I am thinking about spring cleaning – not about the act of spring cleaning, so all the dust bunnies can stop hopping about in anxiety. I am thinking more in the abstract, the concept of spring cleaning if you will. Actually to be more accurate I am thinking not so much about spring cleaning as about Lent, that period of time that leads up to Easter, that begins with pancakes and ends with chocolate Easter eggs, although technically I think Lent ends on Maunday Thursday.
I am not quite sure just what it is about Lent that has caught my imagination. I am a member of a church that seems to bypass the traditional Christian year. Celebrating Lent is one of those bypassed events, and I suppose if it is done in the sense of being religious and legal and ticky-boxy, it is well left. Lent is about springtime, and about the days lengthening, and there is a spring cleaning aspect to it. It is not so much the physical house with three bedrooms and a fitted kitchen, but the body being a temple of the Holy Spirit, and giving that a clean out.
I remember a great clean out. It might have been in 1987. It was my final year of living and working in Cyprus. A friend from the church I attended there was waiting for the delivery of a new car. I don’t think it was brand new, straight off the factory conveyor belt, but just new to her house. I seem to remember that cars over in Cyprus lasted forever – the blessings of being rain free for almost all the year.
We tend to treat new things much better than we treat our old things. The new car was destined for the garage, rather than just being left on the drive, or on the road. The garage, was full of stuff. It wasn’t junk stuff, just stuff. Junk stuff was kept in the shed, not the garage. The shed was a very sturdy building made of corrugated iron sheets bolted together. It was not dilapidated in any way but it did house junk stuff, as opposed to not junk stuff. The plan was to empty the shed of the junk stuff and move the garage stuff into the shed.
There was nothing in the shed that was anything other than junk, so it was all taken away to the tip, leaving the shed empty – apparently. It certainly looked empty to the casual viewer. Before we moved the garage stuff into the shed, my friend decided to clean it up a bit. It wasn’t a case of digging out a brush and dustpan, but switching on a water hose. In the hot weather it took only a little time to dry things.
She played the water along the top of one of the inside walls. It was very dusty and cobwebs hung artistically everywhere. Within minutes, it looked as if the very walls were undulating gently, moving, alive. Down the walls, and out of the door trailed a steady stream of very small, very wet mice. There were dozens of them. It was like wave, after wave, after wave of mice making for somewhere dry.
I had been standing in the doorway when the exodus occurred. I didn’t have time to step out of the way. Truth be told, I was rather gob-smacked. I felt the tickle of the wet little bodies and they streamed over my feet encased in strappy sandals. The idea of moving was considered, but rejected. I was not happy for them to be running over my feet, but less happy with the idea of stepping on them. After a few minutes the stream died down to just the odd mouse here and there, maybe the less sprightly mice or the mice that has stayed a little bit longer to pack a few essentials before being evicted.
What looked to be empty – that shed without all the junk – was anything but empty, but it took a jet of water to shift the inhabitants.
I am a hoarder by nature. My junk is just junk with one or two vaguely valuable items thrown in. I live with my junk. Every so often a purge happens. Some call it spring cleaning – but as it rarely happens in the springtime in my house I just call it cleaning.
I wonder about the other junk – the stuff inside my spirit. Lent seems to be the perfect opportunity not just to give up chocolate, or some other delicious vice, but also a chance to get rid of some of the junk. What comes to mind are old hurts and upsets, fragments of conversations that are not worth remembering, silly and superstitious ideas, the brownie point mentality.