Spring CleanPosed on 22 April 2015
Easter, Passover, Spring Festivals. For thousands of years the period around the beginning of spring – the vernal equinox is its proper name – there have been rituals celebrating the fresh start that is what this season is all about. Over the next few days I’ll be examining the elements of these rituals. Today it’s Spring flowers. These burst through earth hardened by winter’s cold as a forcible reminder of the power of nature. While the actual blossoms often appear overnight then fade as swiftly, the joyous enthusiasm of daffodils and seductive scent of lilies of the valley lure us out of the isolation that comes with cold weather – and as we dress in lighter weight clothing we begin to think and move differently. If you don’t have some spring flowers nearby, on your table or desk, or by your bed, get some. They’re aren’t just lovely to look at, they’ll be a tangible reminder that you – and the world – are beginning a new season of life. Thinking about spring’s holidays, Easter, Passover and all the festivals that are about putting the hardships of winter behind us and getting up with the sun. Today it’s eggs. The shape is an appealing one, to look at, to touch. And of course most important for a time of renewal, it’s about promise. Eggs also remind us that in letting go of the old – old stuff, old ideas or even dreams – we’re making way for something new, and perhaps something unexpected. So they’re about promise, too. The egg is woven into this time of the year in many ways. The obvious is Easter eggs -for a hunt in the garden, Chocolate eggs, whether luxury or cheap, delicately painted Russian eggs. The process of decorating eggs is similar to dressing an alter before a ceremony. It’s as if the energy of the egg is being enhanced. But there are also eggs in food. Many cultures fast from ‘luxury foods’, from sugar and meat to eggs, for the period before Easter. Obviously this makes festive dishes full of eggs seem all the tastier. Few things could be more symbolic of the rebirth that this season is all about. And that’s at the core of the season. Every egg – whether boiled and painted, chocolate or made of plastic – reminds us this is a time to shed the past, its pains as well as its unrealised hopes and to focus on rebirth and renewal. Spring Clean Today my thoughts are turning to another aspect of spring’s festivals, the ‘spring clean’. This tradition exists in many cultures, but it’s very much of the Jewish tradition at Passover, when there’s always a serious clean up and clear out before the meal, the seder, which is central. In this, which is almost always at home, certain foods commemorate pivotal points in history. One is matzo, unleavened bread. A few days before, there’s always a thorough search of the house to ensure that not even a single crumb of leavened bread remains. In the process, every cupboard and cabinet is emptied out, the corners dusted and the contents examined – what should stay or go. Whatever the setting or culture, the reason for a spring cleaning is obvious. As the days grow longer and the sun stronger, the cobwebs obscured by winter’s dim light don’t just show, they shimmer. So out come the dust mop and broom. Cleaning house is important. But there’s a lot to be said for conducting an inner clear out – for searching for mental clutter and seeking out unsettling emotions. Whatever the time of year, it’s easy for feelings, resentments and even unacted-on commitments to accumulate. They get tucked away in the corners of our psyches. They may seem harmless. But when an issue that’s somehow related arises, the guilt, anger or fear connected to these can be triggered – apparently from nowhere. While identifying, examining and dealing with these is no picnic, the effort isn’t just worthwhile, it clears the mind and somehow makes everything seem lighter. Should something – a thought, an event or even a word – trigger those dark feelings, get out your ‘inner’ cleaning equipment, your mind and your intuition, and tackle whatever arises head on, the aim being to recognise it, then clear it away. This may be minor, admitting something to yourself, writing a note or email or making a phonecall. Or it may be more complicated, take more time or involve in depth discussions. Still, whatever the effort required, the compensation now – and in the future – will be that feeling of lightness and rebirth that is what spring’s all about.