4/16/13
Here in the Upper Midwest this year, spring is slow to arrive.  There have been several mis-starts, where it warms up and bulbs in the garden start to push their spikes up to the surface and then it snows 12 inches. It has done it more than once.  Even E, who loves the snow and the cold said, "Enough already!" when it snowed on his birthday in late April. Truly it has been trying for even our hearty Minnesota winter-loving spirits.  But spring is here now.  How do I know?  Is it the first dwarf iris flowering?  The forsythia in its full yellow glory?  The buds on the silver maple?  The wasp hovering above the front steps or the robins hopping about the yard and warbling for their new companions?  It is all those things, but mostly I know it is spring because I saw the street sweepers.

Street sweeper similar to the ones on my street

I get really excited when I see the street sweepers.  Bounce-up-and-down-on-my-toes excited.  Clap-my-hands-and-squeal excited.  It is weird, I know, but the sweepers are such a strong symbol of the new starts, fresh clean slate of spring.  They leave the streets free of the salt and sand of winter, cleaning away the stray dead leaves and other weird stuff that finds its way to the curbs and gutters.  And they kind of remind me of Zambonis, which I also really really like. 

Spring is a time of new beginnings, of fresh starts, of clean slates.  We do spring cleaning of our house, literally and symbolically cleaning out the dust and cobwebs, the stuffy air and the overall grunge of winter.  In celebration of Earth Day, in a tradition taught by my mom (who was green before green was cool), I spent an hour or so picking up trash around my yard and in the city-owned open space next to our house.  Some of the trash, I know, blows out of trash or recycling cans, but a lot of it, I am sorry to say, gets tossed out of cars.  I have been picking up trash in my neighborhood every spring for years now and there is a pattern.  People who smoke Marlboros tend to throw more cigarette packages out.  People who eat at McDonald's and get the huge sodas throw their cups out the window.  And people who drink cheap booze throw out their bottles and cans.  But I digress.  What I am saying is I clean up the junk that the melting snow has revealed.  I filled an entire kitchen garbage bag with trash from a space the size of 2 city lots, plus a grocery bag full of recycling (except for the bottle that had what looked like chewing tobacco juice - I tossed that in the trash because it made me gag.).  Then it is time to start on the garden - trimming some of the shrubs, cutting back the ornamental grass and some of the plants which I had left last fall, and picking up various sticks (and one large limb from our poor ash tree) that had fallen over the long long long winter. 

Not only am I doing physical clean up of the house, yard and neighborhood, but I also start to do a mental clean up in the spring.  I think seeing all the new beginnings and growth outside stirs up a desire in us to grow and bloom ourselves.  The electric green of the grass sprouting, so intense it nearly makes me look away, reminds me that no matter what happened last summer (grass died because I didn't water it, tomatoes rotted on the vine because I just couldn't pick one more tomato), or last fall (never did get those bulbs purchased, let alone planted), I have another chance this year.  Spring is more about new beginnings than the manufactured "new year" when we flip the calendar to January 1st.  I make plans for the garden, work on improvements to the house, think about what I need to change in other aspects of my life.

This long drawn-out winter, combined with the stress of changes and the unknown at work, as well as the stress of "you will work until the work is done" pressure, has got me in a bit of a funk.  That is part of the reason I have not blogged in nearly a month.  I am stuck in a rut cooking-wise, though full of good ideas (darn Pintrest!).  I have been reading my book club selections and an occasional Newbery winner, but not much more and not very quickly.  I am leaving the travel plans to E (and he is doing a great job with the research and planning there, I must say) and unfortunately, not taking the time for creativity.  Recently, when doing some of my spring cleaning, I found this quote.  A friend gave me the quote several years ago because she said it reminded her of me.  I hand wrote it on a cheerful little piece of pink flowered paper and laminated it.  For a long time it lived in my planner where I could see it every day.  I need to put it back there, to remind myself. 

Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.  Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.  -- Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Go, now, and sweep off your front step, sit in the sun with your favorite cold beverage, and read a book.  It is a new day, a new season, a time of new life.  Live it as best you can.  And if it doesn't go how you wish, start again tomorrow with new hope.

Until we sweep again,

P.S., Another post to think about re-reading: Comfort Foods
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