What do you do to mark the end of the winter season and move into spring? For some it is buying a new outfit, hat, or shoes. For others it might be planning a trip or “staycation” for Spring break. I have one friend who purchases biodegradable pots and potting soil to begin growing seedlings for future planting in his garden. My husband’s ritual is uncovering our patio furniture and his boat and preparing for a new season of fishing.
In general, for those of us here in the Midwest, spring is a real opportunity for new beginnings. The sun rises higher in the sky and shines longer and warmer. Spring rains wash away the dirty snow that tends to linger in parking lots and along roadways. After a long, and sometimes brutally cold or snowy winter, we can once again go outside sans heavy coats, boots, hats, and gloves.
For me the arrival of spring has deep spiritual connections because Lent always begins approximately six weeks before the vernal equinox. My family has always taken these Lenten days to contemplate our many blessings and the ways we have fallen short of the tremendous potential which has been knit into the fiber of our being. We make a concerted effort to set aside a bit more time for prayer, silence, meditation, living simply, helping others, and healing old wounds.
One of my ways to greet this season of new beginnings is the tradition of spring cleaning. I have heard that the practice actually began when homes were heated by fireplaces, and later when coal and oil were used to provide heat during the frigid winter weather. In those dark days of winter, evening light was also provided by kerosene or gas lamps. All these modes of heat and light produce a lot of soot and oily residue on surfaces. So the arrival of longer and warmer days would provide an opportunity to open doors and windows, wash curtains, clean walls and other surfaces to get rid of the layer of winter schmutz.
We are fortunate to live with much cleaner sources of heat and light, so though this spring ritual may no longer be absolutely necessary, I find it to be a very beneficial observance. It is a perfect adjunct to my Holy Week customs. It allows me to meditate upon the Biblical quote, “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
In northern climes, we heavily insulate our homes in an attempt to keep the heat inside and the cold outside. This causes the air to get stale. Holy Week cleaning is the acceptance of Spring’s invitation to open doors and windows. Even though March temperatures usually linger in the 40s or 50s, I find it refreshing to take the curtains down and open the windows for thorough washing. There is nothing like the joy of sun shining through sparkling glass and fresh air filling the house.
I think of Lenten prayer as Windex for my soul. It helps me to pay closer attention to the old accumulations that cloud my vision. Prayer usually leads me to be more generous. As I gather items from the back of cabinets and closets to donate, I become lighter and freer and can see more clearly how I might be a magnifier of light, generosity, and positive action.
As I clear the “dust bunnies,” which forced air heat has blown into every little crevice behind furniture and wall decorations, I think about the old hurts that have crept into the hidden places of my soul. I pray for the courage to clear out those sullied recesses of my heart, and the strength breathe out the fresh air of forgiveness.
When I begin to tire, which happens more often as each year passes, I think of it as a perfect opportunity to sit quietly, with a glass of cool water or hot cup of coffee, and gaze out at the birds and squirrels in my yard. This afternoon I noticed that the crocus have popped in my front flowerbed. I went outside for a closer look and breathed in the aroma of the ground warming in the sunshine and listened to the frogs croaking in the fen across from my house. Spring brings new reasons for gratitude!
The very fact that I can no longer complete the task in one day, as I did in the days of my youth, reminds me that growth does not happen in an instant. These days the very process of spring cleaning teaches me patience and perseverance.
As you welcome these lengthening days of spring, no matter what you do to mark this time of new beginnings, I urge you to take a few moments to breathe in the fresh air of opportunity and greet each new day with courage, generosity, hope, and joy!