Happy to be Here: Time for Some Spring Cleaning

Published 12:27 pm Sunday, March 17, 2024

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Punxsutawney Phil, arguably the world’s most famous groundhog, emerged from his burrow last month and predicted an early spring. He appears to be correct. 

Spring’s official arrival is based on the timing of the vernal equinox, typically March 20 or 21. At least this has been true during my lifetime, and because my expectations are based on this experience, the equinox will seem early this year: March 19 (at precisely 11:06 p.m. EDT). We can thank leap adjustments embedded in the Gregorian calendar for the way March’s dates align with solar positioning. For the rest of this century, spring will begin on March 19 or 20. The equinox won’t fall on March 21 again until the year 2103.

Phil’s pronouncement came on the heels of a harsh cold snap at the end of January, so I eagerly started looking for signs of spring’s impending arrival. Mother nature seemed happy to comply. I noticed a faint blush of reddish haze that announced early budding in a cluster of otherwise barren trees. A solitary crocus graced my yard (the rabbits got the rest). I spotted two goldfinches wearing the first vestiges of their forthcoming color change. 

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Looking for signs of spring is one of my favorite seasonal pastimes. I’m not nearly as fond of another frequently observed ritual: spring cleaning. As is usual for this time of year, I’ve encountered several checklists with various tips about detergents and brooms. For those of you eager to start scrubbing, I suppose the advice is good news. I prefer to adapt the lists with a focus on other things.

Start with suggestions for deep dusting, letting in fresh air, and opening the drapes so the sun can reach dark corners. I’m working on dusting the cobwebs out of my mind. I need to sweep away tired habits, consider varied points of view regarding items in the daily news, and escape mental ruts. My plan includes trying new recipes, visiting new restaurants, and listening to songs by artists who aren’t in my regular play list. Maybe I’ll try my hand at drawing a picture.

Next on my to-do list is discarding outdated items. I need to search my mind for ideas that are no longer applicable. Those notions need to be cast off. As I learn new things and grow in understanding, I expect to discover that some of what I previously believed is not true. As my circumstances change and I learn to look at the world through a bigger window, I anticipate that some old perspectives may require adjustment.

Many cleaning experts like to mention the need to check for dirt hidden under furniture and appliances. When I examine myself, I notice that I’ve collected quite a bit of detritus and swept it under the rug. Criticisms that hurt. Misunderstandings that create barriers in relationships. Resentments. It’s time to clean them out, make adjustments or amends, and move on.

I laugh when I see checklists reminding me to polish the silver. I don’t have any literal silver lurking in a drawer. For myself, polishing silver means looking for those valuable traits within myself and helping them shine through. A related piece of advice seems worth taking. It suggested looking into a mirror and smiling at yourself.

Perhaps the hardest chore of all is decluttering. This is especially tough for me when it comes to bookshelves. Mine are stocked to bursting. I have a habit of leaving bookstores with armloads of new content, but I’m not skilled at parting with books after I’ve read them. I have many that I visit again and again. For example, Tolkien’s tales of hobbits, Lewis’s stories of Narnia, and Rowling’s saga of a young wizard who grows up to fight against evil.

This spring, I’ve discovered a solution. I located an unused corner in my house, and I found a new bookcase that will slide into it. The result will create forty-eight linear inches of new shelf space. I’ll declutter my existing shelves by moving some of their content to the new location. 

This solution may leave gaps between some of my existing books, but I’m not worried. Another trip to the bookstore will fix everything.

Karen Bellenir has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.